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Midnight Rain    by Holly Lisle order for
Midnight Rain
by Holly Lisle
Order:  USA  Can
Onyx, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

For years Phoebe Rain suffered under her husband Michael's iron control, his constant humiliations, and his explosive temper. The day he threatens to kill her, she decides it's time to run. She carefully covers her tracks and for three years manages to elude him. But one day he walks into her classroom carrying a loaded shotgun. Before she can do anything, two children are dead and Phoebe is crippled from a gun blast to the knee. Though medical experts testify that Michael's coma is irreversible, Phoebe won't feel completely safe until Michael Schaeffer takes his last breath.

Phoebe waits for that day, while eking out a meager existence reading tarot for a psychic hotline. She leaves her townhouse only when necessary, hiding within the secured fortress she's created for herself. Then the phone calls start -- threats from a man who sounds just like Michael and who promises that she'll pay for what she's done to him. How can a man who's lying in a coma a thousand miles away make chilling phone calls? Even his doctor's assurances cannot convince Phoebe that Michael isn't somehow responsible for terrorizing her. Odder still is a visitation from a ghost, a child who insists Phoebe must warn her father that he's in danger.

Dr. Alan McKerrie has spent the last five years trying to recover from the deaths of his wife Janet and daughter Chick, the light of his life. Unwilling to trust again after Janet's unfaithfulness, Alan buries himself in his work. When he's not at the ER, he writes, and it's during one of these sessions that he sees an apparition resembling Chick, who pleads with him to help his neighbour. Though doubtful, Alan complies and soon finds himself in the midst of events both wondrous and frightening.

In Phoebe he finds someone he's longed for. Yet as he's pulled further and further into her unexplainable nightmare involving Michael, he begins to question his own sanity. Phoebe eventually convinces Alan, the FBI, and the local police that Michael isn't committing crimes from beyond the grave, that he's still very much alive, and that he will stop at nothing to destroy her and anyone who gets in his way. But by then it's already too late to stop a madman bent on revenge and determined to reclaim his wife.

Readers familiar with Holly Lisle will know her as a talented and prolific writer of fantasy and science fiction. Though this is is her first foray into romantic suspense, Lisle proves herself a master here as well. Her story does everything right - it presents two very dynamic and sympathetic leads in Phoebe and Alan, each desperate to trust again but afraid to take that final step. It's only through the mysterious and often touching intervention of Alan's dead child that they finally connect.

As Lisle carefully builds their relationship, she slowly develops the suspense factor as well, adding various ingenious twists along the way, that rocket this story to a riveting and shocking conclusion. Lisle has also created one of the creepiest bad guys to come along in a good while -- Michael could give Hannibal Lector lessons. Midnight Rain is the first in what I hope will be many more thrillers from this very talented author.

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