by M. J. Rose

July 2004
ISBN: 0-7783-2080-4
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books
Trade Paperback

As a top sex therapist at the prestigious Butterfield Institute in New York, Dr. Morgan Snow thought she’d seen and heard it all. But in Cleo Thane, a high-class prostitute who loves her job but remains remarkably untouched by it, Morgan discovers a study in contradictions which intrigues her. One day Cleo suddenly requests Morgan’s opinion on her upcoming tell-all book which contains lightly veiled details about her sexual escapades with some of the city’s most prominent men. When soon after Cleo disappears, Morgan is left to wonder if the book had something to do with it, or whether Cleo’s become the next victim of a serial killer who’s been targeting prostitutes and killing them ritualistically.

Unable to violate doctor-patient confidentiality and tell Detective Noah Jordain anything pertinent, Morgan embarks on a dangerous course to discover the truth on her own. The key to it all is the book and in reading it, Morgan finds herself evaluating her own failed marriage, her failure at being the perfect homemaker, her worries about being a good mother and her conflicted feelings about sex, and how it all ties up with her past. As tension and terror escalate, can Morgan, together with Noah, be able to solve the case before she herself ends up a victim?

As always author M.J.Rose smoothly and successfully combines the varied elements of sex, romance, suspense and mystery to craft a book that’s not only compelling in its intensity but also effective in its message and content. More than the superb whodunit part of the tale, it’s the vivid and wonderfully conflicted characters and the psychological aspect of it, that make this story impressive - whether it’s Dr. Morgan Snow, a sex therapist who has her own personal issues with sex or investigating officer Noah Jordain who makes a habit of taking each case personally, or Cleo Thane, a prostitute at the center of the story, who has an unusual but wise outlook on sex; even the killer’s twisted psyche is explored in detail.

The growing romance between Noah and Morgan is subtle and while not central to the story, is a key part of it. While the book is a bit explicit in nature, however there’s nothing gratuitous in it and the reality of it gives the story an unexpected edge. Ms. Rose’s competence as an author lies not just in making the contrasting characters come alive but also in creating an atmosphere of sensual terror that’s as vigorous as it is arousing. All the diverse elements in ideal and expert measure, make The Halo Effect a more than perfect read!

Reviewed in June 2004 by Rashmi.

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