A detective’s smart mouth gets him transferred from sunny Arizona to frigid Missouri, where life is worse in every way imaginable.
After Jules Bettinger makes a remark that causes a suicide, he’s lucky to be transferred to Victory, Missouri, a decaying Rust Belt city so awful that he rents a house more than 80 miles away for his wife and two children. His loutish new partner has recently been demoted for his part in crippling a drug dealer, and none of the other cops seem any more welcoming. His new boss, explaining that the understaffed force can only concentrate on the worst crimes, gives him a murder case to work. The death of a prostitute whose killer had sex with her dead body seems bad enough until Bettinger realizes that this is just one of a series of similar outrages. When two cops are murdered and mutilated, the whole force concentrates on finding those killers, but the carnage escalates, leaving more officers dead in horrifying circumstances. The answer seems to lie with the crippled drug dealer, who’s suddenly vanished, along with his sister and girlfriend. Naturally, Bettinger is convinced that he’s the one behind the crime spree. Although he’s disgusted with his fellow officers’ actions, he begins to understand them better when he learns the reason they crippled the dealer. Bettinger soon finds himself in the killer’s sights. He barely escapes, but not all of his family is equally lucky. Paired with his partner and another of the cops who damaged the drug dealer, he heads farther north to search for the mastermind in a raging blizzard in an area so blighted it makes hell look cheerful.
If you can get past the detailed descriptions of violence and mutilation, you’ll find that Zahler (Corpus Chrome, Inc., 2014, etc.) tells a gripping story.