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by Ben Miller

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2013
Publisher: Krac Publishing

In Miller’s debut, an FBI agent looking to leave the bureau for a career in politics gets pulled back in when a killer uses cryptic messages to toy with investigators.

“This one feels bad,” Special Agent Jackson Byrne says when two similar murders suggest that a possible serial killer is targeting young girls and leaving notes for authorities to find. A friend of Jack’s late father is doing a good job of convincing the agent to make a run for a U.S. Senate seat. But his recent fame, sparked by solving a high-profile kidnapping-murder and writing a book about it, may postpone Jack’s political aspirations—especially since the killer’s plan seems contingent upon Jack’s working the case. This nail-biter teems with suspense and competently manages two murder mysteries in one: the FBI’s current case and the much-publicized investigation from the previous year. The latter, its particulars only gradually brought to light, unfolds via flashbacks and snippets of Jack’s novel. Even a lengthy chapter, in which Jack criticizes child-protection laws, is perceptive and absorbing, despite the fact that it digresses from the narrative. Miller provides a first-person account of the killer, who’s so scrupulous with his “work” that seemingly trivial behavior, like watching a spider crawl across the ceiling, is profoundly unsettling. Other characters offer ample support, chiefly Special Agent Heath Reilly, a socially awkward fed who desperately wants to be the lead investigator. With regard to the young victims, the novel circumvents potentially unpleasant moments by concentrating on the tension derived from anticipation and uncertainty rather than any visceral imagery.

An unrelenting debut thriller that reads like the work of a pro.