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The Prey    by Allison Brennan order for
by Allison Brennan
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2005)
Paperback, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Rowan Smith, former FBI agent and bestselling author of crime novels, is more than she seems. Secrets have a way of resurfacing just when you think you've managed to bury them for good. As a deranged killer beings to copy murders penned by Rowan in her novels, it becomes clear that her past is rapidly starting to catch up with her.

The first victim is Doreen Rodriguez, a woman who but for her unfortunate resemblance to Rowan's character would still be alive. A copy of Crime of Opportunity (one of Rowan's bestselling books) is left at the crime scene. As twisted as the murder is, Rowan's gut tells her it's only the beginning. As more copycat crimes follow, Rowan can no longer deny that whoever's doing this is after her.

As much as she likes to think that as a former agent, she can take care of herself, Rowan knows she needs help. Despite her misgivings, she hires Michael Flynn's family-run security company to protect her. But will all the protection Michael and his brother John can offer be enough when the killer comes after her?

In her debut novel, Brennan pens a well-written, engaging story, complete with interesting, believable characters and heartfelt emotion. The book starts out strong with a hook that is sensational enough to really grip readers, then continues to keep the intrigue level high as the murderer ups the stakes with every crime. Rowan is a capable, endearing heroine with vulnerabilities and well-showcased strengths. She's no doormat, but neither is she unwilling or unable to accept help when it's offered, traits that make her that much more likeable as the story progresses.

Because of its reliance on events that happened in the past, this novel requires a delicate balancing act between character development and plot development, something Brennan manages to accomplish quite well. Although some chapters seem much slower-paced than others, this unevenness doesn't dilute the overall tension that comes from the murderer toying with his intended victim. Overall, though Brennan doesn't offer any new twists on the suspense genre in The Prey, she nevertheless provides an enjoyable read. Two follow-up novels, The Hunt and The Kill, are also available.

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