Review – The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

Cover for The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish Date: January 29, 2013
How I got this book: eARC from NetGalley


It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared…


Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin…


He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands—right before he ends it forever…

*blurb from Goodreads

In this Romantic Suspense, Lara has been on the run for the past seven years after surviving an attack in which she had been drugged, raped and nearly strangled to death. She was left with little-to-no memory of the attack – certainly nothing that could help the detectives with her case. Her attacker, the Seattle Strangler, was never caught and seemed to disappear. When she finally returns to her childhood home in Austin to deal with her late grandmother’s estate, she begins to feel a sense of belonging and realizes that her years of running have left her adrift and alone. Just as she begins to settle in, the killings start up again…

I’m a bit conflicted as I sit down to write this review. On the one hand, I did mostly enjoy this story. Yes, it has some problems, but I found myself entertained anyway. On the other hand, I just didn’t find this Romantic Suspense all that suspenseful. I had figured out who attacked Lara seven years ago by the second or third time this person entered into the story. I also felt there were some pretty clear dots a detective should have easily connected (after all, they were present in the narrative), but instead everyone just kept scratching their heads wondering who the killer was and why the MO had changed. As a result, the Rangers just came off as being rather inept on the whole. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I found the writing style engaging and The Seventh Victim set a good pace with scenes focused on moving the plot forward. Burton created some interesting characters and did a good job of setting up several suspense elements and including the creep factor by giving us some scenes from a killer’s POV (although nothing too graphic). I rather enjoyed the main protagonists, Lara and Beck. I think, ultimately, these two were what kept me reading through to the end. I really wanted to see how they came to the HEA, or even if they would.

The relationship between Lara and Beck had a nice progression. With Beck being the Ranger assigned to the local murders in Austin, he made the connection to Lara and considered his interactions with her as a necessary part of doing the job. Lara held no love for detectives having been put through the proverbial wringer seven years ago. So, their initial interactions were professional, if strained. Over the course of the story, their dynamic began to change. I appreciated the absence of the typical insta-attraction narrative tripe. Instead, as their attraction slowly came into focus, the narrative showed us Beck’s transition from a sense of duty to a sense of protectiveness and Lara coming back to life in her hometown and allowing herself to open up.

One issue with Lara’s characterization was in the discrepancy between how she kept insisting that she could take care of herself when it came to personal protection, but then she didn’t exhibit any actual skills for doing so. Knowing how to rack a shotgun isn’t the same as having self-defense skills, being alert to possible threats and just overall not being stupid when it came to her own personal safety. I thought she stayed in a rather naive bubble of denial considering her history. Beck had the annoying habit of ignoring Lara’s input and taking over a situation. Although it usually had an element of chivalry to it, it was a bit heavy handed at times.

Also, the timing was just a bit off when Lara and Beck first get together after a particularly traumatic scene. It’s presumably the first time she’s been with a man since she’d been attacked, raped and nearly strangled to death seven years ago. [spoiler]This sex scene also takes place after her memories of that attack have begun to surface after having been suppressed (read: not dealt with) for seven years.[/spoiler] The likelihood that she could just jump into this level of intimacy without having some type of psychological blowback, emotional trauma or even a bit of trepidation portrays an unrealistic response of victims of physical and sexual violence. I do think this issue gets addressed, albeit as a bit of an aside, in the epilogue but still this story seems to minimize the impact of physical and sexual violence.

As I alluded to earlier, there are a few plot holes but I really don’t want to give anything away. Let me just say the portrayal of the serial killer felt a bit off and the motivation and trigger didn’t stay consistent. The serial killer had a very specific reason for killing (and that’s even if I could believe that the person ultimately responsible for those killings had dropped off the deep end far enough to become a serial killer in the first place) and there was a killing towards the end that really just didn’t fit. And while there was a bit of a twist at the end when Beck finally puts two and two together, it felt abrupt and reinforced the idea that Beck should have figured that out days if not hours ago.

For the most part, I did enjoy this story, particularly the romance between Lara and Beck, but the plot fell apart for me toward the end and the suspense elements that had been set up that could have kept me on the edge of my seat kinda fizzled out.

I give The Seventh Victim a C.

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