by Tina Wainscott, contemporary (2001)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97908-8

Reading Unforgivable is excruciating. It's not that this book is bad, but because it's so ineptly plotted that it comes off as rather pathetic. It's like watching Tina Wainscott in a clown outfit hitting herself in the head again and again with a balloon shaped like a baseball bat. A part of me is moved to give this book a pass just out of pity.

The story is starts eighteen years ago when poor Katie Malloy has the mother of all bad hair days. Let's see, she is an outcast white-trash girl, although I can't see why everybody hates her so singularly like that. It's not as if she's the new Antichrist with a huge 666 tatooed on her forehead. That day, she has a little kitten she wants to adopt, until the son of the sheriff kills it. Nobody believes her when she tells, except for fellow white trash Silas "Spooky" Koole. Then two weeks later her clingy, paranoid mother is dead from what seems like suicide.

Now, the present. Katie is married to Ben Ferguson, a vet who was kind to her eighteen years back. It's all out of obligation, really, because Ben was kind when no one was, and so, she is so guilty because she doesn't love him! So self-absorbed in her guilt is she that she lies down and be Ben's doormat, oblivious to the fact that Ben is manipulating her left and right. In fact, Ben is doing the manipulation with all the subtlety of an elephant in heat. This doesn't make Katie look good at all.

Meanwhile, Silas has really become cool, a writer of bestselling true crime books who goes around wearing shirts in sexy dishabille (or something) that make Katie drool. He comes home to find Katie worrying that she is now 27 and she may kill herself like her mother did. Meanwhile, there are women dying left and right. Silas pulls a psychic act out of his butt and reveals that he is here to track down the serial killer, also known as "The Ghost".

Silas and Katie spark. The suspense completely evaporates - a hero the murderer? Not in the romance genre, surely! So who's left? Well, I'm not telling, but the resolution and identity of the Ghost makes me snort, "That's bloody convenient!" Needless to say, it's not even good romantic suspense.

As a romantic suspense, Unforgivable shoots itself in both kneecaps all the while bearing a silly grin on its face. As a romance, it's actually more of a testimony of how important psychiatrists are in our lives sometimes. A few sessions on the couch could have done wonders for Katie's personality.

I love the faux New York Times review of Silas' book on this crime at the end of the book, though. Gosh, is it just wishful thinking on Ms Wainscott's part or do New York Times reviewers really sound like Romantic Times reviewers? Is this review also a not-too-subtle indication of Ms Wainscott's plan for world domination? If only life is really that simple, truly.

Rating: 48

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