Review – The Last Victim by Karen Robards

Publisher: Ballantine
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: NetGalley

Dr. Charlotte Stone sees what others do not.

A sought-after expert in criminal pathology, Charlie regularly sits face-to-face with madmen. Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes, Charlie desires little else from life—no doubt because when she was sixteen, she herself survived a serial killer’s bloodbath: A man butchered the family of Charlie’s best friend, Holly, then left the girl’s body on a seaside boardwalk one week later.

Because of the information Charlie gave police, the Boardwalk Killer went underground. She kept to herself her eerie postmortem visions of Holly and her mother. And even years later, knowing her contact with ghosts might undermine her credibility as a psychological expert, Charlie tells no one about the visits she gets from the spirit world.

Now all-too-handsome FBI agent Tony Bartoli is telling Charlie that a teenage girl is missing, her family slaughtered. Bartoli suspects that after fifteen years, the Boardwalk Killer—or a sick copycat with his M.O.—is back. Time is running short for an innocent, kidnapped girl, and Bartoli pleads for Charlie’s help.

This is the one case Charlie shouldn’t go near. But she also knows that she may be the one person in the world who can stop this vicious killer. For Charlie—whose good looks disguise a world of hurt, vulnerability, and potent psychic gifts—a frantic hunt for a madman soon becomes a complex test of cunning, passions, and secrets. Aiding Dr. Stone on her quest to catch a madman is a ghostly presence with bad intentions: the fiery spirit of seductive bad boy Michael Garland who refuses to be ignored, though in his cat and mouse game they may both lose their hearts.

Dr. Charlotte Stone sees what others do not. And she sees the Boardwalk Killer coming for her.
*Blurb from Goodreads*

I was looking forward to trying Robards, because so many people talked up just how wonderful her romantic suspense books are. I was a little hesitant because this was a new paranormal series, but I like paranormal as well, so I figured all would work out. Yeah, not so much.

Charlie has dedicated her life to studying serial killers after the traumatic event of her childhood. The last thing she ever expected was to be tapped by the FBI to act as a consultant on the case that is looking to be more and more like the serial killer from her past. Charlie doesn’t want to go, but the FBI convinces her it’s best. So with her FBI protection detail and shaky nerves Charlie goes off to help the case.

But the FBI doesn’t know about Charlie’s gift/curse of seeing people right after they die a horrific death. While it helps with finding and tracking down murderers, Charlie has a slight problem, one of the serial killers, Michael Garland, she was profiling in prison has attached himself to her and is actively haunting her. Garland refuses to be ignored, but is also willing to help her out in any way he can. With her gift, Garland’s help and the FBI team, they just might be able to solve this case before Charlie becomes the next victim.

I will admit that I liked the overall premise of the book. I liked that Charlie could see ghosts, interact with them, etc. I liked the serial killer case, it was creepy and scary and all around suspenseful. However, the romance in this book was horrible. I didn’t like it at all. Charlie had a few shared kisses with sexy and understanding FBI agent Tony, but the real romance of this story was between Charlie and Garland, the man she had been profiling as a serial killer for who knows how long. That is creepy, and gross, and creepy, and gross!!

The romance between these two was uncomfortable for me to read. Charlie never really seemed to think, at any time, that Garland WASN’T a serial killer. She even had to remind herself time and time again that he killer numerous women, that he was a stone-cold killer. Then she would turn around in her own ghost form (while astral projecting) and get down and dirty with the guy. I can’t count the number of times my eyes popped out of my head and I screamed at her: “HE’S A SERIAL KILLER! WTF??”

Even though the case with the killer was intriguing, I couldn’t get over the romance. I tried to get past it, tried to ignore the whole sleeping with a serial-killer aspect, but I just couldn’t. The direction that Robards chose to go with the romance clouded the rest of what could have been a stellar series. I can honestly say I probably won’t be picking up any of her books in this series in the future.

All in all this story was lost on me. While I think this could have been a solid story: it had an interesting premise and world and an intense and unique serial killer case that kept me guessing until the very end, the romance was so poorly done IMO, it ruined everyone else. I don’t know that anything other than a move away from the romance between Charlie and Garland could have made this book better for me.
I give The Last Victim a D-

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12 thoughts on “Review – The Last Victim by Karen Robards”

  1. It really happens, that women think they are in love with serial killers in prison, they want to marry them. I just think they are sick in their heads. They have never met the man, and why on earth would they want to? Serial killers are not sorry misunderstood abused people. They are sick, deranged, and cannot be “cured by the love of a good woman”. They like what they do or did. They see no reason to stop.

    Is there any chance, any little chance at all, she sleeps with this guy just for the information? Is it really meant as a romance?

  2. Nope, no chance at all, Aurian. That’s what makes it so hideous. So, she escapes this Boardwalk Killer when she’s what? 17? And then hooks up with a ghost of a serial killer in her dreams? Because THAT totally makes sense. I see my friends get murdered by a serial killer and then I start boning one in my dreams. Let’s eschew the nice, good looking FBI agent for the ghost of a convicted serial killer. The WTFery of the plot.. and the forensic booboos just made this one hard to swallow. It wasn’t romantic in the sense that you *wanted* them to get together (or at least I didn’t lol).. I wouldn’t call it paranormal romance although there was a good dose of the paranormal in the book itself. I was kind of at a loss as to how the heck to categorize the book. =|

  3. @aurian: Unfortunately, it’s meant to be a series romance that will follow the same couple through the whole thing. It’s just bad and not good… At all!

    @Tori: SO GROSS! Right??

    @Readsalot81: Yeah, the romance was just soooo bad that it ruined everything else. I couldn’t believe she was willing to have even DREAM sex with the guy. I mean seriously… WTF??

  4. I enjoyed her earlier books, but her latter ones not so much but the idea she’s having an affair with a serial killer ghost is like DNW – 😛 This is why I have stopped reading her books because the romance isn’t as strong as it use to be.

  5. I guess that’s taking the anti-hero needs some lovin’ to the nth degree? Just seems really skeevy to me though. Pass.

  6. @MinnChica:

    I think that’s the direction! It sounds like it is trying to be a bit like Anne Stuart who does really dark anti-heroes but she mostly carries it off.

  7. @KT Grant: Well, he’s a ghost. So they are having some weird psychic/ghost relationship. But yes, they have dream sex, and sex while she astral projects her spirit away from her body. Ick right?

  8. I have been a huge Robards fan in the past, but when she transitioned into RS I lost interest– it’s not my kind of subgenre. I think Robards was in the forefront of romance writers who upped the violence quotient in romance and helped establish the RS subgenre. Haven’t read this one and won’t, but there may be a market for books that push the psychological envelope.

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