Begins well but loses its way early and never recovers—stymied by unfocused plotting and a jumble of unrealized characters...

VAPOR TRAIL

After four Logan winners, this diffuse potboiler about a vigilante serial killer disappoints.

The targets: child molesters. And what’s wrong with that, you might ask? But if you’re a cop, you really shouldn’t be among them. And if you’re a cop, you absolutely shouldn’t be the triggerman—which brings us to the two a.m. phone call Phil Broker (in a sequel to Absolute Zero, 2002) gets from old friend John Eisenhower, Washington County (Minn.) sheriff. A priest with a checkered past has been shot to death in the confessional booth—the m.o. strongly suggesting that the Saint may have struck again. The Saint? A nickname fondly bestowed by those members of the media who view trial by jury as, on occasion, optional. And there’s evermore reason to believe, the sheriff tells Broker, that the Saint (in repose) may be police Sergeant Harry Cantrell. Some months back, the sheriff reminds Broker, there was the headline-grabbing Dolman case, in which a child molester managed to escape conviction though the evidence against him was overwhelming. Cantrell had been the arresting officer—and quick to claim a flagrant miscarriage of justice. And equally quick, many believe, to rectify it by pumping 12 bullets into Dolman’s body. Even if Sainthood doesn’t quite fit, the sheriff believes Cantrell has information he’s chosen not to share with his boss but that Broker, his former Vietnam War comrade-in-arms, might somehow pry loose. Citing past favors, Sheriff Eisenhower wants retired cop Broker to pin on a badge as a “Special Projects consultant.” What’s left unsaid, though tacitly understood, is how dangerous a man Cantrell can be when crossed. And that Broker and Cantrell, ex-comrades-in-arms, are now the bitterest of ex-friends.

Begins well but loses its way early and never recovers—stymied by unfocused plotting and a jumble of unrealized characters who seem to have wandered in from other stories.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-018573-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the...

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH

Fired Scotland Yard detective Daniel Hawthorne bursts onto the scene of his unwilling collaborator and amanuensis, screenwriter/novelist Anthony, who seems to share all Horowitz’s (Forever and a Day, 2018, etc.) credentials, to tell him that the game’s afoot again.

The victim whose death requires Hawthorne’s attention this time is divorce attorney Richard Pryce, bashed to death in the comfort of his home with a wine bottle. The pricey vintage was a gift from Pryce’s client, well-to-do property developer Adrian Lockwood, on the occasion of his divorce from noted author Akira Anno, who reportedly celebrated in a restaurant only a few days ago by pouring a glass of wine over the head of her husband’s lawyer. Clearly she’s too good a suspect to be true, and she’s soon dislodged from the top spot by the news that Gregory Taylor, who’d long ago survived a cave-exploring accident together with Pryce that left their schoolmate Charles Richardson dead, has been struck and killed by a train at King’s Cross Station. What’s the significance of the number “182” painted on the crime scene’s wall and of the words (“What are you doing here? It’s a bit late”) with which Pryce greeted his murderer? The frustrated narrator (The Word Is Murder, 2018) can barely muster the energy to reflect on these clues because he’s so preoccupied with fending off the rudeness of Hawthorne, who pulls a long face if his sidekick says boo to the suspects they interview, and the more-than-rudeness of the Met’s DI Cara Grunshaw, who threatens Hawthorne with grievous bodily harm if he doesn’t pass on every scrap of intelligence he digs up. Readers are warned that the narrator’s fondest hope—“I like to be in control of my books”—will be trampled and that the Sherlock-ian solution he laboriously works out is only the first of many.

Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the field has anywhere near this much ingenuity to burn.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267683-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on...

MYSTIC RIVER

After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that’s as dark as any of Patrick’s cases.

Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean’s parents’ house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy’s friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it’s Jimmy’s turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he’s got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who’s done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend’s official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave’s wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else’s blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it’s easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all.

An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters’ heads.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16316-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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