A young criminal justice student working her way through school as an exotic dancer finds romance and danger when she becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer.
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Alaina Colby has worked hard to distance herself from her family and their criminal activity. It’s been a struggle to put herself through college, especially when she’s also responsible for her younger brother whose drug addiction has already landed him in a heap of legal trouble. Now she’s nearing graduation and an end to her days wasting her dancing talent swinging topless around a stripper pole.
Only the universe has decided that it’s not playing nice.
Fellow strippers keep turning up dead behind the club where Alaina works. Not just dead. Chewed to pieces. Law enforcement is sniffing around. What’s worse, Alaina’s brother, who once dated the latest victim, has gone AWOL. Clearly, she needs to find out what she can about the killings…if only to protect what’s left of her family.
Jump the Line grabbed me from page one. Alaina is an intriguing character. She’s had a rotten life and has thrown up some thick walls. Yet her soft heart and…well…innocence shine through her gritty exterior. Her big dream is to make “Jump the Line” audition video for the Rockettes, though she knows a physical handicap has put professional dancing out of her reach. It’s such a childlike ambition, like the short girl entering the modeling competition or the kid with two left feet trying out for cheerleading. It makes her lovable and vulnerable. The sort of person who ignores her own well-honed instincts when the odd behavior of a friend sets off warning bells.
Detective Aidan Hawks certainly appreciates Alaina’s finer points. Another engaging character, Aidan talks like the worst sort of man-whore, yet he generally behaves like the gentleman his mom and two fathers (long story) would wish him to be. Aidan is determined to catch the killer. At first it’s a professional thing. Then he becomes convinced it’s a race to save Alaina. He has plenty of obstacles. This murderer is clever and closer to the action than anyone realizes. Aidan also has trouble within his own ranks. His chief can’t stand him. And his attractive new partner is after his collar–and his body.
There’s considerable violence in this book. The killer’s victims go through hell. So do Aidan and Alaina. By the climactic final showdown, both of them are at their physical and emotional breaking points. But there’s also forgiveness and the chance to heal old wounds. Light to balance dark. Sanity to balance madness.
McFarland uses an alternating first-person point of view that could have resulted in a disjointed narrative. However, though the POV shifts, it is always tightly controlled. We get a peek at how Alaina, Aidan, and the killer’s minds work without becoming muddled or learning so much about what’s going on that the story is spoiled. In fact, “delayed discovery” is used to keep the characters on the go and us readers frantically turning the pages. We may know more than any single character, but it’s exquisite torture as we wait for one of the gang to discover an important point or for a meeting/confrontation that we know is coming.
Jump the Line is chilling and fun and left me checking and rechecking that my door was locked.