The Gingerbread Man
by Maggie Shayne, contemporary (2001)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13167-9

There, there, who says there's no such thing as a good romantic suspense? Maggie Shayne's The Gingerbread Man (not a paranormal story, so tough luck to her fans looking for witch/vampire stories, I'm afraid) is one of the better thrillers I've read. It doesn't break new grounds or even chill my blood the way Kay Hooper's recent Touching Evil did, but it's still a compelling read. And there's quite a decent romance too.

A serial killer is killing kiddies, and Detective Vincent O'Malley is close to burning out on the trail of the villain. A chance clue, a long overdue copy of The Gingerbread Man, leads him to the small town of Dilmun. There, he meets Holly Newman, a woman full of secrets.

Holly is described as "fragile" so often that I am sure I will hate, hate, hate her. Luckily, while she's a stereotypical overwrought woman, she's no helpless porcelein damsel either. And Vincent, oh you poor, poor man. He has fought so long and hard, come over here and rest your head on my shoulders, poor baby. The villain shows up, of course, to wreck mayhem and all.

I seriously doubt anyone well-versed in the usual serial killer story will find The Gingerbread Man exceptional. But hey, there are nice characters, although I wish the author has toned down the "Holly is so sad, boo-hoo-hoo" thing a little, there is also a great suspense with enough hooks and false turns to keep me in suspense, and of course, a romance. There's a bit too much sugar in the "I love you" parts though, complete with tears running down the eyes and all (*shudder*), and I can't help wishing there are some carnivorous gingerbread men running around with knives (hey, Maggie Shayne writes paranormal, right?), but all in all, The Gingerbread Man is solid good stuff. Even better than her paranormals, if I may say so. Maybe the author has found her true calling. Hmm.

Rating: 85

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