A 12-year-old boy named Eric Wells is abducted in Portsmouth, New Hampshire--later to be found raped and dead. His assailant is a thoroughly confused, nerdy young man named Vernon Fischer, a college student whose sexuality is muddy even to himself, who wants a child to love and be loved by--and, failing that, to kill. On the case is a local Portsmouth cop, Dulac, a childless married man in his 50s for whom the incident comes to crystallize every fragility and failure of love in his own life. Weesner (The Car Thief, A German Affair) writes monochromatic and curve-less novels; a switch is thrown and the action grinds along its depressing path without swerve; characters are caught in their fates as tightly as in any Greek tragedy. Here he's added some not very convincing thematic undershading--the influential role of child pornography in Fischer's murderous act (he'd seen a film that Dulac thinks may have ""inspired"" him to the crime)--but on the whole Weesner sticks to the inevitable (and baleful) working out of this very lugubrious chain of events. Dulac's pain and decency are meant to hold up a contrasting pillar to Fischer's depravity--but the balance is flawed: the psychological acuity here is trained best on the evildoer--and in Fischer's sections the book takes on a hunted, breathless, disastrous feel that's impressive. Overall, though, the determinism and the leadenly lock-step narration don't provide for either enough light or heat.