by Mary Burton
Kensington Publishing, Inc. © 2013
Mass Market Paperback, 362 pages, $7.99
When Texas Ranger JAMES BECK arrives at the crime scene, the details—victim clad in a home-made white dress, blonde hair fanned out around her head, and a penny clutched in one hand—seem familiar somehow. It’s only after Beck begins to investigate that he suspects the Seattle Strangler, who was never caught but who has been MIA with no further attacks for seven years, is once again on the prowl.
Questions abound: the Strangler? In Austin? Why now, after so long a silence? The biggest unknowns surround the Strangler’s last Seattle victim, LARA CHURCH, the only one who survived. Beck knows the key to catching the killer is to find out why the Strangler left her alive and why, after six prior victims, the Strangler’s modus operandi changed. Surely she carries some clue that might stop the killer from striking again, and now that Lara’s living in Austin, Beck’s determined to find out what she knows.
The problem is that Lara can’t remember a thing. Oh she’s tried; Seattle police, certain she could be pressured into recalling details that would help them catch the killer, put her through the wringer again and again until she finally says, “No more.” Seattle detective MIKE RAINES, the lead investigator in the series of murders, didn’t believe her then. And he doesn’t believe her now. He’s as determined as Beck to find out what she remembers and to catch the murderer. But Lara’s just starting to build a new life. She wants nothing to do with the police or their investigation, and she’s not about to allow them to order her around, even if it is for her own good.
Author Mary Burton weaves a good tale, drawing the reader into the minds of her characters, then taking them along for the ride. Palpable tension hangs on every word in the exchanges between Raines, who travels to Austin to help solve the crimes, and Beck, who bristles at the outsider’s intrusion into “his” investigation. Lara’s interactions with Beck aren’t exactly friendly either—at least, not at first. She’s no shrinking violet; I’ve always liked strong female characters, and I think I would like Lara Church in real life.
Burton also does a decent job of writing young women and characters who haven’t had the easiest life and are a bit jaded as a result. One young female character, DANNI, plays a key role, especially later in the book at about the same time the last plot twist is taking shape. It’s her action that turns the tide in the end.
I have to point out that in my opinion, The Seventh Victim is tried-and-true formula. I figured out both the killer’s identity and the final twist long before the end; but that did not stop it from being an entertaining read, and sometimes that’s just what I’m looking for. Burton’s got a plethora of other mystery titles. I’m sure I’ll be checking those out too.