Re-Read Review: Count to Ten by Karen Rose

Posted on January 14, 2010

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Count to Ten by Karen Rose remains one of my favorite books and I don’t think I did it justice in my review below. The writing is still wonderful, the suspense and violence is intense and brutal yet realistically well-defined, and the characters are likeable people with real life problems. I love the connections between friends, and the friendship, passion, and emotion between the leads!

Series: None

Hero: Reed Solliday

Heroine: Mia Mitchell

CLOSE YOUR EYES.

In all his years in the Chicago Fire Department, Lieutenant Reed Solliday has never experienced anything like this recent outbreak of house fires – devastating, vicious and in one case, homicidal.  He has another problem – his new partner, Detective Mia Mitchell.  She’s brash, bossy, and taking the case in a direction he never imagined.

HOLD YOUR BREATH.

Mia’s instincts tell her the arsonist is making this personal.  And as the infernos become more deadly, one look at the victims’ tortured faces convinces her and Reed that they must work closer to catch the killer.  With each new blaze, the villain ups the ante, setting firetraps for the people Reed and Mia love.  The truth is almost too hot to handle:  This monster’s desire for death and destruction is unquenchable … and for Mia he’s started the countdown to an early grave.

It was not love at first sight. To Reed Solliday, Mia Mitchell looked like a nutcase standing so still out in the rain, staring off into space in front of the police station. Mia thought Reed looked like Satan with his goatee framing his mouth and his eyes so hard.

Mia’s partner, Abe, was recently shot in the line of duty and hospitalized. Despite also being shot in the arm and disabled for a few weeks, Mia blames herself because she was distracted and her partner ended up paying the price of her negligence. Mia was thinking these exact thoughts on her first day back at work when Reed came across her and assumed she was a homeless woman. Reed works in the Office of Fire Investigation (OFI) and a recent arsonist case was ruled as a homicide when the body of a young woman was found inside, shot prior to being burned. While Abe is recovering, Mia and Reed are temporarily assigned as partners.

Reed isn’t thrilled at being partnered with Mia. From first appearance, she doesn’t seem too capable letting him come across at her for a minute before she realized his presence. Mia isn’t too thrilled either at having been assigned a new partner before she could track down the guy who shot Abe. But Reed soon found out that Detective Mia Mitchell is very capable at her job even though she has plenty of reasons for being distracted – her father’s recent death, the discovery of a younger brother buried next to her father’s grave, and a mysterious, younger woman who very much resembles Mia and has been stalking her.

When another victim is found inside another home torched similarly to the previous fire, it becomes apparent that a serial arsonist-murderer is on a vengeance killing. Reed and Mia, working with their respective teams, retrace the killer’s steps to find a connection between the victims. As if Mia isn’t busy enough, someone else is after her shooting at her in front of her home. The incident, along with Mia’s home address, is reported in the local newspaper the subsequent morning – putting Mia in danger from all criminals who can read and have access to the article.

Reed is a widower with a teenage daughter. Reed’s wife was killed by a drunk driver and even ten years later, he still grieves for her. Their marriage was a solid, loving one and his wife was his soul mate. Reed doesn’t do one-night stands nor is he interested in a committed relationship because he doesn’t think he can have more than one soul mate.

Mia was the daughter of an abusive father who was a good cop even if he was a horrible father. Mia was able to escape from home before things went from bad to worse by going away to college. Mia’s younger sister, Kelsey, was not so lucky, had gotten into the wrong crowd, and is currently serving time for armed robbery. Mia does not feel she deserve any happiness because she left her sister to fend off their father. A no-strings relationship with Reed is ideal since neither of them is looking for permanency.

The villain is revealed mid-way through the story but the suspense doesn’t end there. The search intensifies as the villain is revealed to be incredibly disturbing, not hesitating to eliminate anyone who gets in the way of his plan. The violence is brutal but the details give insight to the twisted thinking of our maniacal killer. Karen Rose’s stories are not for the faint-hearted. As sickening as the violence is, it is believable that this type of carnage happens in real life.

