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Unforgivable    by Tina Wainscott order for
by Tina Wainscott
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2001 (2001)
*   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The story opens with nine year old Katie Malloy having a run-in with town bully, Gary Savino while trying to find a home for the last of a litter of kittens. When Gary hurts little Gus, Katie is angry and shattered by his cruelty. If not for the help of teenager Silas Koole (aka 'Spooky Silas'), and town veterinarian Ben Ferguson, the injured kitten might have died. Katie's mother can't afford to pay the vet so Ferguson has Katie work off what she owes. Katie decides she's found heroes in Ferguson and Silas. Shortly thereafter her mother kills herself and Katie's world shatters, especially when suspicion centres on Silas as the possible murderer. Orphaned, she might have ended up in a foster home, but once again, Dr. Ferguson steps in.

The story fast-forwards eighteen years. Katie is now Mrs. Ben Ferguson and works full time at his side at the pet hospital. She's feeling restless and tied down and can't understand why she doesn't love her husband the way a wife should, especially after all he's done for her. Ben adores her - he's tried giving her everything, but it doesn't seem enough. His over-protectiveness and old fashioned attitudes are stifling. Even worse is the way townsfolk treat her and talk behind her back, as if she's never been good enough to live among them, or to be the wife of one of the town's most beloved citizens. Then Silas Koole comes home and everyone wonders why. He's as mysterious and as spooky as ever, which only raises suspicions that he could well be the serial killer who's baffled authorities for years. When three girls disappear in the space of a few weeks, the locals are out for his blood. Even Katie, who's defended him since he's come home, begins to wonder who and what Silas really is.

Wainscott's characters and her atmospheric descriptions of rural Georgia lure readers into the story from the beginning. Her depiction of Katie as an impressionable child, and then a timid and biddable wife, is right on the mark. Wainscott also does a good job of throwing in a nice array of red herrings so you really have to guess who the serial killer might be: Silas Koole, Gary Savino, now a deputy sheriff, Ben, and a few other colourful locals. This works for a while, but then the plot bogs down in redundancy and also unfortunately, a certain amount of high-handedness in the character development.

Katie transforms from timid wife to independent woman a bit too quickly. And Silas Koole (who's also empathic) spends too much time lurking in the shadows and keeping secrets when it would have made more sense, and been more expedient for the pacing of the story, that he share what he knows about the killer, especially with Katie, whom he professes to have loved since she was born. Katie's newfound independence also has her acting in ways that leave you shaking your head, especially when she hares off after the killer on her own. Unforgivable is a competently written romantic thriller, but overall, something of a disappointment.

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