A mixed-bag of a thriller debut from Fergusson, a former newspaper writer and ad copywriter, in which the sins of the father include (gulp) serial killing. In the aftermath of Charles Sinclair’s sudden death, Paul, his loving son, makes a discovery that rocks him. He learns that he was adopted, that his biological father was the notorious serial killer Russell Strickland (the Pied Piper of the title), and that the reports of Strickland’s death (see yellowed newspaper clippings) might be premature. In fact, it’s highly possible, Paul comes to think, that Strickland murdered Charles. Why? Well, out of some distorted notion that he deserved punishment—just as his long list of other victims did—for crimes of an unspecified nature. Strickland pÇre, brilliant though crazed, accepts no obligation to specify. Having appointed himself judge and jury, he convicts, then executes without mercy. Among those punished, in addition to Charles, is Paul’s mother, and perhaps his brother as well. Even more frightening is the prospect that Paul’s own wife and young son are endangered. In light of that, he decides that the only way to protect his family is to track Strickland by exploring his secrets. Thus he begins a journey into Strickland’s past, encountering as way-stations his mother’s vengeful brother, then a strange and emotionally fragile young woman, the one Strickland, incomprehensibly, allowed to escape. But the ultimate secret, the key to it all, is the identity of the caged man. Who imprisoned him and where is his jailer? On an old rock-bound and abandoned freighter—a mise-en-scäne to gladden a movie producer’s heart—Paul finds his answers, or most of them. And in the process comes close to losing his life. Intriguing situation, sympathetic characters, but prose that tends to overheat and plotting that can spin out of control.