Pasadena homicide detective Nan Vining wrestles with a violent double murder while she’s still struggling to exorcise the horrors of her own brush with death.
Millionaire playboy Oliver Mercer has become the target of the ultimate home invasion. Somebody knocked on his front door, entered and killed him, dismembered him with a chainsaw—and then, for good measure, murdered his girlfriend, art-museum administrator Lauren Richards, when she turned up, and arranged the two corpses with ritualistic precision. Pasadena’s finest suspect is Mark Scoville, Mercer’s business partner, whose wife, glamourpuss newscaster Dena Hale, is her own biggest story. Nan in particular is sure that shifty-eyed Scoville knows more than he’s telling. From the opening scene, however, Emley has made it clear that Mercer was killed by a stranger, a man dressed as a woman, though it’s not clear whether he’s a transvestite, a transsexual or just a guy in a really unconvincing disguise. Unfortunately, Emley, whose eye for the visceral effects of violence is as unsparing as Patricia Cornwell’s, has also picked up Cornwell’s fondness for subordinating the not-very-interesting homicide du jour to the ongoing saga of her menaced heroine. Two years after a savage knife attack left her clinically dead for two minutes (First Cut, 2006), Nan encounters Nitro, a crafty/crazy street person whose drawings of women in extremis include one that bears an uncanny resemblance to Nan, and another that’s got to be Johnna Alwin, the Tucson police detective whose murder has never been solved. Does that mean that Nitro is really T.B. Mann, Nan’s nightmarish assailant? The smart money won’t expect any answers to what the author obviously intends as a long-running set of riddles.
Scary killers and solid procedural work, as long as you don’t mind a modicum of mystery and many more questions than answers.