Author: Debra Webb

The Longest Silence by Debra Webb

The Longest Silence by Debra WebbThe Longest Silence by Debra Webb
Series: Shades of Death #4
Published by Mira Books on March 6th 2018
Pages: 336
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three-stars

Joanna Guthrie was free. She had been for eleven years--or so she needed everyone to believe. What really happened during the longest eighteen days of her life, when she and two other women were held captive by a dangerous serial killer, wasn't something she could talk about. Not with him watching. Not unless she wanted to end up like the ones who didn't make it out.

But when more women go missing in an eerily similar manner, Jo knows her prolonged silence will only seal their fates. She's finally ready to talk; she just needs someone to listen. FBI special agent Tony LeDoux can't deny he finds Jo compelling--he's just not sure he believes her story. But with the clock ticking, Jo will do anything to convince him, even if it means unearthing long-buried secrets that will land them squarely in the crosshairs of the killer...

Anthony LeDoux is a familiar character to those who have been following Debra Webb’s ‘Shades of Death’ series. Here, he’s a pale and rather pathetic version of his uptight self in the previous 3 books—a jobless alcoholic after the breakdown of his marriage and an emblem, so to speak, of an FBI hero who, because of his hubris, has fallen far and in sore need of redemption. The latest case that involves his missing niece might just offer him that, but not before he encounters a survivor of a long-ago crime that bears a chilling similarity to this case.

‘The Longest Silence’ sits in the suspense/thriller genre than in the romantic suspense one: LeDoux and Jo’s relationship is superficial and one that’s established because of a common motive they have in wanting to solve the mystery. Their hookup is made out to be a meaningless one from the start and thereafter, not entirely mentioned again; the hot-and-heavy never quite happens and neither do their growing feelings for each other. Their interactions thereafter consist of LeDoux trying to uncover what Joanna has been hiding from him as well as his running from place to place in desperation to form a credible picture of the entire crime scene and timeline.

Unlike Webb’s previous books in this series, I found myself less captivated by LeDoux and Jo than I was with Bobbie Gentry and Nick Shade. If I admired Bobbie’s immense strength and fortitude and was somewhat seduced by Nick’s enigmatic personality and the demons that haunted him, I couldn’t quite say the same for Ledoux and Jo as a pair. Webb’s superb writing kept me engrossed in the growing mystery and suspense and after I started looking at this book without its romantic elements—which was easy to do—LeDoux and Jo simply became protagonists that I didn’t find myself personally getting invested in. I was instead, thrilled to see cameos by Bobbie and Nick—their presence and rare HEA made this book for me—whose introduction towards the end of the book also proved its turning point.

‘The Longest Silence’ is nonetheless an engrossing read as it keeps you guessing how the connections are eventually going to work out. There are parts of the story that left me sceptical, but there’s no denying that Webb’s storytelling is masterful, but those who are looking for the tiniest speck of romance however, might find themselves disappointed.

three-stars

The Coldest Fear by Debra Webb

The Coldest Fear by Debra WebbThe Coldest Fear by Debra Webb
Series: Shades of Death #3
Published by Mira on August 29th 2017
Pages: 411
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four-stars

A killer with nothing left to lose…
Afraid or not, Detective Bobbie Gentry has a monster to confront. The pain of losing her family and nearly her life to a criminal's vile hunger is still fresh, but now the landscape is different. Now she's not alone. Now she has Nick Shade to trust. Nick treats the terror of his past with vengeance. He's dedicated his life to hunting serial killers, and he'd give up his last breath to save Bobbie. When a string of killings bloodies Savannah's elite society and causes cold cases to resurface, Bobbie is captured in a city more haunted than Nick's inescapable nightmares. And as the murderer strikes close, Nick and Bobbie will need to become even closer if they're going to survive.

