* This review first appeared at Love In The Margins.
Sometimes I self harm. Mostly with books.
I really hated everything about the first Dr. Charlotte Stone book. I wasn't planning on reading another but Suleikha Snyder wouldn't stop talking about ghost sex. (Wait, is it still self harming if I can blame someone else?) The Last Kiss Goodbye is so much worse than The Last Victim. I am completely cured of my Karen Robards fandom. We had some good times together but they are o-v-e-r. Capital O. Underlined. Exclamation points. Freezer full of ice cream. If I could go back to 1981 I'd tell myself to put the book on the shelf and walk away, because this isn't a forever love.
In The Last Victim Robards rolled out a love triangle between a living FBI agent, a dead serial killer and the lovely yet self destructive psychiatrist in peril, Charlie Stone. Although she alludes to his potential innocence, our serial killer (Garland) is still far from a prize. He's crude, thoughtless, dismissive and consigned to hell for unknown reasons. (Assuming he didn't really slice and dice all those women). Charlie falls for him hard on the basis of nothing but his appearance. The Last Kiss Goodbye picks up seconds after The Last Victim's end, launching the team on the trail of another killer.
I will give Robards one piece of credit. She doesn't dwell in terror porn. Robards largely keeps her focus on the investigative team. I wish they were a more interesting group. (Charlie is toxic.)
Where The Last Victim reminded me of Darynda Jones The Last Kiss Goodbye reminds me of fan fiction. Charlie's entire inner life consists of "He's probably a dead crazy psycho killer but omg he's so hot and I want him he can't leave me omg what if he is in pain?" Because she knows her kink is destructive she leads the barely-there living love interest along in a really distasteful forced triangle of dishonesty. It's not pretty. "You can't control me, dead psycho lover! I will show you!" Of course, her psycho dead lover totally can control her. So he cockblocks the FBI agent and gets sent (yay!) to hell. Charlie is codependent so she panics and begs him to come back.
If you only do what he can do, you won’t be doing much, she told herself severely. But then she thought, By now, the coffee’s probably cold. So she didn’t want to drink it anyway, and that had nothing to do with Michael at all. - Robards, Karen. “The Last Kiss Goodbye.”
This thought happens during a team meeting on the serial killer who invaded her home a few hours prior. Because what's most important to Charlie is that Garland might miss drinking coffee. This won't be the only time Charlie actively ignores her own self interest to climb the cross. Besides thinking he's hot and trying to save him from hell, Charlie also stands up for herself.
“You’d want to drive, too, you—you man,” she mouthed, piling a fair degree of venom on that last word. - Robards, Karen. “The Last Kiss Goodbye.”
I mean, wow. You tell him, Dr. Stone. Slow clap for sure. In addition to Charlie's inexplicable obsession with a man who agrees hell is the proper destination for the life he lived, Charlie has to find the second serial killer to target her in so many weeks. (Maybe she needs a new perfume?) Luckily she has a secret psychic friend to phone for vital yet obscure plot clues. Between talking to dead people and phoning a friend Charlie has this investigation on lock! We are also treated to the only other major female character in the book continuing to resent Charlie for incomprehensible reasons. (Because bitches?) After Charlie is inevitably placed in peril at the hands of the killer (gosh, who could have seen THAT coming) it is revealed that her taste in men has always been tragic. Well, there's also a bit in the middle of the book involving a college affair with a predatory professor. That Charlie. She just can't help herself!