Cassandra Allen is a medium. She can communicate with the dead. She has learned to control her gift so that the dead don't overwhelm her with their attempts to contact loved ones. However, her quiet, simple life is also very lonely. Cassandra doesn't like large crowds and strives to avoid being touched -- regardless if it's a friendly pat on the shoulder or an intimate caress. She has no social life and her efforts to shield herself have an adverse effect on her ability to keep a job. Eventually her reserved, standoffish and strange behavior gives her coworkers and boss the creeps, and she is fired. And if that doesn't seal her fate, the appearance of a gun-toting and disturbed man showing up at the coffeehouse demanding to speak to her, will certainly do the trick. To offset her precarious employment situation, Cassandra does consultant work for the local police.
Detective Doug Brody, who lost his beloved wife, is Cassandra's one friend. He believes in her abilities and her track record with helping him crack a case is good enough to ensure that the department doesn't baulk too much when she's called in. Her gift allows her to determine if a suspect is guilty or innocent. Doug asks for her help on a new case. A young woman, Lauren, was brutally murdered not far from where Cassandra currently lives. The police have the woman's brother in for questioning. The problem is that Malcolm McDonough has connections and any misstep with him could bring the mayor's office down on their heads. McDonough has been at the station for hours, without calling his lawyer, and the detective can't get a good read on him: his icy behavior could either be his way of dealing with the tragedy or he's a sociopath.
Malcolm is rude and insulting to Cassandra, but that doesn't stop her from clearing him of suspicion. Within minutes of meeting him, Cassandra knows that Malcolm is innocent. Lauren is worried that her brother won't be able to cope with her death, that he'll isolate himself more now that he's all alone. Lauren was the last of his family and she doesn't want him to be lonely and unhappy. Malcolm doesn't react well to learning how Cassandra knows what she does. He's so angry and hurt, he briefly suspects her of having something to do with the murder.
Not only does Cassandra have to deal with Malcolm, something frightening is happening. She is being attacked, mentally, by a monster. Since contact with the dead always manifest itself on her body in some way -- bloody nose, black eye -- the monster's presence is leaving her beaten and weak. She doesn't know who the monster is trying to contact, since the first attack happened when she was alone in her apartment. The second attack takes place on a busy street, with many people about. Malcolm saves her from being hit by a car and sees first hand what she goes through. He's still skeptical, but that doesn't stop him from being concerned for her welfare.
Even more frightening than the monster is the possibility that Malcolm is getting too close; that there might be a connection between them that has nothing to do with Lauren. She's so afraid of what might happen between them, that she doesn't even realize that Lauren only contacts her when it's absolutely necessary. Lauren's wants her brother to be happy. Malcolm is coping with Lauren's death, for not being able to protect or save her, by trying to help Cassandra. Regardless of the antagonism that crops up between them, they make each other happy.
Comments: I enjoyed this book very much. I thought Malcolm's reactions to Cassandra were very realistic. Over time, as he witnessed what was happening to her, his skepticism is slowly chipped away. Both are independent, stubborn people who force each other to admit that they are closed off and lonely. I liked the fact that the monster wasn't a real one (something supernatural like a demon, for example). Because the man who died was such a horrible person in life, that is how he is perceived. It added a layer of mystery to what was happening, since Cassandra couldn't understand it or cope with it.
Started: 15 September 2008
Finished: 22 September 2008
Disclaimer: I purchased this book.