The world built around the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series is an attractive one with lots of potential. Kay Hooper writes well; I readily agree to that. It shows in her narrations in decent fashion, and she has created an amicable cast of characters for each story. Of course, some might argue that sometimes she tends to force "guest appearances" of characters from previous books, or potential future characters who will have their own story further along in the series--but these appearances aren't drawn out, so I'm not complaining. Kay Hooper has managed to create a world with interconnected characters and events that appeal to me.
But aside from that, the books seem to fall fairly flat despite the dark mood and the attempts at suspense and twists and surprises. While the writing is decent, it also falls slightly monotonous. While the characters are created well, they don't come to life.
I both love reading about them... and also find them boring.
I didn't write anything about the first three Bishop/SCU books in the series; in short, they were enjoyable and I was entertained enough to continue on with the rest of this (extremely) long series (I believe the count is now at 15 books). The third book in the series, Out of the Shadows, is thus far the best of the six I've read so far (in my humble opinion). Something about Noah Bishop and Miranda Knight working together as an investigative team seems to attract my attention; I like them together and I like them in general. Or maybe these two just seem to have the most chemistry as a couple so far. Or maybe, as individuals, they have the strongest personalities in comparison to the rest of the characters in the series--they stand out the most.
The Evil trilogy sub-set of this long series falls slightly short of the previous three Bishop/SCU books, but not due to story concept, writing, or murder mystery content--those aspects were done quite well. In fact, I can't exactly pinpoint why I didn't enjoy these three books as much, but I DO know that I found myself drifting at moments while reading them (except for Sense of Evil, I liked Sense of Evil better).
Basically, I wouldn't really give the rest of the books much of a passing impression aside from the single conclusive: "They were enjoyable."
Touching Evil - Kay Hooper
Maggie Barnes is a sketch artist for law enforcement, utilizing her ability to relive a person's moments as they describe things to her, to recreate an image of the suspected criminal, or the probable crime scene. Her sketches are so life-like that people she works with have quietly attributed her talents to something akin to magic (even if they don't say it publicly).
In this instance, Maggie feels the torments and pains of this story's rape victims in order to get a feel for who and what the monster behind the acts is. She must interview them and relive their every moment during the violent acts to determine a visual image of the perpetrator. In turn, she's an empath who also takes away with her some of that pain the victim had been housing.
The story concept as well as Maggie's psychic ability is both intriguing and saddening at the same time. Despite the fact that it wasn't really memorable, it was still engaging and thought-provoking. The mystery aspect was well-done, typical Kay Hooper style. The story progression was smooth with enough of a touch of emotion and suspense for me to be hooked.
The characters were created well; I like them, but they tended to come off as flat. The romance was lukewarm; I'm not sure I know when Maggie and John started falling for each other. The love interest, John, didn't really stand out (though I'm told that the teaming up of Maggie and John at the end of the book will contribute to future installments of the Bishop/SCU series), so I'm filing that information away for now.
I do like the way Kay Hooper incorporates POV switching between different sets of characters, giving the minor and side characters more book time, rather than focusing completely on the two main characters and the "villain". In a way, it seems to help the story progression along. It doesn't help the characters themselves come to life any better, but it does help the story come to life on a different level (if that makes any sense).
Conclusion: Enjoyable and thought-provoking. Plain and simple.
Whisper of Evil - Kay Hooper
A killer in a small town called Silence is killing "respectable" men and exposing their dirty little secrets to the world. Nell Gallagher has returned to the town where she'd grown up and run away from to both face her past conflicts and as a member of the Special Crimes Unit to help solve the murders.
Nell's psychic abilities were a little confusing at best. At first, it made sense that she had the power to relive or see the events of a particular place's "memories." So rather than seeing the future or traveling to the past, she picks up the leftover excited memories of events in particular places. But then her abilities either kept evolving, or our esteemed author kept deciding to give Nell other latent abilities (that have been there all along, doncha know) for the sake of convenience and story progression.
