Smoky Barrett (The Darker Side, 2008, etc.) returns to hunt another serial killer, this one with an extra-nasty twist.
The killer haunts virulently misogynistic websites, locates disaffected husbands who want to off their spouses, helps them out, then splits the insurance money seven years after the wives’ “disappearance.” Smoky, who heads the L.A. branch of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), is put in charge of the investigation. She bears physical metaphorical scars from her encounter with a serial killer: Joseph Sands, who murdered Smoky’s husband while she watched, then raped her and caused the death of her daughter. She later joined the NCAVC, where her colleagues are marked by a combination of admirable solidity and quirky brilliance. The plot gets rolling while Smoky is at a friend’s wedding, suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a car, from which is dumped the abused but still breathing body of Heather Hollister, an LAPD homicide detective who disappeared eight years before. The main suspect at that time was none other than her smarmy husband Douglas, who turns out to have been haunting some extremely sketchy websites that evinced a repellent hostility to women. Meanwhile, Heather was declared dead, and Douglas remarried and cashed in on his former wife’s insurance. Smoky and her colleagues create a fake persona on some scurrilous websites to try to lure out an abductor and serial killer known only (and surreally) as Dali. The plan begins to go awry when Dali kidnaps Smoky, keeps her naked and confined in a storage building and subjects her to methodical punishments designed to break her spirit. It turns out one of Dali’s lessons in life is, “There is no soul; we’re all just meat.”
Not for the squeamish.