Following Hemlock (2001), the seventh in Coulter’s FBI thrillers, which she seemingly bangs out as effortlessly as she did her 37 historical romances that rang bells on the Times’s bestseller list. Here, we’re introduced to young Special Agent Dane Carver, though many old-timers show up as well, including Dillon Savich, chief of the Criminal Apprehension Unit at FBI headquarters, and his wife, Special Agent Lacy Sherlock Savich. Off in San Francisco, Dane’s twin brother, Father Michael Joseph Carver, a priest, is murdered at midnight by a sociopath serial killer who has come to big Saint Bartholomew’s large dark empty spaces for an unrepentant confession. When Father Michael Joseph explains to the nut that he clearly lacks any remorse for his varied murders, and thus his confession is not binding on priestly silence, the killer shoots him through the forehead in the confessional, then walks out amused and whistling. But he wasn’t alone. Nick (for Nicole) Jones, a homeless woman Father Michael Joseph wanted to help, was hiding in a pew following the shot and saw the perp. This becomes the first lead for San Francisco detectives on the case, now joined by Dane, who promises not to bring the FBI into it.
Coulter’s tone softens the story’s edge and, despite two feisty heroines facing down the killer, leaves the climax as mushy as a rain-soaked lawn. See Tess Gerritsen’s Boston PD homicide procedural The Apprentice [p. TK] for real bloodwork.