A quiet Florida community becomes the site of a string of murders in this thriller.
Deputy Sheriff Miles Delany is investigating a murder scene in Bonita Palms. This gated community, with residents’ average age in the mid-50s, is an area with few serious crimes. But this one’s a doozy: It appears the victim, Cathy Sinclair, knew the killer, as there’s no indication of forced entry and no valuables are missing. Subsequent narrative perspectives from various people in Bonita Palms gradually reveal shady goings-on, from infidelity to blackmail. Unfortunately, more homicides with the same M.O. follow, and two local mayors in Lee County demand that Delany find a suspect and make an arrest. Both mayors seem to be looking for a reason to hand the case to one of their friends: former Deputy Sheriff Hank Broderick. Delany is already taking anti-anxiety meds, stemming from a past tragedy, and upping his dosage has unpleasant repercussions, such as getting into a scuffle with strangers. The drug regimen also presents a potential obstacle to his newfound romance with medical examiner Sara Churchill. Once he finally has a suspect, Delany rushes to uncover hard evidence and give himself a chance to stop a serial killer. Ross’ (The Doll Brokers, 2014, etc.) novel is a masterful blend of character development and mystery. Bonita Palms residents, for example, dabble in assorted misdeeds while murders intermittently occur. This results in probable victims who are unsympathetic, but it also makes identifying the killer difficult. In contrast, Delany’s tenacity in resolving the investigation is admirable, despite his grim backstory in Chicago and troubles with prescription drugs. With so much focus on individual characters, the author keeps the plot moving with ease. His straightforward prose never graphically details homicides or the occasional sex. But the mystery eventually relies on Delany’s hypothesis—a wild speculation that gives him a break in the case. The ending, too, is bizarre, though undeniably memorable.
An entertaining, sometimes-erratic mystery with flawed but indelible characters.