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Monday, July 26, 2010

Mask of the Betrayer by Sharon Ann Donovan

Mask of the Betrayer by Sharon Ann Donovan
Publisher: Whimsical Publications
Genre: Suspense
Length: Full (236 pages)
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

When the whispers in the night, the whispers of her lover, are the whispers of a killer, will Margot escape before she becomes the next victim?

Deep in the foothills of Red Rock Canyon, a serial killer stalks. He leaves his signature—a skull mask on the corpse. But when the homicide cop realizes the crimes are the reenactment of a case never solved ten years ago--all fingers point to Michael DeVeccio. And when Margot realizes she is married to the killer, her life becomes a living nightmare.

I have to confess: in the course of reviewing several of her works, I’ve become a Sharon Ann Donovan fan. In ‘Mask of the Betrayer’ she’s brought us another heart-stopping blend of suspense, anxiety, love and hope. The magic in her stories is that the affairs of the heart never take a backseat to the thrills: Even while you are reading, white-knuckled, hoping just for survival – feeling the approaching presence of the evil hunter, perhaps imagining him outside your own window – you are still madly hoping the two will somehow recognize their feelings for one another. We so want them to be happy!

Michael is one of those ‘have it all’ sorts; smart and charming, while Margot impresses by her competence, mostly in her professional career. She’s a curator, and the backdrop of the art world is both understated and interesting. In a few events, like the masquerade ball, we expect things to happen, but there are also surprises along the way. As we are drawn in, we find ourselves expecting certain alliances – but hope and expectation also bring with it a certain predictability, and Donovan is never predictable. Other characters seem to pique our interest as well… and at some point, we aren’t even sure what we hope for.

The aura of the story may be dark, but many moments and descriptions offer respite by way of contrast. The following paragraph takes our heroine away from the hustle and bustle so thoroughly, we find ourselves relaxing as we read:

The beckoning wail of sax drifted out of the piano bar; the bluesy sound of jazz getting into her skin. After spending the better part of the afternoon negotiating at an art auction, unwinding over a chilled martini sounded like utter bliss. Seduced by the sound, she sauntered up the three steps leading to the mezzanine and ordered a Pomegranate martini.

She is ‘seduced by sound,’ ‘saunters’ and in a moment, we can almost taste that martini, too. Descriptions are powerful – and the frightening ones, no less so.

Intriguingly, or perhaps just creepy, is the close-up understanding we gradually gain into the serial killer himself, ‘The Hunter.’ His dark mind is something of a psychological study, and the scenes that allow us to gain understanding just add to our fear level! There are also some innocent-seeming moments that tip us off to the imbalance in his mind – like a certain parallel to the twin personalities of the artist of the ‘Two Fridas” that will eventually give us chills. (it’s more than dark and threatening; its sorrowful. It’s a reminder of how that character suffered. Donovan builds character in subtle but powerful ways.)

For all of the character depth, plot twists and intriguing lifestyles, this story remains fast-paced throughout. You will simply not want to stop turning the pages: There’s more to it than just suspense, just mystery, or just romance; but all those layers of meaning and suggestions are so cleverly imparted that the story never slows for a second.