The flawed homicide detective Cooper Devereaux returns for a second outing (False Friend, 2017), this time chasing down a quirky killer in Birmingham, Alabama.
Although Lucas Paltrow, a “mysterious mechanic Good Samaritan,” saves the pregnant Deborah Holt’s life by fixing her car, a year later she’s found dead on her 21st birthday, wrapped up like a present. Devereaux and his longtime partner, Tommy Garretty, are assigned to investigate. Soon Siobhan O’Keefe turns up, killed and wrapped in the same way on her 21st birthday. Later there’s a third victim, and the unknown assailant is dubbed the Birthday Killer. It’s a curious plot that gives the impression the author is straining for something new. One suspect is Deborah's boyfriend, the sarcastically described “guitar legend Thor,” aka Oliver Casey, a “twenty-four carat scumbag.” Others include Paltrow and his co-worker Billy Flynn, who has a sealed juvie record. When Flynn’s house explodes and Devereaux wants to save him, Garretty helpfully advises, “Screw Flynn. The odds are he’s a murdering asshole.” The blistering scene that follows is well-done, as are Devereaux and Flynn by the end of it. A couple of subplots help tie the series together. The dying Chris Lambert, a former Police Academy instructor, plots to blackmail Devereaux, who had a checkered childhood and may be “the spawn of a mass murderer.” Or not. And Devereaux's former girlfriend Alexandra is conflicted about getting back together with him, because “she simply wasn’t comfortable in a relationship with the son of a mass murderer.” Meanwhile, whatever might be revealed about his troubled past, Devereaux has become a good adult. It’s hard to see how the author continues with these subplots—Just how bad was Dad? Will Alexandra ever make up her mind?—without letting them get stale.
Overall, a good story with a multilayered hero. The author’s fans won’t be disappointed.