Why has the Cambridge Police Department been shut out of the case of Ruth Hill, a researcher raped and strangled on Cambridge Common? Herald reporter Bruce Drummond tells shamus Jake Eaton that the Boston department has grabbed the case of his murdered friend, and he wants Jake to find out why it was done—and who did it. Jake has no trouble linking Ruth's murder to two similar murders over the past, but he suspects the earlier cases aren't the real reason Boston is sitting on the case; the roots go much deeper—30 years back, to the days of the Boston Strangler, long ago convicted and killed in prison. When the cops pounced on Albert DeSalvo and put him away, did they get the wrong guy? Or is a diabolical copycat at work? Before Jake can come up with answers, Drummond is tortured and killed, with every indication that the slayings will go on. The clue to the strangler's identity seems to lie in the uncompleted doctoral dissertation of Harvard psychology student Vicki Shaw—but everybody who's seen the manuscript is dead. Can Jake and his ladylove Gloria Graham keep Vicki herself from becoming the strangler's final victim? Maness (A Once Perfect Place, 1996, etc.) provides some thoughtful commentary on the original Boston Strangler investigation, though his hey-presto solution isn't likely to trouble the sleep of cops in Boston, Cambridge, or anywhere else.
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