Her black-outs (for actual reasons rather than the usual, multiple personality one), were confusing and never truly explored. I never got a good grasp on what happened during her black-outs except that they were tied-in with her past.
This is what bugged me the most about Whisper of Evil. Because despite the fact that the murder mystery was interesting, and the characters weren't half bad, everything else seemed to fall short. Even the characters who weren't half bad fell short, because they were also not very relatable as well as kind of mechanical.
Back to Nell's abilities... it was one thing to know that she might have the latent ability of precognition (which is mentioned, but never seen happening); however, then she also developed other abilities that were never further explored. The new occurrences just happened, explained away as possible new abilities, then forgotten about. And then we move on.
Paranormal stories already require a certain amount of willingness to suspend disbelief. And when we are interested in these topics, we don't hesitate to open up our minds to accept the the idea of paranormal happenings. But even within the scope of a paranormal story, the logic within that world should still make sense as according to that world... and it should also convince me that it makes sense. I don't need things explained to me to the point of beating dead horses all around; sometimes a few simple explanations will suffice. But in this case, the stuff that I wanted explained had been blown off with the faith that I would just take it at face value, while the stuff that I already am willing to take at face value ended up being explained over and over again.
And so it just feels like we're trying to hard to convince the reader that paranormal activity does exist rather than telling me why Nell's abilities now include more than she had originally started the story with.
The characters of Whisper of Evil... are great on paper, but not so much in action.
And I found Nell to be slightly too over dramatic for her own good. When her big secret came out, the entire effect fizzled out because I felt like her backstory didn't merit all the angst and drama she'd created for herself. The romance was "meh" for me and I've already forgotten what kind of a guy Max is aside from "angry" and "rash".
A few aspects (such as the deal with Hailey, Nell's sister), were fairly predictable.
What I found that I didn't quite like about this book (as with few others of Kay Hooper's mysteries), is that her ultimate culprit sometimes comes out of left-field. They tend to be the least likely person (or someone who was barely in the story at all) with a motive that gets explained in the eleventh hour with no indication that anyone, not even the investigators in the book, would have been able to figure it out excepting that our murderer reveals himself readily as the concluding twist in the story.
Sometimes this set-up works. But sometimes it just seems like a convenient way to end the story.
Anyway, as with the rest of the Kay Hooper books, I appreciate the switching POV to get to know the minor and background characters. Unfortunately, in Whisper of Evil, I felt like I was witnessing some sort of dramatic soap with character ADD--switching of POVs was kind of excessive and obviously being done at moments where you would most likely try to elicit the big audience "Dun-dun-DUN!" gasp... to a point where it just kind of got tacky and annoying.
Conclusion: A mediocre read with flaws, but good for a lazy, rainy day; and, at the very least, enjoyable and quick.
Sense of Evil - Kay Hooper
Surprisingly, I have little to say about this installment of the Bishop/SCU series aside from the fact that I very much enjoyed it, more so than the previous two books in the Evil trilogy sub-series. I can't seem to put my finger on the reason, but a lot of it might have to do with having a better balance on character development alongside the ever-consistently well-done story progression and murder mystery concept.
A serial killer is targeting blonde women, known to be independent, successful, and strong. The killings are gruesome and degrading to the women, suspected to be done by someone familiar with the victims and possibly with some authority and who is profiled as being angry at these women for being women.
Isabel Adams is a clairvoyant, who also displays at the beginning of the book the ability to experience a murder when it occurs (apparently something that happens rarely). Along with Hollis Templeton (one of the characters introduced as a victim from Touching Evil) who is a medium (able to communicate with spirits), the two are the SCU agents who respond to the local law enforcement's call for expert help in solving this serial murder.
It is not coincidence that Isabel fits the description of the women being targeted by the serial killer, though she has her own reasons as well, stemming from past history of the killer having committed two other killing sprees in the past that Isabel had been involved with.