‘The Coldest Fear’ picks up immediately where ‘A Deeper Grave’ left off, where Bobbie Gentry rushes after Nick Shade to help conquer his demons after he helped her with hers. There’s so much I like about this series and it’s primarily because of the unusual partnership that Debra Webb has gotten going between Bobbie and Nick: their pasts, their sheer capabilities to rise above their broken lives, their similar passions and the depth of their own feelings. Yet very little of that shows up in this book and without this defining feature that I’d found in the past two books, ‘The Coldest Fear’ stayed a very good read but not a fantastic one.

I’d expected that this was going to be a story of Nick and Bobbie working together to search for the man who supposedly orchestrated every recent tragedy in Bobbie’s life. What I hadn’t expected was to see Nick pulling so far away that he stayed hidden in the shadows, mostly out of sight and out of the narrative, still caught in his self-recriminating guilt because he would never be the kind of man for Bobbie who deserved better. This partnership that I’d envisioned was sadly, nowhere to be seen and like Bobbie, I was frustrated seeing Nick disappear when he was clearly needed and his insistence that he had to go at solving the biggest case alone was more hindrance than help by the time I reached the halfway mark. Instead, a seemingly unrelated sub-plot came into play—and which seemed irrelevant—with the pieces only falling into place later as Bobbie gets drawn into a bizarre situation of missing children from a cold case that is 32 years old with Nick relegated to nearly a peripheral character while Bobbie conducted her investigations with another officer in Savannah. It was as though I’d stepped into a separate police procedural with many POVs inserted into the narrative as the plot spirals out into peripheral details and rabbit trails that were bewildering to say the least.

There are however, shocking revelations towards the end and these strings are brought together quite masterfully by Webb as characters finally reveal the fractured history that they all share. It almost makes the long detour worth it, though it was difficult to see anything past the destruction of all the characters’ lives after a while. The hunt for twisted, psychopathic serial killers is claustrophobically wearing and the characters do bleakly reflect this: their personal tragedies are worn deep on their skin and psyches and no one comes away untouched at all.

This series definitely falls more into the suspense/thriller genre with very little emphasis on the romance, which, because of my own personal tastes, was the only disappointment. It’s well-plotted and a complex enough puzzle to get any suspense/thriller-fan going especially with all the mudding details that don’t add up, yet I couldn’t help but think that the overarching story feels very unfinished beyond Bobbie’s personal acceptance of events.

four-stars

A Deeper Grave by Debra Webb

A Deeper Grave by Debra WebbA Deeper Grave by Debra Webb
Series: Shades of Death #2
Published by Mira Books on May 30th 2017
Pages: 368
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four-stars

When the hunter becomes the hunted…
Serial-killer hunter Nick Shade built his legendary career chasing monsters—sadistic criminals with a gruesome thirst for death. When he rescued Montgomery detective Bobbie Gentry from horrific captivity and helped her reclaim her life, he didn't intend to be a hero. Or a target. But now a copycat murderer haunts him, and reuniting with Bobbie is his best chance at neutralizing the threat.
Bobbie can't forget the nightmares of her trauma—or the man who saved her. Working with Nick to outmaneuver the person behind a deadly vendetta feeds her hope that there's more to her world than ghosts and destruction. Maybe joining Nick's search for a killer is about gratitude. Maybe it's nothing more than cold revenge. But the only way they can protect themselves is to trust each other.

Deeply riveting, ‘A Deeper Grave’ tightens the noose on Bobbie Gentry and Nick Shade, yet draws circles around the whole burgeoning mystery as an unseen or unknown puppeteer yanks the strings of all those involved…towards an endgame that remains unclear. It’s clear that this series isn’t a simple whodunnit sort, but Debra Webb certainly cycles through the murder mystery tropes, then scrambles them so that a copycat serial killer is only a loose string in a larger web that ensnares. Like in most crime drama series, you get the feeling that things are building up somehow, somewhere, yet it’s not all revealed yet, which is probably the perfect kind of cliffhanger ending that will only come with the dramatic finale. Very light on the romance and focused on the suspense, it’s an excellent read all around really and tightly plotted, except for the fact that I couldn’t get my head around how the characters never caught onto the very obvious clues about the copycat killer.

