The fourth and best yet from Hecht (Land of Echoes, 2004, etc.) brings back New York State Police Homicide Detective Mo Ford (Skull Session, 1998).
Tortured for hours, the psychokiller’s victims eventually die of strangulation; then they’re found strung up on weed-trimmer wire, like human marionettes dangling from ceilings, trees, even the plumbing of an old factory. The good news is that the “Howdy Doody” killer was caught in Manhattan in an FBI sting and hung himself in his jail cell not long after. The bad news is that virtually identical killings are taking place in suburbs just north of the city. Detective Ford doesn’t have time to recover from injuries sustained while apprehending a serial rapist (as well as psychological fallout from a break-up with his girlfriend) when he’s told he must report every move on these new Howdy Doody murders to FBI Special Agent in Charge Biedermann, a gruff, domineering Viet Nam vet who, Ford discovers, caught the first Howdy Doody culprit by using his former girlfriend, psychologist Roberta Ingalls, as bait. Ford figures that the new killer is either a copycat or the FBI got the wrong guy. Either way, to copy the crimes so completely, the new killer had to have information that only a law enforcement insider, or a close associate of the old killer’s, would know. Ford knows that the perp is physically strong, meticulously detailed and psychotically controlling, and that his victims are all blonde. In addition to being blonde, sexy and very astute, Dr. Ingalls is drawn to Ford. An uneasy romance develops, made rocky—but also compelling—as Ford finds his despairing, brooding, sensitive nature does not prevent him from forcing her to reveal what she knows about the killer. Along the way, Hecht follows the psychokiller formula step by step, expanding on the bureaucratic, and emotional, tensions that spur Ford onward.
No surprises here, just a very strong, suspenseful tale from a skillful author finally realizing his potential.