A cross between 2000’s TV series Medium and the 1960’s situation comedy, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir based on the books by Josephine Leslie (aka R. A Dick), The Last Kiss Goodbye from Karen Robards is a romantic thriller with elements of fantasy to attract paranormal readers and enough realism to keep the story down to earth and relatable to contemporary audiences. As the second book in the Charlotte Stone series, The Last Kiss Goodbye continues where the first book, The Last Victim, left off with the main character Charlotte “Charlie” Stone, a forensic psychiatrist who becomes the unintentional friend of the ghost of Michael Garland, a former Marine Corp who refuses to move onto the celestial realm.
At the opening of the story, readers learn that Garland had been convicted and executed of being a serial killer, though throughout the read, Robards provides evidence which suggests Garland had been framed of killing seven women. But who set him up to take the fall for their murders? Garland’s conflict is a subplot that is not fully confronted in Book 2, rather Stone is on the trail of another serial killer, the Gingerbread Man.
Readers are shown how Stone discovered her paranormal ability as a young girl when she sees and speaks to those recently departed who suffered a violent death. Her first time is with her friend Holly and Holly’s family who are murdered by a serial killer dubbed the Boardwalk Killer. The experience is the impetus for Stone to put her talent to good use and pursue the field of forensic psychiatry. To get around her talent, she uses the excuse that the universe speaks to her whenever she needs to pass vital information acquired from ghosts to law enforcement agents.
Robards tactfully infuses elements of horror and mystery affiliated with the subject matter of dealing with serial killers. This might put off some of Robards fanbase who are accustomed to her writing being heavy on romance and curt on goring details. In this series, Robards branches out into writing for an audience who likes fiction to reflect reality and a topic that delves into the twisted side of human nature.
Fans of Karen Robards will enjoy many of the qualities that she showed in her previous historical and contemporary reads such as the conversational tone of the narration and dialogue making it easy for readers to grasp the gist of the plot, and love scenes that drip with intense sensuality and eroticism. Being a fictional read, the story might seem implausible that Garland can materialize into solid form to make love to Stone, but otherwise, the flow of the love scenes are poetically versed and sensitive to making the couple believable to audiences.
The Last Kiss Goodbye concludes with a slight cliffhanger as Charlie Stone and Michael Garland must make choices that can severe their relationship. Robards hints to the direction that each will go, but what happens to them next is saved for Robards third installment in the series. She has crafted a story that readers find worth investing their time and emotions into the main characters. and eager to know where Robards will take her characters next. Will Michael Garland ever be exonerated from crimes he never committed?