An NYPD homicide cop who’s seen it all finds a strange new way to see it all in Zeltserman’s latest trip to the dark side (The Caretaker of Lorne Field, 2010, etc.).
Fifty-two-year-old Gail Laurent had led a blameless life. One might say she didn’t have an enemy in the world. Not so. Shot multiple times and savagely treated thereafter, she is discarded, like a mutilated paperback, not far from the front door of a bookstore. Witnesses? Yes and no. Examining the tape from the store’s surveillance camera, Detective Stan Green watches a man come into the frame, freeze, then register extreme horror. When questioned, however, Zachary Lynch swears he can’t be helpful. He acknowledges that he may have actually witnessed the killing but insists there’s no way he can identify the killer. In the meantime, Green’s domestic life is no picnic either. There’s the wear and tear of maintaining amicable relations with a spiteful ex-wife, matched by the strain of coping with a gorgeous, much younger girlfriend. And let’s not forget the $3,000 he owes to absolutely the wrong people. On the job, it’s now beyond question that the police have a vicious serial killer on their hands. Pressure mounts exponentially. NYPD brass wants the case cracked yesterday. Green thinks wistfully of other lines of work. And then suddenly, a long-dormant memory surges up from his unconscious to give a weirdly literal dimension to the phrase “soul-searching,” and serve as a key to the puzzle.
Zeltserman’s signature creepiness is available here and there, but what really drives this novel is the engaging portrait of an honest, hardworking cop who, on the job and off, gives the best he’s got, knowing how rarely it will be enough.