DEAD FOR LIFE by Ethan Black


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Contrived, occasionally ludicrous beat-the-clock psychokiller tale.

This fourth outing for independently wealthy, politically connected, unusually sympathetic but somewhat colorless NYPD Detective Conrad “Con Man” Voort (All the Dead Were Strangers, 2001, etc.) begins in Manhattan, with the 33-year-old cop in the bedroom of the Voort family mansion fending off the advances of his recently widowed cousin-in-law Julia, while Voort’s gorgeous girlfriend, TV news producer Camilla, takes her morning shower. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Wendell Nye, a brainy, former public-school teacher who’s read too many self-help books and biographies of the fabulously successful, has bought a bag of Krispy Kreme donuts in preparation for a killing spree: he plans to murder four people by midnight, allegedly because of a mistake Voort made six years before when he went to the wrong address in answering a 911 call Nye had made. Not only must Voort figure out why Nye made the call, but, because of clues left at the scene of Nye’s first murder—of a comely Hispanic travel agent who had prostitution in her past—Voort’s superiors want him fired. Of course, if he can stop Nye from killing, they might just let Voort remain one of New York’s Finest. As usual, Black predictably paces his plot with flashbacks that explain the complicated and highly unlikely reasons for his villain’s villainy. Within a few hours, Voort discovers that Nye’s vengeance isn’t due so much to Voort’s error as it’s a payback for losses Nye suffered thanks to greed, paranoia, and the negligence of a pack of scoundrels involved in the construction and maintenance of NYC’s public schools. Nye’s goal, aside from murdering his tormentors, is for Voort to expose the scandal. Less contrivance might have prevented Black’s scenario (a victim who wants to do good going after victimizing good guys who are really bad) from collapsing about a third of the way through. Still, suspense remains high, up to and beyond the unconvincing end.

Mindless, empty fun.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2003
ISBN: 0-7432-4400-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2003


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