I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Headless Woman square.
I vaguely recall reading this book when I was a teenager. I re-read it because I was totally light on details. I think I ended up getting bored with it and never finishing it though. If the book didn’t have a cover with a woman half out of a dress with Fabio and his flowing mane of hair I tended to not sneak those from my mom.
Sacred Sins is a pretty good procedural by Roberts. There was some romance, and the two leads didn’t annoy me to death like in the sequel (you can read that review later). You can see some elements that will follow Roberts later on in her “In Death” books later on. Heck, I see the heroine in this one, Tess Court, being really similar to Doctor Charlotte Mira.
The set-up is that psychiatrist Tess Court is asked to help out the DC police when they suspect a serial killer is in their midst. Tess is reluctant to take the case, however, the MO of the killer has her wondering about whether this killer is as evil as the police portray him to be. Her ability to look at the gray in something that looks totally black and white sets her up for constant fighting with D.C. detective Ben Paris. Ben has a lot of feelings about psychiatrists (none of them good) and thinks in the end all Tess is going to do is give out some sob story about the serial killer when he is eventually captured.
I have to say, that I really enjoyed Tess. I think it’s honestly because of the fact she comes across as sensible. She doesn’t go around disparaging any of her patients with mental issues. She even clues into the fact that perhaps the serial killer may be schizophrenic based on his writing, what he is doing to the victims after they die, and even what he is telling her once he seeks her out. I don’t know if I could have been able to keep my head like Tess does or be able to be so neutral when she gets involved with this case. Her ability to fight to get her patients what care they need in order to live full lives is what really made me like her.
The character of Ben was a little harder to take. I think it’s because Roberts sets him up as a ladies man. Which is okay, but I just wasn’t seeing it. His annoyance at feeling attraction for the good doctor and him fighting against it felt very true too. The issues with him not wanting to see the “bad” in the world though got a bit old. I liked that Tess pushed back on him wanting her to be separate from his work. He’s a cop, they are seeing each other, she wants to be part of that too.
The secondary characters really work for this one too. Ben’s partner Ed Jackson is a straight up hippie. I am still trying to wrap my head around anyone in DC in the late 1980s (this was originally published in 1987) would be all about not eating meat, not smoking, and eating berries every five minutes. I also liked that we get some insight into a Catholic priest who also has a degree in psychiatry who is able to give some insights into the serial killers more religious meanings behind these deaths. One of Tess’s patients is also included as a secondary character, and my heart broke with that whole story-line. Roberts does a great job writing a teenage boy who feels lost and alone.
The romance between the two of them really works for me. Though I have to say, I was not a fan of Ben being handsy with Tess without permission. A few times Roberts notes that he reaches out and takes some of her hair and winds it or plays with it. Umm this is before they even are physical with each other. Then again, I am a black woman, do not touch my hair without permission.
The writing is pretty good. I thought Roberts does a great job setting up the overall plot. We get POVs from Ben, Tess, and the serial killer. We also get a couple of what I thought were funny moments. I also loved how Roberts shows how Tess is affected by what happens to her patients, though she does her best to not let it overwhelm her.
The flow is a little slow here and there, but I am not going to complain about how Roberts sets the book up. She does a good job of building everything up. I did get a bit over the back and forth between Tess and Ben though (regarding what are they doing) and I was just waiting for Ben to catch up to the fact that he really cared about and was falling in love with Tess.
The setting of DC made me smile. Roberts obviously knows the city layout and she is able to point out a few landmarks that I know (Rock Creek Park, the Kennedy Center, etc.) and makes the city as much a part of the whole book as the characters.
The ending is the only part that I think really came out of left field. It felt a little Lifetime Movie for me when you find out the serial killer is the ice cream delivery man that has been running around.