Saturday, July 5

Carol Stephenson: Shadow Lines

This is the fourth book in the Madonna Key series.
When an epidemiologist with a gift for healing is sent to investigate an outbreak of a deadly flu she quickly realizes it has no natural cause. The virus responsible has been manufactured to specifically target women and unless she can track down the producers and have them put out of business millions will die.
Assisted by her international security expert ex-fiancé she tracks the producers of the virus across Europe. Finally she finds the secret lab where the virus is being made.
During a reconnaissance of the area her ex is infected with a deadly virus and the only way she can save him is by facing her fears and embracing her healing gift. She does, coming to terms with what she is and accepting that it isn’t the barrier to love she’d always believed it to be.
This is an example of a great premise let down by mediocre plotting. Much of the success of this plot relies on snatches of information the heroine is told by a mysterious stranger. He drops a hint, she chases it up then just as things are slowing down there he is again with another hint and on we go.
I didn’t find the romance subplot particularly satisfying. With the protagonists history there was so much scope for emotional development but it didn’t happen. What we get instead is sex - and sex, even hot sex, doesn’t equate with emotional connection.
One thing I found singularly irritating was the heroine’s reference to her healing skill as her woo-woo. Apart from the fact that it sounds like a childish euphemism for vagina, it just felt completely wrong for one of the supposedly special women of this series.
Overall this read like the-book-we-had-to-have. A number of subplots from the series are tidied up. I was particularly disappointed in the death of a substantial secondary character. Her ambiguous morality and the question of whose side she was really on added a great intrigue factor to the series. I am sorry to see her go. Shadow Lines is an average instalment in an otherwise good series.-Lynn

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