Thiede (Miss Me?, 2015) weaves a gruesome tale of suspense in the fourth book of his Max Larkin series.
This story picks up just where the last adventure left off. Max’s life and career are on a tremendous upswing. He’s just solved yet another challenging case, this one bringing both local acclaim and national media attention to him and his best friend/partner, Jesse. Newfound fame and a job offer with the FBI would be more than enough to keep many gumshoes occupied, but Max finds himself catapulted into a new case almost immediately when, on live TV, an anonymous killer murders an old flame of his, threatening more to come if Max can’t find and stop him. What’s more, the killer holds the entire town hostage, using expertly planted bombs and cameras to force Max to play his twisted game, all while charging strangers for the privilege of watching it unfold on a live webcast. The killer’s sick humor and gamesmanship aren’t particularly novel, but as signs begin pointing toward someone connected to Max’s past, the story takes on new depth, peering into the life of the boy who would become a hero. It’s during these glimpses that the book is at its most complex, revealing sordid details lurking behind small-town living and Max’s personal history. The present day also features some strong character moments. Although there’s not much relationship development between Max and Jesse, that can be attributed to how solid the dynamic has become over the last few books rather than a lack of thought in this episode. Additionally, there’s plenty of development for many of the major romantic relationships, adding some color to a generally grim story. New readers will certainly want to pick up previous installments, but this volume has enough of the breakneck pace and grisly murders—hallmarks of the series—to make it a gripping read even for the uninitiated. Some readers may be put off by the extremes of what Max witnesses, but those with stronger stomachs will feel right at home.
A dark, bracing volume in a series that’s making it a habit.
A bloody tale about a serial killer obsessed with lies.
In Thiede’s follow-up to Time Killer (2013), Max Larkin is back solving crimes. A few weeks after the brutal slayings that took place in the previous novel, Detective Larkin and his partner, Jesse Fairlane, are assigned to a grizzly case involving the double homicide of a professor and his much younger girlfriend. As in Thiede’s previous novel, a pattern emerges, and the detectives soon realize they’re looking at the handiwork of another serial killer. Max and Jessie will instantly feel familiar to readers who’ve read the first entry in the series, but despite that instant recognition, the characters don’t develop as richly this time around. While the two heroes experience some growing pains in their partnership—which has only lasted two months, since this novel is set back-to-back with the previous novel—too much time is spent on the procedural elements of the story, and much of the chemistry that was so palpable in their first outing is missing here. Still, both characters remain likable, and while the bloody trail leads the duo down some dark paths, readers will find themselves guessing at every turn. Interestingly, as the threads of the case begin to come together, readers may actually become more invested in the killer’s arc rather than the growing relationship between leads Max and Jessie. As with Thiede’s previous work, readers can expect plenty of black humor and gruesome murder scenes. Although the action ends rather abruptly, the stage is set for more sleuthing.
Thiede’s flair for procedurals returns, but the lead characters lack the charisma and chemistry they displayed in their initial outing.
A fast-paced thriller centered on a brutal, time-obsessed serial killer.
The expression “killing time” rarely means murder, but here, the victims of a serial killer must pay for time they’ve wasted, often with both their money and their lives. In a brutal scene from the opening chapter, an entire family is murdered after a stranger invades the family’s home and accuses the patriarch of wasting his time. Veteran cop Max Larkin is on the case. Unfortunately, he’s also been assigned a new partner; though she’s green in the field—she has “very sad eyes” and prays upon arriving at the first crime scene—she gives the hardened old detective a new perspective he never knew he needed. But as the serial killer claims more victims, a pattern emerges that neither Max nor his new partner can ignore. With brisk pacing, Thiede’s debut brims with action, violence and, occasionally, emotion. Though the book takes a while to find its heart, procedural fans will feel right at home. Larkin feels like a guy worth rooting for, despite filling the shoes of the beaten-down, grizzled, old loner cop trope a little too well. His interactions with his new partner, plus the twists and revelations regarding his past, give him enough of a pass to get readers invested in the story and looking forward to his next outing. Larkin’s story doesn’t break any boundaries, but it’ll keep crime and thriller fans wrapped up in its twisting plot, fast pace and memorable detective.
Plenty of shock value and a charismatic, if formulaic, male lead.