I think that the partnership between Isabel and Police Chief Rafe Sullivan has made more of an impression on me than the coupling of others in this sub-series. These two have the same air of character development and romantic development that Bishop and Miranda had in Out of the Shadows. In a sense, I felt more invested in the lives and conflicts and personalities of the characters of Sense of Evil than I have with characters in previous books (much the same as I had felt with Bishop and Miranda).
Sense of Evil now comes in as a close second in terms of my favorite Bishop/SCU books, following Out of the Shadows. And if I had to be honest, Touching Evil had a very subtle lasting impression as well, but almost barely.
Maybe I just enjoy a good old murder mystery so much more when our main couple are both part of the lead investigating team as well as both being part of the uniformed team (a member of law enforcement, or the same ilk)--the partnership between Isabel and Rafe certainly was a delight to follow along with. When one of the main couple (usually the male, so far) just happens to be a civilian who likes playing unauthorized justice-seeking vigilante and takes matters into his own hands, he just seems rash and hard to relate to (in my mind), especially if he's never had any formal training in any aspect of investigation... or is just some random businessman with a lot of money and sources at his fingertips. Because at that point, we're just pushing suspension of disbelief that the dude is not only rich, good-looking, a good man with a good heart and his own conflicts, but he's also a good investigator and happens to do everything else right in the world....
And there's nothing I hate reading about more than Mary Sues... and yes, men can be Mary Sues as well, but they just seem to be written with a more subtle touch than the women when they're Mary Sues.
But I digress...
Anyway, as far as paranormal aspects go with our psychics, there's nothing new to note since we've got two traditional psychic types: a clairvoyant and a medium. I felt like it was much more fun watching the task force bat ideas around each other as well as volley good-natured barbs all around anywa. This story displays a group of good people, doing good work, and presenting with teamwork at its best. And sometimes it's just simple things like random character interactions that work the best for me.
Hollis is turning out to be quite the character and has me intrigued for when it's her turn in the spotlight (Book #12: Blood Ties).
Isabel and Rafe were much more interesting as a partnered team than previous couples (excepting Bishop and Miranda who are still an elite team and cannot be outdone); and yet, the romance angle in the book was still comparable to the other Bishop/SCU books--a bit lukewarm despite the whole "getting to know each other" chemistry forming very slowly. In spite of that, I still thought they had pretty good chemistry even if the romance was a bit lacking. I am surprised to find myself a little disappointed that there wasn't the obligatory sex scene between our main couple since I had a feeling that that chemistry would have been pretty hot.
Also, I may have been desperately needing the two of them to quit tip-toeing around the sexual tension and their feelings and just screw each other like bunnies already; you know, to get rid of all the excess tension and to move past that "I'm scared of romantic relationships due to past tragedies" angst. I'm not saying that sex is the answer to all problems (even though Barney Stinson--circa How I Met Your Mother--and his Bro Code endorses it), I'm just saying it probably would have helped.
Then again, the repercussions of them having sex probably would have been inconvenient given what we know of two psychics and their "morning after" side effects from Out of the Shadows--temporary loss of psychic abilities that could prove fatalistic.
Conclusion: Much more highly enjoyable than the previous two books, even if the previous two books weren't not enjoyable.
Overall, I'm still enjoying the series as a whole and found the Evil trilogy sub-set to be intriguing.
There is a very blatant underlying message dealing with Evil (with a capital E), as a presence through the three books (and mentioned sparingly throughout the first three books previous to this sub-series). I'm not sure what the ultimate message is aside from that fact that there is definitely Evil present in the world, but as a balance, there will also be good (in the form of our psychic investigators) to battle them.
That Evil is the propelling force behind any acts of violence that are too outrageous to be understandable... I think this is something that we deal with in real life constantly anyway. Except, in these books, Evil takes physical form and is used as the main reason why certain people do what they do.
It's something to think about, I guess.