Joann Flynn thought it was the luckiest day of her life when, after two life-threatening accidents merely minutes apart, she escaped with hardly a scratch. However, she didn’t feel quite so fortunate when immediately after her accident, she began having dreams that left her with strong feelings of panic and urgency. These dreams were so disturbing that even during waking hours, Joanne couldn’t quit focusing on them and they were starting to override everything else in her life. Even more unusual, strangers started mistaking her for someone named “Caroline” and always with a look of utter shock. Eventually, Joanne’s dreams provided her a clue that the setting of her dreams was a small town named “Cliffside”. After much time and research, Joanne discovered that a woman named Caroline McKenna, who looked enough like her to be Joanne’s twin, was killed in Cliffside, Oregon in a car accident the same day she almost lost her own life!
For completely emotional and unexplainable reasons, Joanne is convinced that in order to stop the dreams that have disrupted her life, she must travel to Cliffside to find out all she can about Caroline and her death. As to be expected with her extreme likeness to Caroline, Joanne’s arrival in Cliffside causes much speculation and gossip. Sheriff Griffin Cavanaugh in particular is curious as to Joanne’s motives for her “vacation” in Cliffside. He sticks to Joanne’s side like glue, which she is eventually grateful for when it appears as though her life is in danger. Joanne is certain that Caroline’s death was not an accident and her questions to the residents of Cliffside have apparently made someone nervous enough to commit another murder. In both her dreams and conscious moments, Joanne feels a clock ticking and knows her time is running out – but what is she supposed to do and which one of the many residents who had a motive to kill Caroline is she in danger from? She doesn’t know whom to trust and despite her growing feelings for Griffin, she is afraid that his mysterious past with Caroline may have had something to do with her death.
After Caroline is a suspenseful, gripping tale of expectation and murder that is impossible to put down! Kay Hooper does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing until the very end. Like other works of Ms. Hooper, After Caroline has a touch of the paranormal that is reasonably explained and not at all approached as if you have to “believe” in order to enjoy the story.
Despite the love affair between Joanne and Griffin, and a few secondary romances, mystery, not romance, is the overriding theme of After Caroline. Happily, the mystery was satisfying enough for readers not to overly lament any lack in the romantic aspect of the story. The villain was not easily recognizable with the abundance of characters with reason to murder Caroline and because of the fact that, although introduced early in the story, little was known about the murderer until almost the end.
Joanne was a likeable heroine, however, I felt as though the reader learns more about Caroline’s personality and past than the leading character. Griffin is also a bit glossed over for being the principal male in the story. We do learn a tad about his history and his reasons for becoming a sheriff, but his personality seems rather one-dimensional. There are several other characters we learn bits and pieces about but they are all kept somewhat mysterious to keep the reader guessing as to whether they were perhaps Caroline’s murderer.
Nonetheless, in spite of any lacking, and perhaps necessary, character development, After Caroline is a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable novel that is sure to please any Kay Hooper fan.