Third in McCullough’s set of thrillers starring harried college-town police captain Carmine Delmonico.
Amid the racial and political strife of 1968, Holloman and Carew, the towns surrounding Chubb University (McCullough’s stand-in for Yale), are being stalked by their worst threat yet. A rapist has been serially attacking accomplished young women. After the seventh of his victims reports the crime—she was bound, raped and choked by a masked man who gained entry to her apartment—the other women come forward. Carmine and his team piece together the MO of this madman, who calls himself the Dodo. He studies his victims, cases their apartments in advance with pilfered keys, then dons a bizarre disguise to strike, usually every three weeks. With the law now on his trail, the Dodo has apparently decided to silence future prey. A young black doctor is the first to die. A neighborhood watch group, the Gentleman Walkers, are about as helpful as the Whiffenpoofs. And Carmine’s newest detective in training, spoiled, lovely apricot-tressed trust-fund baby Helen, is upsetting her working-class co-workers. But when Helen’s boyfriend, physics phénomène Kurt, scion of West German industrial chemical tycoons, is kidnapped, Helen’s knowledge of Kurt’s family politics helps Carmine crack the case. Carmine’s hunt for the Dodo is beset by other distractions. His wife Desdemona’s lingering postpartum depression has left her at the mercy of a tyrannical toddler. His underling Corey overlooked a junior detective’s drinking problem, with tragic results. In a nearby luxury mall, a vandal has targeted a glass shop owned by woman-with-a-past Amanda, to the chagrin of her would-be fiancé, mall owner Hank. Could the vandal and the Dodo be one and the same? And what of Amanda’s effete twin nephews, who may, as youngsters, have been not-so-accidental parricides? McCullough’s omniscient narration builds suspense by cutting away from the POV of the guilty party just in time. The '60s atmosphere, however, is less than convincing.
This thriller from the author of The Thorn Birds (1998) makes up in entertainment what it lacks in verisimilitude.