Bobbie Gentry is finding her feet once again, though loss is a constant reminder of how much she has yet to lose. I liked her strength, her self-awareness and how she doesn’t deny her need for Nick both physically and emotionally. That she doesn’t give up on him in the end, makes me beyond eager to read their closing chapter together.

However, I find that I’ve simply blinked and missed Nick—the other protagonist who remains so shadowy that I can’t get a grasp on his character—considering his importance in the book. Yet he remains a peripheral character given the very few scenes written in his POV and the glimpses we get of his Hannibal Lecter father don’t quite do justice to his tortured hero’s psyche. Multiple POVs instead, tell the story of the people in Montgomery PD’s broken unit and of Bobbie’s healing mental state and whether it is Webb’s intention for Nick to keep that intriguing distance from Bobbie and the reader, I’m hoping the third book—and what’s presumably his final reckoning—will strip him bare.

It’s a series I’d wholly recommend, though it probably isn’t for those who want the requisite amount of angst, emotional navel-gazing and deep introspection that come with the romance portion. Yet as much as I wish for the latter, I can’t wait for Nick’s and Bobbie’s paths to converge properly this time around and the anticipation for the next book is already making me anxious.

four-stars

No Darker Place by Debra Webb

No Darker Place by Debra WebbNo Darker Place by Debra Webb
Series: Shades of Death #1
Published by Mira Books on February 28th 2017
Pages: 416
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four-stars

They want revenge. They need each other.
Detective Bobbie Gentry has one objective: to stop the serial killer who robbed her of her husband, her child and her life. Nick Shade understands Bobbie's pain and her desire for vengeance. He's on a mission of his own, and the murderer known as the Storyteller is next on his list. Nick knows that the best way to find his target is to stick close to Bobbie. But as she becomes more and more reckless in her attempts to lure the Storyteller out of hiding, he has to make a choice. Will he protect her from herself even if it means passing up the chance to take out one more monster? As for Bobbie, she's forced to decide just how much she can trust this stranger who knows so much about her. And both of them are about to learn whether or not two broken people can save each other.

Reading ‘No Darker Place’ is akin to watching a spectacularly fatal train crash where you can’t look away because the disaster is morbidly compelling: it’s meticulously written, with the sheer brutality of every kill making me cringe and wince. There’s a raw edge that never lets go, parallels drawn between the serial killer’s psyche and his victims and an unflinching portrayal of a damaged woman’s psyche whose loss and guilt fuelling her reckless agenda for revenge which is in turn skilfully used and manipulated by the Storyteller…well, it all makes for a very engrossing read, though the subject in question in itself makes it a difficult book to ‘like’ or to call a favourite.

I did find both protagonists rather compelling—though the insertion of several POVs of secondary characters seemed unnecessary—and their motivations sufficiently complex to make them multi-dimensional enough to like. But if Bobbie Gentry’s personality is well laid out, the very, very mysterious and enigmatic Nick Shade—whom we barely know as an interfering civilian in search of his own absolution—remains very much a closed book and near impossible to grasp at this point in time. This isn’t a romance by any chance; interactions between Bobbie and Nick are terse, wary and somewhat suspicious, lined only by the very slightest hint of heat if you squint hard enough. Needless to say, Nick and Bobbie are not in a place for anything beyond accepting each other as temporary ‘partners’ but I felt their pull towards each other immediately, heightened by the tension of the escalating case and the odd connection they’d forged in their hunt for the Storyteller who in many ways, seemed larger than life and almost humanly impossible to kill.

’No Darker Place’ is probably a good addition for crime-aficionados, disturbing and graphic enough for those who enjoy going deep into a crime scene and the psychology that can be used to analyse the heck out of a warped killer. As the first full-length novel in a series, it feels very unfinished nonetheless, the path ahead still murky for the protagonists who don’t quite have what they’re looking for…yet.

four-stars