Pros: Very strong plot and characters; tense; suspenseful; intelligent
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ve said before that I prefer short series when I read series at all. It’s because I hate walking into the middle of a series and finding out that the beginning of it is already out of print. I’ve also often found that quality doesn’t remain the same over the course of a series; there’s nothing like really wanting to know what happens to your favorite characters, but absolutely not wanting to watch the decline of a favorite author’s writing in some way.
Despite all that, I got to the end of Pitch Black, the second of Leslie Parrish’s Black CAT novels, saw that the next book in the series is slated to be the final book in a trilogy, and let out a cry of despair. “Nooo! I want MORE!” Heck, it’s exactly the sort of series where you can easily come in at the middle and not miss much, because each serial killer mystery is fairly self-contained and each book focuses primarily on a different sub-set of the characters. And Leslie’s writing is consistently excellent, so I have little worry that I’ll cease to enjoy her books!
The CAT (or black CATs as they’ve come to be called by the press) is the FBI’s Cyber Action Team. They have a very narrow mission: to investigate internet-related murders. Their first case involved a man who used an internet site to auction off the means of death of his victims; their latest centers around a man who uses internet scams to target his victims. You think your greatest risk with a Nigerian 4-1-9 scam is losing some money? With this guy around, you could lose your life instead. Calling himself Darwin, he sees himself as weeding out those who don’t deserve to live.
Samantha Dalton runs a website dedicated to teaching people about the dangers of internet scams. She’s smart and savvy, and Darwin is impressed. He just wishes she’d learn to see things his way, see that these people aren’t worth saving. And he’s willing to go to great lengths to convince her.
Alec Lambert is a profiler who just joined the CAT after recovering from bullet wounds taken on a case gone wrong. Like many of the folks on the team he’s a bit of a black sheep in the department, but his dedication to his job is unwavering. Now he has another chance to go after Darwin, a subject he calls the Professor for his long-winded, condescending messages. He’s determined not to lose the killer this time—especially once he realizes Darwin has a thing for Sam. Sam’s a lovely divorcee with a chip on her shoulder and a snarky attitude, and although Alec knows he shouldn’t be interested in a witness, he can’t help the way his heart responds to her.
I absolutely loved the preceding novel, Fade to Black, and Pitch Black is every bit as good. As soon as it arrived in the mail I squealed with delight and bumped it to the top of my sky-high to-read stack. I have a weakness for a good mystery/serial-killer novel, and Leslie does a fantastic job putting them together. The romance aspects are also extremely good as well, and add to rather than pushing aside the mystery.
The technological aspects of these mysteries are fascinating. I’m not as internet-savvy as my husband, so I can’t say for sure that it’s all accurate, but I’m more tech-savvy than a lot of people, and nothing rang false to me. I really love it when that happens; far too many authors think they can just gloss over tech things and have them seem legitimate, when instead it can ruin the suspension of disbelief for many readers.
I’m pretty good at guessing plot twists, so I tend to expect that I’ll guess the culprit when I read mysteries. One of Leslie’s talents is throwing in enough viable red herrings that I spend the entire book waffling as to whodunit. And, of course, as is ideal, in retrospect the killer makes perfect sense!
Alec and Sam have great chemistry. As in Fade to Black, Leslie is great about having them both be smart about trying not to get involved when it would be inappropriate to do so. I also love that while her characters do make mistakes, they’re understandable mistakes; usually the characters do the smart thing but simply don’t have all the information. Or they do a smart thing, but maybe not the smartest thing. I don’t want to say much more, for fear of giving anything away.
Leslie Parrish’s Black CATs novels are taut, exciting, sweet, dark, and hot, all at the same time. They do deal with murder, assault, and pedophilia, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they handle those topics very well. Sex isn’t the focus of the books, but there is moderate adult content.
In short, I hope that Leslie decides to put out more than three of these books!