Pasadena police detective back on the job after a traumatic attack investigates the brutal sex murder of another female officer.
Chastened by a gruesome knife assault that left her clinically dead for more than two minutes, Detective Nan Vining returns to work after a year’s absence feeling emotionally shaky. Her attacker still at large, the no-nonsense single mom of a teenaged daughter struggles with panic attacks and a deep fear of entering strangers’ homes. Still, when attractive L.A. vice cop Frankie Lynde is found dead in a tony neighborhood with her throat cut, Vining jumps at the chance to work a case that perhaps hits too close to home. Drawn to the dark side, Frankie knew her killer—wealthy club owner John Lesley—and was having an increasingly kinky affair with him and his pneumatic ex-stripper wife, “Pussycat,” prior to being tortured and murdered. Handsome and smooth, Lesley manages to cover his tracks, leaving Vining and her colleagues, including her once (and future?) love interest Jim Kissick, with little to go on. They are aided considerably, though, by Vining’s almost psychic bond with the dead policewoman, who, knowing she wouldn’t survive, left at least one telltale clue behind. Meanwhile, his taste for depravity far from satisfied, Lesley forces the drug-addicted Pussycat to help him snatch a new victim, who will share Frankie’s fate if he is not stopped in time. Retracing Frankie’s final days, Vining moves closer and closer to the psychopath, culminating in an inevitably bloody showdown. With an edge-of-your-seat plot, Emley’s propulsive thriller manages to skirt the misogynistic nature of it subject matter: Vining has respect for fellow tough-girl Frankie, a lonely figure who never came back from her walk on the wild side.
Nicely developed characters and genuine suspense elevate this impressive crime debut.