Books by James Neal Harvey

DEAD GAME by James Neal Harvey
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 27, 1997

They keep moving NYPD's Lieutenant Ben Tolliver around—now he's in Special Investigations—but it doesn't matter; all he keeps drawing are serial sex killers like Edward Razek. Razek is a real romantic. He brings flowers and a condom to his tryst with Jan Peterson, then shares some soothing endearments with her before he rapes and strangles her. His motive? For one thing, he's a hardcase nutcase—something the cheeseheads at the Stanipac Hospital for the Criminally Insane were too lily-livered to realize when they declared him completely cured nine years after his last little experiment in homicide. But besides having some unresolved hostility toward women, Razek's got a grudge against Tolliver, who arrested him last time, and is determined to frame him for his current spate of killings. Tolliver, of course, isn't taking Razek's behavior lying down; he immediately recognized the signature postmortem treatment of Jan Peterson's corpse. But when he confronts his quarry, Razek, now a wildly successful commodities trader whose boss suspects nothing, laughs in his face. It's the old race between the dogged cop and the game-playing killer—a race that's handicapped by the fact that the killer, even though his alter ego, ``the thing,'' tells him that he's ``the number-one player of all time,'' is only moderately clever in executing his murderous plans, and Tolliver, who ought to realize what he's up against, isn't much smarter. The real handicap, though, is Harvey's dependably penny-dreadful writing, which purges every character of the slightest subtlety (Razek is a comic-strip bogeyman, his psychiatrists a bunch of wimps who think Megan's Law is unconstitutional, Tolliver's newscaster girlfriend a good- looking cipher stenciled Threaten Me Last) that might make this familiar saga worth caring about. Not as floridly sadistic as Tolliver's other cases (Mental Case, 1996, etc.), but still no place you'd want to spend a weekend. Read full book review >
MENTAL CASE by James Neal Harvey
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 25, 1996

The fourth case for Lt. Ben Tolliver, about linked murders in Manhattan, as Harvey attempts to upgrade his series begun with the overly predictable The Headsman (1991). A beautiful, wealthy blond walks into a jewelry store, asks to see a $100,000 necklace, then shoots the jeweler, his security guard, a customer, and finally herself. Reviewing the store's videotape, Tolliver can't find anything to go on besides the woman's unearthly calmness. The medical examiner eventually finds a Prozac-like substance (fluoxetine) in her blood, though that's a mere mood-enhancer. Then there are two more mysterious murders in the Village, on two different nights, as a young man walks up to a visitor, then to an antiques dealer, and stabs each to death through the breastbone. Some yellow capsules found by one of the bodies points to the same Prozac-derivative. Though Tolliver runs into blind alleys for over half the novel, the reader is introduced to Dr. Jonas Drang, a psychiatrist with a secret cellar lab for research on psychopharmaceuticals who has whipped up a swell new antidepressant made from rats' brain cells—but can't get the dosage right. The drug boosts the taker's confidence hugely, granting an amazing calm, but also releases the aggressiveness inherent in Dr. Drang's outsized Norwegian rats, mammals second in intelligence only to monkeys. When he does get it right, he'll go to Switzerland (he's already buying a house there) and give Eli Lilly a run for its money. Fact is, Dr. Drang's real objective is a drug that will allow armies to build up cadres of superbly aggressive soldiers. When Tolliver eventually gets too close to Dr. Drang, the good doctor gets in touch with his Village stabber. This fails, but Tolliver at last winds up bound in Dr. Drang's black-out cellar, being eaten alive by hungry rats . . . . Credible policework and fantasy sex give way to comic-book grue. Even so, a distinct series improvement. Read full book review >
FLESH AND BLOOD by James Neal Harvey
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 30, 1994

The death of Sen. Clayton Cunningham III, evidently a fatal case of coitus interruptus, is too hot for just anybody to handle, so to keep the lid on, the DA's office sends for Lt. Ben Tolliver (Painted Ladies, 1992). Like many other aspects of this overripe thriller, that's a dumb choice, since Tolliver's just the man to uncover all the Cunningham family skeletons (too numerous to list here, and too predictable to bother listing) and then refuse to toe the line about burying them. Teamed with Jack Mulloy, the officer who's been heading the ongoing investigation into the shaky Cunningham financial empire, and TV newshound Shelley Drake, who insists that Cunningham was into nasty sex, Ben follows the trail of a $50 million payoff he's convinced will lead to the smoking gun. Meanwhile, former Cunningham employee Jan Demarest, beaten and left for dead, stirs uneasily in her coma as her sister Peggy waits by her bedside singing hosannas to those wonderful Cunninghams, who footed her medical bills.... Slick, crude, and empty-headed. P.S.: They're all guilty. Read full book review >
PAINTED LADIES by James Neal Harvey
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 17, 1992

Somebody—evidently a poised businesswoman named Bobbie—is killing and body-painting present and former employees of Panache, a high-end call-girl network owned by Martha Bellamy, another poised businesswoman with great lingerie. Enter scruffy NYPD Lt. Ben Tolliver, a media star since his investigation of a remarkably similar series of sex killings (By Reason of Insanity, 1990), destined to pull the plug on Bobbie before she can pull the plug on Patty, his exotic- dancer girlfriend. The details of running Panache are right out of Mayflower Madam; the dead-end subplots—the first victim is the daughter of a well-fixed businessman who doesn't want an investigation; Bellamy and Panache's clients bridle at going public; Ben shoots a mugger who's made into a political martyr—are ludicrous; and Bobbie's background and motivation don't carry the slightest weight or menace. The real inventiveness of the book is in its detailed accounts of sex murders and mutilations. If that's your pleasure, you've hit pay dirt with this one. Read full book review >
THE HEADSMAN by James Neal Harvey
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: July 18, 1991

A suburban Friday the 13th for adults: the latest incarnation of an 18th-century executioner is stalking the bedrooms of Braddock, N.Y., beheading lubricious teens. Young police chief Jud MacElroy, shunted aside by state officials, concentrates on the murders' similarities to the unsolved beheading 30 years ago of Janet Donovan— a tramp who'd been friendly with all the future town fathers—while running down the leads he's coaxed out of unwilling psychic Karen Wilson, who keeps having detailed visions of a man in black swinging a double-handled ax at young lovers, potential witnesses, and finally Jud's girlfriend, reporter Sally Benson. Hidden beneath the pornographic violence and Sunday-supplement mythopoeia is a tidy little puzzle complete with clues, misdirection, and a deftly hidden culprit. See if you can find him before Harvey (By Reason of Insanity, etc.) kills again. Read full book review >