As a touch clairvoyant, Abigail St. Michael can see visions of other people's lives by touching an object or a person, but her gift comes at a high price. A former cop, she now works as a consultant for the police department, and every time she touches an object or body from a crime scene, it causes her extreme emotional and physical pain. In her latest case, Abbey has been asked to go undercover to vet three identical triplet sisters who are suspected of a string of grisly serial murders. All three of the sisters have confessed to all the crimes, so until the D.A. has evidence of which one committed which murder, he cannot bring them to trial. Abbey touching each one in turn to see if visions of their crimes appear to her is their only hope of solving the case before the sisters kill again, but she is reluctant to do it until her ex-husband, whose new fiancée was among the victims, begs for her assistance. Once embroiled in the case, Abbey becomes obsessed with solving it, while dealing with turmoil in her private life when her boyfriend, Nik, proposes marriage. Abbey may not get a chance to work things out with Nik though, as the extreme nature of the case and the development of a new psychic power, sends her to the brink of sanity.
A Touch of Madness is the second story in B. C. Brown's Abigail St. Michael Mysteries. It continues to follow the main protagonist Abbey St. Michael as she takes on another murder mystery with supernatural underpinnings, while struggling with issues in her personal life. This time the book is solidly in the paranormal mystery/thriller genre with a touch of tart noir. Whereas there had been enough romance in the first book of the series to make me comfortable with classifying it as romantic suspense, this time, the romance was less prevalent and there was no resolution to Abbey's relationship dilemma. The mystery was on par with the first, very intriguing, and the overall storytelling was good as well. Although I correctly guessed what was going on, that didn't happen until near the end, so it kept me engaged throughout. The writing itself was good too, perhaps even a bit better than the first, because the editing had improved, leading to less distractions. Overall, this was a very good book right up until the final page. Unfortunately, the ending was so abrupt, I turned that last page, thinking, "What! That's it?" The mystery was admittedly wrapped up well, but Abbey's life certainly was not. In that, I was left with more questions than answers, which has made the book very difficult for me to rate.
In A Touch of Madness, Abbey takes on the case of three identical triplets all suspected of a string of serial murders. Unfortunately, the police can prove nothing, because the three sisters have all confessed to all the crimes. That's where Abbey, a touch clairvoyant, comes into the picture. She can see visions of things a person has done, simply by touching them. The police need her to go undercover to find an opportunity to touch each sister in turn, to determine which one committed which murder. To touch someone, especially someone who has committed a heinous crime, causes Abbey great physical and emotional distress. She is understandably reluctant to take the case until her ex-husband comes to her, pleading for her help, because one of the victims was his new fiancée. Abbey finally relents, but then becomes so obsessed with solving the case, it puts her own sanity at risk, not to mention her personal relationships. Overall, I did enjoy the mystery part of the story. The whole psychic phenomena thing is quite intriguing, and Abbey makes a good protagonist. She is the first-person narrator of the book and has a habit of interjecting snarky asides throughout. On the one hand, I admired her tenacity in wanting to solve the case, but on the other, she sometimes pushed herself in a manner that seemed a bit foolhardy to me, which to my way of thinking, was borne out in the way everything ended for her.
One of the main things that disappointed me in this book, though, was the romance. In the first book of the series, Abbey started a relationship with Nik, who is a psychic negator. In other words, he can dampen the psychic activity of any metaphysical near him, which is why he's the only person in Abbey's life who can touch her without causing her pain. Although I was satisfied with the way their relationship ended in the first book, I had felt like Abbey kind of gave Nik the short end of the stick so to speak. I had hoped that things would progress in a positive direction for them in this book, but unfortunately, Abbey's uncertainties continued. Even though he didn't have a huge role in either story and the reader only gets to see him through Abbey's eyes, I fell hard for Nik and thought he was a pretty amazing guy, which is part of why I didn't feel like Abbey treated him as well as he deserved. Nik proposes marriage early on, but Abbey basically turns him down cold. I was glad to see her mother and Nik's grandmother lovingly calling her an idiot for doing so, because I was thinking the exact same thing. In the end, I can't say I fully understood her reasoning either. She is concerned that if she lives in the same house with Nik long-term, he will completely dampen her abilities to the point that she won't be able to use them again, yet all they've ever seemed to cause her is heartache and pain. I did understand on some level her desire to catch the bad guys, but that obsession appeared to override her love for Nik and her desire for a normal life with a husband and children. It almost seemed to me like she was afraid to finally be happy. Also, her continued attraction to her ex when she's supposedly in love with, and committed to, another man was a bit disconcerting, leaving me thinking she still has a thing for him. Whatever her reasons, Abbey's reluctance puts a lot of distance between her and Nik for most of the story, and just when things seemed like they might be getting back on track for them, something Abbey says makes Nik walk out on their steamy reconciliation. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure why he did either. The issue seemed like something that desperately needed to be discussed, but after that, the couple didn't interact again for the remainder of the book. Based on how it all ended though, I can't help wondering if Nik is going to be out of the picture permanently if the series continues. That thought is rather distressing, because I liked him so much and he seemed perfect for Abbey.
Although, as I mentioned earlier, the editing was better for A Touch of Madness than it's predecessor, there were still a few small things that bothered me. First was repetition. Some of it was necessary to get new readers who hadn't read the first book up to speed on who Abbey is and what she does, but there were a couple of places where I detected repeating information within this book. I also thought that having large parts of the visions repeated at the end was kind of overkill. I think maybe Abbey saying that she experienced the murder of a particular person again would have sufficed. The scene transitions could have used a little more warning as well, such as extra spaces or different formatting. Occasionally, the narrative makes a time jump from one paragraph to the next which could be rather jarring. Last was with regards to the mystery itself which is a slight spoiler. ********Spoiler alert******** I couldn't quite figure out how all three sisters ended up being charged with the murders when Abbey was only able to pinpoint them to two, unless the third was being charged as an accessory or something, but that was never specified. I guess on some level it was probably necessary for the ending though.********End spoiler alert********
Overall, A Touch of Madness was a good story, and if the romance hadn't been so unhappy, the ending hadn't been so abrupt, and so many questions about Abbey's personal life hadn't been left hanging in the balance, I would have gladly awarded it at least four stars. As is though, the ending of any book is the last thing a reader is left with, and I can't say that I was particularly happy with the way things wrapped up. There was an excerpt at the end of A Touch of Madness for a new book titled Sight Unseen. However, there is no information about it on the author's website. I skimmed though the excerpt, and although it certainly looked like it might be a continuation, I couldn't be sure. If it is, I'd probably be game for reading it as long as it has a more satisfying ending.
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