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by Belinda Bauer

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2533-0
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

A serial killer menaces London in general, and a TV journalist in particular, in Bauer’s latest gorefest.

The mayhem begins with the stabbing of a woman who made the mistake of working on a Saturday when her office building was deserted—except for a verse-spouting serial killer. First to arrive on the scene of the murder is Eve Singer, who works for one of London’s TV news networks specializing in “if it bleeds it leads” reporting. Lately, Eve’s career has been flagging—she’s pushing 30 and a brunette, and her boss keeps threatening to replace her with a younger blonde. At home, Eve’s problems are also escalating: she's the sole caretaker for her once stalwart father, Duncan, whose dementia has gotten out of control. Other voices take up the narrative, including the killer’s, several of his victims, police officers, and Eve’s neighbors. The killer, apparently of aristocratic stock, inhabits a crumbling mansion, supporting himself and his grisly pursuits by selling off family art treasures. He cared for his own elderly parent until her death, and somehow no one wondered what happened to her body. (As in Psycho, mummified Mom hasn’t left home.) His homicidal compulsion appears to spring from overhearing doctors say, after a heart transplant in childhood, that he was “living on borrowed time.” Every murder, according to his twisted logic, is another extension of the loan. At first he welcomes the publicity afforded by Eve’s lurid reports on his handiwork, but as she agrees to cooperate with a police blackout, risking her job, he turns on her. (And, since he followed her home one night, he knows where she lives.) As the murders—each staged as an “exhibition”—mount up, the killer’s cat-and-mouse game with the police and Eve grows breathlessly suspenseful even as we suspect we are being lured into the clutches of yet another thriller with a contrived and predictable ending.

Bauer’s way with character and repartee helps to keep our interest in what would otherwise be pretty standard fare.