In Wander’s (Deadly Ambitions, 2013, etc.) series entry, retired Israeli spy David Korman looks into seemingly unrelated and increasingly dangerous criminal cases.
“Answer me this, Dopey, why do I put up with you?” asks Dianne, the long-suffering wife of the philandering Korman. “Because I always come home with a good story,” he replies. “This one is probably the best in a long time.” It’s certainly the busiest. It begins with a frantic call from Cindy, Korman’s former lover, who’s concerned that her estranged brother, a financial advisor who has scammed the wrong people, has gone missing. Next, Korman’s friend Bruno Jayson is working a multibillion-dollar deal involving a game-changing pharmaceutical. However, Korman wonders if this deal is on the level. Meanwhile, Carter Briggs, a “cracker-jack financial deal maker” and another of Bruno’s former acquaintances, reappears after more than a 10-year absence—just after six random women have been found strangled; all but one had a red ribbon meticulously tied around her neck, earning the perpetrator an obvious nickname: “the red-ribbon serial killer.” Readers may immediately suspect Carter of the crime, particularly as Wander does little to discourage this (“Carter felt his stomach tighten as he watched a news team at the murder scene putting together the story”). Although this book takes place in the present, the dialogue wouldn’t pass muster in a 1940s B-movie (“What’s with you, doll”). Still, occasional lines achieve an appealing, hard-boiled style: “If I were him, I would not buy any long-playing records.” On the other hand, “Put me to bed” isn’t something that most people say in the heat of passion. Korman is said to possess “a great mind” and the ability to recognize “things that even the authorities miss,” but readers won’t find him to be very impressive here; for instance, he resolves Cindy’s case by simply telling her to pay off her brother’s victims. The resolution of the red-ribbon serial-killer investigation is particularly anticlimactic.
A clichéd, overstuffed mystery that doesn’t use its protagonist to good advantage.