Alone in the Dark is the second story in the Cincinnati series which follows reporter Marcus O’Bannion and Detective Scarlett Bishop. Both characters were introduced in the previous instalment Closer Than You Think so if you are reading these books in order (recommended) then you should already be familiar with the characters and how they connect with each other.
When Scarlett Bishop receives a phone call from Marcus O’Bannion asking for help in the middle of the night, she is powerless to resist as she’s been dreaming about him since they first met a few months previously when Marcus almost died at the hands of a serial killer. Arriving at the scene, Scarlett is shocked to find Marcus kneeling over the body of a young Asian woman who has been shot in the head. Having just narrowly avoided being shot himself, Marcus explains to Scarlett how he’s been trying to gain the girl’s trust so she would accept his help.
When Scarlett and Marcus discover the girl was wearing an anklet tracker, they realise she may have been a victim of human trafficking and are determined to bring the guilty to justice. However, the stakes get higher when an autopsy reveals the girl had given birth recently and there may be a vulnerable child at risk. Yet, Scarlett still can’t help wondering if Marcus was the real target of the killer that night, but her attempts to discover the truth about what Marcus really does are met with resistance. Matters are further complicated by Scarlett and Marcus’s obvious attraction to each other, and although Scarlett is fully aware she is putting her career at risk, her need to protect Marcus is overwhelming.
Readers of Karen Rose know exactly what they are getting with her novels as she never strays too far from her winning formula of having a damaged hero and heroine fall in love while resolving their trauma along the way. Rose populates her books with hot sensitive men and beautiful feisty women who inevitably fall for each other and turn out to be each other’s soul mates. However, don’t mistake these books for mere romance because the violence is never far away and it is usually cranked up to extreme levels. While these stories have plenty of twists to keep you guessing, you still know the lay of the land and that’s why these books are so addictive.
Scarlett comes from a family full of cops, yet as the only daughter she feels like she has to prove herself more than her siblings and she maintains a careful mask of stoicism so no one can see the soft heart she keeps carefully hidden. Scarlett has a powerful need to fix things which is why she repairs old furniture in her downtime, but the fact she can’t fix everything on the job is starting to eat away at her soul and she’s getting tired. When Marcus comes into her life, he is grieving the loss of his younger brother and Scarlett is drawn to his quiet vulnerability like a magnet. She desperately wants to ‘fix’ Marcus, but she is going to have to break through the high walls he has built around himself first. As Scarlett and Marcus begin to open up to each other, the demons of their respective pasts start to come to the surface.
Since Scarlett and Marcus come from large families, there are a plenty of new characters to keep Rose busy for awhile, however most of them come from the O’Bannion side and Scarlett’s group of friends. It’s always fun working out which couples are going to come together but if you are behind in the reading order, you should avoid the blurbs for the new releases as they may contain spoilers. Alone in the Dark has a big twist at the heart of it regarding a certain character who will be featuring in the next novel, but it was easy to guess who or what he was as Rose had made him too decent.
There is a lot of violence in this novel so it won’t be for everyone, however if you are an habitual reader of crime novels like me, you’ll be pretty much used to it. The main villain has a taste for torture so there are a lot of digits flying around and throats being cut, however this particular guy failed to send a shiver up my spine unlike some of Rose’s previous bad guys which is a shame. While the immediate villains portrayed in this novel are dealt with, the actual crime of human trafficking is set to continue in the next book so don’t expect all the questions to be answered.