I have truly enjoyed seeing the characters in Kay Hooper's Special Crimes Unit world grow and change over the years. When I picked up her first three books (Stealing Shadows, Hiding in the Shadows, and Out of the Shadows) back in 2000, I never imagined that nearly twenty years later, these characters and this world would still be going, and that I would love them as much as I do. Each set of stories is a trilogy, with the titles connecting by a word or a letter, and while some the characters appear in only one or two stories, others come and go throughout all of the books (particularly Noah Bishop, who created the SCU and is, along with his wife, Miranda, head of this federal group of psychic investigators).
Wait for Dark, the second book in the "Dark" trilogy, brings back Hollis Templeton and her partner, Reese DeMarco, and introduces readers to two new psychics - Kirby Bell and Cullen Sheridan. The four are sent on a mission of uncertainty - is there a psychic involved in these murders in small-town America, or isn't there? In Clarity, North Carolina, the sheriff is unsure exactly what is going on. There have been four accidents, all seemingly random, but all extremely gruesome - a woman swerves to avoid hitting a boy in the street and dies when her car crashes into a light pole; a man grilling for his family dies when the grill explodes; a bride-to-be dies when an elevator on which she is riding crashes violently to the ground; and a farmer dies brutally when he falls into the turning thrashers of his own harvester. No one in the small town thinks anything unusual, except how odd it is that four people have died recently, so tragically, when there have been no accidents such as this in Clarity for decades. But Sheriff Malachi Gordon senses something is wrong. Particularly when he makes one connection between the four individuals that no one else knows. Just before their deaths, each of the four victims received a text message on their cell phone that said three simple words.
Wait for dark.
Hooper gives readers another suspenseful tale, particularly since the time-table for this story moves at a very fast past (pretty much just two or three days after the SCU arrives in Clarity, they have caught the culprit). Hollis is still dealing with a lot of uncertainty about herself and her past, particularly after events from prior books have revealed that her powers are in a constant state of flux as she grows and evolves. While Reese tries to reach out and help her, Hollis pulls away due to an uncertainty she has - something is off, and she can't quite figure out what it is. While Kirby and Cullen are involved in the story and do assist in their own ways, this tale definitely belongs to Hollis and Reese.
And Hooper surprised me with the villain in this story. In past books, the SCU members have always faced down psychic villains in some form or fashion; but in this story, there is an ambivalence as to whether the killer is psychic or not. Even though, as in prior books, the reader does get inside the head of the killer from time to time as he/she prepares for her next victim, there is no clear-cut answer as to whether the killer has psychic abilities, or whether the psychosis is something else entirely. It isn't until the big reveal in the end (an it was not who I thought it would be!) that the reader gets an idea of the true motives behind the killer's actions.
I am amazed that the author has been able, for 18 years now, to not only continue to provide fresh, unique stories in each and every book without repeating any plots, but also to keep straight all the various characters, their various psychic abilities, and their histories that are continually built-upon in each story within which they appear. And while I hate the length of time between books these days, I'd much prefer to wait and have well-written, original stories than to have rushed books with less than suspenseful tales.
RATING: 10 red high-heeled shoes out of 10 for keeping the SCU moving forward and always providing fresh takes on the psychic mystery genre.