Official Stuff –
Author – Nikki M. Pill
Pages – 188
Series – Darling Killer Trilogy
Publisher – Self Published
Anna Zendel is your average 32-year-old therapist, stressing about clinical exams and struggling to recover from an abusive relationship. But at night she transforms herself into the saucy burlesque dancer Velvet Crush, enchanting Chicago audiences with the art of the tease.
As Anna struggles to keep the therapy and burlesque worlds separate and get over her crush on the troupe’s emcee, a new danger threatens women across the city. The papers have dubbed him the Darling Killer, because after strangling his victims, he scrawls the word “darling” on their skin.
When one of Anna’s fellow dancers is murdered in the dressing room, she realizes that Darling Killer could be closer than she thought. Could Max, Anna’s new therapy client who confessed to fantasizing about dead girls and obsessing over the Darling Killer, have anything to do with the murders?
As more women are murdered, and Anna begins receiving mysterious gifts, this burlesque dancer pits feathers and sequins against foul play in the deadliest dance of all.
My Rating – 4 Stars
*I received a digital copy of this novel from Netgalley on behalf of Nikki M. Pill*
Anna (real name Xanadu, though no explanation on why someone would name their kid Xanadu. Dear Ms. Pill, please in one of the sequels explain that one) is a therapist and also a burlesque dancer. Two big kind of conflicts of interest because therapists are supposed to be all moral and taking your clothes off in front of a theater full of people isn’t considered moral by most people’s standards (not that I agree. I think everyone should just be naked and free! Ok not everyone but you get my drift).
Anna tries to keep her two lives separate. Unfortunately for her, those lines start to blur when she starts seeing a patient named Max that may or may not be into necrophilia. There have been a series of murders in Chicago where the murderer strangles his victims and then writes “Darling” somewhere on their body. Max has shown particular interest in the murders and fits into a certain profile.
Then Max appears at one of her burlesque shows and people close to her start dying. Someone starts leaving jewelry her door and she finds out the pieces belonged to one of the dead girls. Soon, she’s questioning just who she can trust and her career hangs in the balance. Could the killer even be Max or one of the other people she’s met since the murders began?
Anna, being a therapist can’t help but start profiling and trying to find a pattern or a clue. She starts compiling notes and crime scene photos. She’s not exactly trying to find the killer herself but trying to make sense of why the killer seems to be fixated on her.
She’s very smart and independent though a previous abusive relationship does make her doubt herself a lot. Her burlesque dancing makes her feel empowered (which I really loved) and she constantly defends herself against a female detective that tells her she’s nothing better than a stripper.
Contrary to the impression the cover/title/summary gives there is no sexy times. There is a sexiness about the book, but no actual sexy times (which is a bit refreshing in an adult book). A few minor flaws, Anna sometimes seem notice things that I think even the best therapist wouldn’t, and the cops automatically seemed to make her a suspect pretty quickly without really knowing her or anything about her background, just because she happened to discover the body. (Maybe that’s how it works in real life? No idea. I’ve never been investigated for murder.) Also, I don’t really know all the details of the whole patient confidentiality agreement thing but if the patient fits the profile of a possibly murderer is it really breaking the agreement if she informs the cops?
This was a pretty entertaining murder mystery that I read in only a few hours. I enjoyed it and it left on a HUGE cliffhanger, so I can’t wait for the next book.