Although time was crunched to identify the villain, the attraction buildup between Reed and Mia was not left unexplored. The relationship between the two progresses in a way that does not interfere with the tension in the story. I never had the urge to throw my book against the desk or roll my eyes at the characters for doing lovey-dovey things at the wrong time.

Mia is one of my favorite heroines of all the ladies Karen Rose has written about. Her straightforward personality and devotion to her job reflects on the type of person she is – honest and caring. Although the same could be said of Dana (Nothing to Fear), Caroline (Don’t Tell), Kristen (I’m Watching You), and Tess (You Can’t Hide) something more strikes at me about Mia. She’s blunt but not overly, tomboyish but not to the extreme, and independent but knows when not to be.

With Reed, I appreciated that he did not pronounce that he had only idolized his wife when he realized his feelings for Mia. It becomes trite when the hero or heroine later recounts their previous marriage as unhappy once they accept their new feelings. Instead, Reed says that Mia makes him as happy as his late wife did. It was honest and I liked that his character was consistent from the beginning.

What I liked about both Mia and Reed is that neither one dragged the story around when they realized their feelings for one another had changed. When Mia realized that she wanted strings in her relationship and Reed didn’t, she told him so and broke things off with him before she could be more hurt. Reed took a little more time to decipher his feelings but he never tried to play with Mia’s feelings.

A little surprising to me was that Reed’s daughter was open to her father dating even though it’s been just the two of them for ten years. The fact that Reed’s daughter reminded him that her mother had been gone awhile, and advised him to open his heart to Mia was refreshing to read. I liked that Ms. Rose did not create friction for Reed by having his daughter oppose Mia or protest about him dating another woman to replace her mom.

A theme I found common in Ms. Rose’s books is the ambitious reporter, bordering on annoying and obsessive with very stalkerish unlikeable habits. In I’m Watching You, the reporter stalked Kristen and in Count to Ten, another reporter used blackmail to threaten Mia into giving her what she wants. Both got their comeuppance which is a big thumps up from me. Bad people getting away with their atrocities are wrong, especially in fiction where justice is easier to attain.

I liked the teaming of the fire marshal and homicide detective working together. The efforts of the two offices gave added perspectives to the tasks needed to resolve a multifaceted investigation that combines arson and murder. The various detectives assigned to the case play pivotal roles in helping to unravel the case, and I enjoyed following their roles in uncovering the evidences.

Other secondary characters who were main characters from previous books also make appearances in this story – Abe and Kristen from I’m Watching You, Dana and Ethan from Nothing to Fear, and Aidan Reagan from You Can’t Hide (book #3 to #5, respectively). I enjoyed the updates in their lives and it was sweet to see the connection between Abe and Mia had progressed beyond partners. When Mia finally went to visit Abe in the hospital and apologizes to him for disappearing on everyone after she was shot, Abe tells her that he cares for her and worried that she went off on her own to capture the bad guys. The scene shows much progression in their relationship from partners to good friends. It’s not just Abe but also his wife, Kristen, who has become another second family to Mia.

Detective Todd Murphy is a recurring secondary character who I hope one day will find his own happiness. I am intrigued by how burnout he is with relationships after his failed marriage. David Hunter also has several appearances in here and we see him at his first attempt to separate himself from Dana; to avoid baring his feelings to her lest he lose the valuable friendship between them. After several books of suffering with David, his HEA is only months away (Silent Scream, May 2010). It is in this book that we get to meet Olivia Sutherland, David’s soon-to-be other half. 🙂 Olivia is a memorable character – not just because she’s my hero for saving Mia – but because she reminds me much of Mia too.

[Note: White spacing above contains spoiler; highlight over text to read]

Karen Rose has a great website listing her books in print. She even has a relationship guide to track the characters’ appearances to what book they appear in. It doesn’t look like she’s updated the site since the release of Kill for Me but what’s currently in the relationship timeline is still very useful.

Grading: A

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