A young woman lies dead at the bottom of a waterfall, dressed in a wedding gown with a rose stem jammed down her throat. And in the small town of Graveyard Falls, the horrifying vision stirs a long-ago nightmare back to life…
FBI Special Agent Cal Coulter gets called in to investigate the murder, which bears a terrifying resemblance to a series of killings committed thirty years ago: three teenage girls were found dead at the waterfall’s base, all bearing rose stems in their throats. But the high school football star was convicted and imprisoned for those murders, leading Cal to suspect that the killer is still out there.
Now, the body count is rising again. The monster’s sights are set on counselor Mona Monroe, Cal’s best friend’s widow…and the woman he’s always loved. Can Cal stop the killer before Mona becomes the next victim?
All the Beautiful Brides is the first book in the Graveyard Falls series and my first book from author Rita Herron. Ultimately it’s left me with some rather mixed feelings, though on the whole I liked more about it than I didn’t.
I enjoyed the suspense of the book–it’s rather well done. We see glimpses into the mind of the killer, which are satisfactorily creepy. Watching Cal and Mona as they try to get to the bottom of what is going on in the present of the novel as well as the 30-year-old mystery was engrossing, though there were a few too many red herrings thrown in there (I know it’s rural Tennessee, but really–how many guys are there with “Will” as a part of their name who are also into taxidermy? It seemed a bit extreme) and at times there was way too much stuff going on. A grieving widow with a new radio show who’s also searching for her birth mother…a young mother with a secret axe to grind…a federal agent with a case to solve, and old flame to alternately ignore and pine over, and secrets weighing him down…an aging lawman with a brain tumor who may or may not have knowingly bent the law more than a little in the past…a brother bent on revenge…not one, not two, but three grown children whose paternity is in question…the list goes on and on.
Mona also went from “I lost the love of my life and my baby” to “I’m pretty sure I really loved Cal all long” a little too fast for my taste. She’s only been a widow for a few months–and yes, we went the vilify the former spouse route here. (Pet. Peeve. I know it’s all me, but gah.)
Mona and Cal spent more time angsting over each other–and in Mona’s case, being angry with him–than they did romancing. It felt like most of their heavy-duty romance was in the past, and since one of them went on to marry someone else afterwards, it kind of missed the mark! His take-me-back speech at the end was lovely, though.
I did figure out some things ahead of time (who Mona’s birth mother was) but didn’t know who had done the original Thorn Ripper murders. Ms. Herron did a nice job bringing that storyline together.
All the Beautiful Brides had a good amount of suspense and a decent mystery, but it could have used a bit more romance and a bit less muddying of the waters. Still, it kept me reading and ultimately had a satisfying ending.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / C+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.