A serial killer with an unusual connection to one of his surviving victims gives this latest Navarro thriller a cool supernatural twist, which some readers will find intriguing and others off-putting in this age of reality-based forensics TV shows. Writing in the soft woman-in-jeopardy style à la early Mary Higgins Clark, with a dash of restrained but edgy exposition reminiscent of Dean Koontz, the author confidently tests the limits of believability as she ponders the Twilight Zone–ish plight of Hannah Danior, a young Chicago waitress. Hannah suffers from something she calls her "Affliction," which allows her body to mirror violence done to others and then to miraculously heal itself. After a brutal attack leaves one woman dead and Hannah in the hospital, two police detectives, Greg Jedrek and Tony Rutland, get entangled in the case, each for his own reason, one chillingly personal, the other romantic. As the attacks escalate, so does the body count, in a plot that moves smoothly yet with a certain paint-by-numbers feel. Fortunately, Navarro's gift for reflecting the lives of everyday middle-class people caught in an extraordinary situation keeps this horror-suspense hybrid from falling into cliché. Romance readers who cringe at anything to do with hurt children will want to stay away, though. (Feb. 2)
Forecast: Navarro is the author of numerous YA Buffy novels (Tempted Champions, etc. ). The jacket art, of a monster putting a skeletal paw on the face of a pretty woman resembling Julia Roberts, may be a hint to Hollywood that this is suitable for screen adaptation. In any event, her fans will be glad to see Navarro break out of the tie-in box.