When the corpse of a decapitated horse is found strung from the support tower of a hydroelectric plant high up in the French Pyrenees, suspicion naturally turns to a nearby high-security institution that houses the worst of the worst serial killers.
Called from Toulouse to investigate, Commandant Martin Servaz does indeed match DNA found on the horse to one of the inmates of the Wargnier Institute, where, to discourage misbehavior, shock treatment is used as punishment. Éric Lombard, the superwealthy owner of the plant—and former owner of the prized horse—has no idea who might have it in for him. And potential witnesses to the atrocity are denying they heard or saw anything unusual. When a human body is found hanging from the bridge, the game is on for the placid Servaz and attractive police captain Irène Ziegler. Meanwhile, a fledgling psychiatrist, Diane Berg, is beginning an ill-advised stay at the institute to study the criminally insane. Soon enough, she has her hands full with the brilliant, Hannibal Lector–like Julian Hirtmann, the cagiest and most dangerous of subjects. The story also features a rash of teenage suicides and the killing of a homeless man back in Toulouse. Minier, who grew up in the foothills of the Pyrenees, exploits the unusual setting exceptionally well. While his first novel is derivative of sources ranging from classic horror films to Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs, it's such an absorbing effort that you forgive its debts.
A high-altitude thriller, this novel is a great summer read for more than the usual reasons.