What’s worse–a fiendish serial killer or a pitiless mercenary killer? Find out in this gore-splattered thriller.
After a series of gruesome–and nearly evidence-free–murders rock a small Tennessee town, Will Kane’s forensics skills and intuition point him toward a community pillar. The author ingeniously renders the murderer’s planning process and Kane’s equally meticulous crime-scene sleuthing, but deflates the mystery by revealing the perpetrator’s identity in the first third of the book. Consequently, the story veers into an episodic recap of the psycho’s grisly career, as he dispatches his family and 143 hitchhikers, illegal immigrants and prostitutes. Astonishingly, however, this ghoul is not the town’s most prolific killer. That honor belongs to Kane, whose previous exploits as a commando-for-hire in Third World killing fields form a parallel special-ops adventure narrative, in which Kane whips an Angolan rebel army into shape with field lectures (â€œ â€˜[t]he M18 Claymore is a directional fragmentation mine’ ”); Napoleonic oratory (â€œ â€˜the Cubansâ€¦will fall before you as the grass falls before the mighty wind’ ”); and peremptory executions of under-performing trainees. Kane frowns on the senseless massacre of innocents, but he’s comfortable with the purposeful massacre of innocents–for example, when he sends a â€œmessage” by murdering the wife, mother and children of a drug dealer suspected of killing a DEA agent’s family. There’s not much to distinguish Kane from the psycho he’s pursuing, except that he takes a workmanlike pride–rather than a lascivious pleasure–in his killing, which is constrained and rationalized by the nihilistic ethic of professionalism imparted by his shadowy government mentor.
Gardner’s vigorous, pulpy prose and well-wrought action scenes somewhat redeem his shameless wallowing in pornographic violence.