Stop Me

Brenda Novak
2008, Romantic Suspense
MIRA, $6.99, 435 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778324605
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

Stop Me is the second book in Brenda Novak’s Last Stand trilogy concerning three members of a victim’s rights group. This book begins well, drags a bit in the middle, but soon picks up steam and zooms to an exciting end. The romance is not nearly as strong as the suspense.

Sixteen years ago, when Jasmine Stratford was still just a child herself, she was charged with baby-sitting her little sister Kimberly. She was so engrossed in a TV show that a man was able to kidnap the little girl. No one ever found Kimberly and her kidnapping tore the family apart. Jasmine has some psychic ability, and has used her gift as well as her psychological acumen to become a consultant to law agencies faced with missing person cases. She’s never gotten over Kimberly’s kidnapping and it all comes back to her when she receives a package in the mail containing the bracelet that Kimberly was wearing the day she disappeared.

The package was mailed from New Orleans, so Jasmine goes there in the hopes of discovering something. While in the Big Easy, she learns of Adele Fornier's kidnapping. Francis Moreau, who was accused of the crime, was let go since the evidence against him was tainted. Adele’s father, Roman, shot Moreau on the steps of the courthouse and served several years for manslaughter. Certain aspects of the case, and her own psychic insights lead Jasmine to believe that the same man who kidnapped her sister was involved in the kidnap and murder of Adele – and Roman Fornier killed the wrong man. Now, she must persuade him to help her.

The romantic aspects are light Stop Me, but the suspense is very well done. The story dragged mid-way through, mostly as Roman and Jasmine hashed out their relationship, but when they began to work on solving the mystery, things picked up considerably. Novak keeps the reader on her toes – just as you think you’ve figured out what is happening, she throws something else into the mix. There is not just one villain – the kidnapping of Kimberly and Adele is part of a larger and very sinister scheme, and the identity of the kingpin was a major surprise to me. For the entire length of the book we know him as Peccavi (I have sinned) until the end when he shows himself. As I said, I was very surprised.

Jasmine is an interesting character. She is part Indian – her mother was from India - and she is quite beautiful. Since I am not a fan of psychic characters, I was very pleased that Novak kept the woo woo stuff to the minimum. Romain was also a pleasant character, although he wasn’t particularly outstanding. At least he wasn’t named Remy.

The next book in the series, Watch Me, is due out in August. I definitely plan to read it. Brenda Novak has a very deft hand with romantic suspense and I’ve enjoyed her books ever since I discovered her in the Harlequin Superromance line.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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