Pros: Strong characters & mystery; lacks the flaws of the last book in the series
Cons: Could use a little more foreshadowing
Rating: 4 out of 5
Since I’ve fallen behind on my reviewing (ack! Too many cat & family health issues—both our cats have a cardiologist and asthma inhalers now), I’ll cheat and quote the back-cover text to give you a taste of the plot before I let you know what I think of the book.
Forensic anthropologist Caitlin Fleming knows bones. So she is the first one called when seven sets of skeletal remains are found dumped in a makeshift graveyard in the Oregon wilderness. The skeletons bear the same distinctive marks—and each is missing a skull…
Cait needs outdoor guide Zach Sharper for one reason only—to help her find her way through the Willamette Forest as she pieces together clues. Despite the attraction that burns between them, Cait will let nothing shake her focus. Until the killer closes in to terminate the search—and the investigators on the verge of unmasking him…
I definitely enjoy Kylie Brant’s characters, and those in Waking the Dead are no different. She depicts strong, independent, three-dimensional heroes, heroines, and side characters that pull me in and make me want to know what happens to them. In particular this time I love Cait’s tiny, angelic-looking, foul-mouthed assistant.
The tension that keeps Zach and Cait apart for a while is believable—Zach doesn’t want to be at the beck and call of anyone for any reason, even a murder investigation, and his lack of social graces doesn’t endear him to Cait. It doesn’t help that for a little while it seems he might fit the profile of the murderer in some respects. Once the two come together, of course, they have delicious chemistry and some delightful sex scenes.
I particularly enjoy Kylie’s exploration of psychologically damaged characters, despite the difficulty of believing in three sequential heroines working for the same company who have such messed-up pasts and home lives. She uses both the perps and the family members of the heroines (and sometimes others as well) to examine a variety of mental issues, often with a sympathetic eye.
Another particular joy that I take in this series is the fact that it defies the convention many stories follow in which a woman falls in love and immediately settles down and gives up whatever job it was that previously was so important to her. It’s as though her identity as a lover or wife supplants her career identity. In Brant’s books, that isn’t the case. Her characters go through at least some maneuvering to come up with ways to juggle career and love.
In the last two books I objected to what I saw as a lack of foreshadowing—I very much like to be able to look back at the end of a mystery and, even if I couldn’t guess whodunit, think, “aha! That makes sense!” but I had trouble doing so with Waking Nightmare and Waking Evil because there were so few hints, even in retrospect. That was much better in this book. It’s still walking a fine line, but I felt like it was a little less obtuse.
The other objection I had was the similarities between the first two heroines—it beggared belief to have two heroines, both working for the same company, in similar situations, in subsequent books, who both happened to be phobic due to past traumas. While there’s still some similarity here, the differences are a bit greater. The past trauma is still there, but not the phobia. The characters are also, I think, a little more different in personality (both Cait and Zach) from their predecessors.
Still, I should point out that I enjoy these mysteries and characters enough that even though I had those objections, I rushed to read each book as I got my hands on them—they definitely provided a thrill and plenty of romance and forensics-based action!