27 September, 2012

Review: Haven by Kay Hooper

Let's face it, the Bishop / SCU series is played out. I think Hooper knows it too, which explains why Haven reads like a reboot. From the cover art to the content, the series is positioned as light horror / suspense instead of light paranormal romantic suspense. I kind of enjoyed Haven, it was an easy read. There was some third wall stuff going on when one character remarks that they seem to spend a surprising amount of time in small towns with sordid serial killer secrets at their heart. (As a city girl I've never found small towns anything but forebodingly creepy but I too must acknowledge the concept is getting tiresome.)

There's something unfinished about Haven, a feeling that it's still in progress. When you get to the final pages Hooper offers a cast of characters listing abilities and earlier book appearances. Except the previous book appearances are listed for only one character. This is the sort of meticulous (non) attention to detail that sends Haven skidding off the rails for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the TSTL characters are, um, TSTL and therefore die. I appreciate Hooper trying to set up something fresh with her popular paranormal FBI crew but it feels a little Friends of Superdog to me. I don't want to cut back and forth between characters I've liked to establish that these characters belong with them. If the romantic element is removed then I want to read about core characters solving crimes. Develop their lives, move them forward. Don't relegate them to side roles where they act concerned and offer explanatory speeches to new readers. (This is what derailed Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan series long before the atrocity of Bonnie.)

Haven has twin sisters who aren't twins. They're just identical siblings. One is the light, one is the dark, both are low level psychics with something very bad in their past. I found the hidden event completely plausible but everything stemming from it irritatingly absurd. (Without spoiling the book, we will just say my buy in on that aspect was 0%.) There's a bad guy preying on the town and with only three main male characters figuring out who it is isn't exactly a challenge. Your choices are Red Herring or Absurdly Easy To Spot. What isn't clear is why AETS is the freak he is. Either Hooper is planning on breaking out her undying evil force plot from an earlier book (I dearly hope not) or she forgot that most suspense books end up giving the killer's motivations. Generally, it goes beyond I Hate Chicks. Sure, not always. Most of the time, though.

So, there's no romance. There's no suspense. There is light horror and a body count, plus a large dose of victimized girls in abject terror. The psychics are pretty useless, except when they need a sudden burst moving the plot along. The complacency of AETS is inexplicable, as is his agitation when the missing sister returns home. There's no payoff in the long lost family angle either. Emma greets Jesse back like she went out for milk but had to go to the store across town. There's no heat in Haven, not of anger or of love. It's a smooth ride to the finish, enjoyable and easily forgotten. As a library read, a waiting room book or a beach burner it's fine. Haven is truly average. Which makes me sad. I like Kay Hooper. I like her way with paranormals. I wish she'd either get over this series or rethink the light horror focus. I am bone tired of reading about mutilated women, I need something else to hang my hat on if we're going to insist on writing about them.

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