There’s no sophomore slump for Tanz as he brings his Philly style back to this cat-and-mouse crime story that weaves together the lives of two serial killers.
Bruce Titell is a classic computer geek: His life revolves around computing power, processors and software updates. His wife, thinly fleshed-out Julie Donovan, has repaid his lack of interest in their marriage with multiple affairs, all procured from online “cheaters” websites. After her shocking death in a car crash, Titell takes his deep-seated rage and fuels it into a revenge plot that ultimately involves murdering women who stray. Tanz crosses his story with that of mob hit man Julian Gando, a Philadelphia transplant whose life revolves around killing and his former-call-girl live-in love, Bryant Merril. Bruce and Julian are both being watched by the city’s top-notch Organized Crime Task Force, whose undercover cops and computer code crackers doggedly pursue the blood-soaked criminals. Tanz creates a wickedly twisted world, although Titell’s transformation from upstanding businessman to crazed murderer is a bit rushed. Yet it’s hard to put the book down because Titell and Gando pursue their crimes in such a heartless, detailed fashion. Spelling errors and strange details, such as what every character eats or drinks, tend to slow down the story, and Tanz sometimes bogs down the flow with updates on when Titell decides to go shopping or head to bed. Fortunately, there’s plenty of intrigue to make up for these minor storytelling deficiencies. In particular, Titell’s use of cheater websites and his ability to morph into his killer character—“SmoothAssSilk”—provide fascinating chapters, pulling the character’s madness into disturbingly realistic depths: “He pushed back from the desk, took a long sip of whiskey and turned on the computer. After loading, he clicked on Favorites and entered the site. He smiled broadly when he noticed two replies and four flirts adorning his inbox.” It’s chilling to watch the two men descend from their everyday lives into complete darkness.
The technical snags are defeated by two vicious criminal minds.