All the Dead Girls by Rita Herron

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Shannon B. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Romantic Suspense category.

The summary:

When a violent storm hits Graveyard Falls, it unearths the unimaginable: skeletons of teenage girls, each dressed in white and holding a candle. It’s clear to FBI agent Beth Fields that this is the work of a long-standing killer—but could it be the one she escaped years ago? She has no memory of the man who held her captive and murdered her friend. But even though someone was jailed for the crime, she’s always feared that the real killer is still out there…waiting and watching.

Ian Kimball never believed his stepfather was guilty of Beth’s kidnapping or the slaying of two local girls. Now Graveyard Falls’s sheriff, he’s determined to catch the true perpetrator. And when more young women go missing, he realizes he needs Beth’s help. She is nothing like Ian expected, and everything he desires. But if they have any hope of finally ending the killer’s reign of terror, Beth and Ian will need to put everything aside, including their past, their mistrust, and their growing attraction…

Here is Shannon B.’s review:

All the Dead Girls is the third book in the Graveyard Falls series and the plot is centered on the town’s third serial killer (maybe fourth, but as I didn’t read the previous two books, the few references to previous events were a little confusing). The town of Graveyard Falls should really consider changing it’s name. It seems to be attracting some terrible people. But that aside, it makes for some really interesting crimes, criminal personalities, and cult-centered characters. Disturbing, but still interesting if you’re into the thriller and suspense genre.

First, the heroine. FBI Agent Beth Fields was actually a survivor of the current serial killer when she was fifteen (is this a spoiler if you find out within the first few pages of the book?) (Ed. – Don’t think so). Her friend/foster sister was also captured at that time but Beth never really knew what had happened to her. Beth then channeled her experience into helping to solve similar cases, especially those involving children. And she hopes that this might also help lead her to solve the mystery of her friend’s disappearance. I feel like this is the standard heroine makeup for any type of romantic suspense/thriller, really.

The hero, Sheriff Ian Kimball – well, I’m not a fan. There wasn’t enough known about him to truly develop any attachment to him, so I didn’t know enough to root for him. He is also closely related to the case as he’s the son of the only man to be accused and convicted of Beth’s kidnapping and her friend’s disappearance. How two characters so closely related to the case can then work ON the case boggles my mind. And what little we know about Ian’s character traits were contradictory at times: for most of the book, he’s super protective of Beth but then, at one of the most critical scenes in the story, he leaves her alone in a dangerous situation. And I’m not reading into things, this was OBVIOUSLY dangerous (and predictable). I just didn’t buy it.

As far as the overall story and setting goes, lovers of Southern Gothic, true crime, and the first season of True Detective will likely enjoy this book. There are a lot of dark and twisty elements: the serial killer targets young girls and buries them in white gowns, holding candles and wearing cross necklaces. There’s a whole lot of religious symbolism and creepiness about how this serial killer is trying to “save” these girls. And the cult-like aspects that surround the crimes and the suspects can really get the shivers going. The suspense kept me reading, and I was able to finish this book much quicker than expected. There was even one small twist towards the end that had me saying, “WTF!” That aside…

Let’s talk about the details. Rita Herron certainly knows her terminology when it comes to crime and investigations. But there was so much use of technical and procedural terminology that it really took away from being able to fully dive into the story and the characters. I love true crime – I watch a lot of Investigation Discovery, listen to a lot of crime podcasts, and I truly enjoy reading a fiction thriller or a true crime novel every once in a while. I too am familiar with terminology and procedures, and while I usually appreciate its use in a book as it helps me understand and believe in the story, the amount of detail in this story was just too distracting. It just made the story too choppy and didn’t let it flow. I also feel like there wasn’t enough detail where I would have wanted it most – in the characters. While I learned much about crime scene investigation, I didn’t learn much about the characters and saw little to no character development over the life of the story.

In the end, this book feels like two books, more of a thriller and less of a romance. In fact, I think the romantic elements of this book would only occupy a handful of the 326 pages. As a thriller, I give this book about a B, but as a romance I give it maybe a D. Honestly, it feels like the thriller was written and the romance elements were added at the end. Literally at the end. Throughout the whole book, there are brief mentions of Beth’s schoolgirl crush on Ian and there are shared looks and moments between the two, but they kiss maybe once and then about 280 pages in we get something more (it’s sex, the something more is sex). Outside of the very last pages, this is all we are given as a romantic plot. It felt rushed, forced, and mostly it just felt weird. If the last few pages had been left out, I probably would have felt much better about the way it all ended.

Just a side note: As mentioned above, this is the third book in a series. While I’m sure reading the first two books would have been helpful for some background info, I don’t feel like I missed out on too much by only reading this one. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone.

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All the Dead Girls by Rita Herron

November 22, 2017

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