In Krebs’ (Fractured Persona, 2011) thriller, a writer tries to help police stop a serial killer, but he finds himself at the center of the investigation when he becomes the murderer’s new obsession.
Former investigative reporter Benjamin Tucker is having trouble following up his hit true-crime novel, Deception. His offer to aid Cary, North Carolina, cops search for a serial killer is, at least in part, so he’ll have material for his next book. But Ben’s mentioning his involvement with the taskforce on a TV interview unfortunately catches the killer’s attention. The murderer, who’s been decapitating female victims, next goes after someone close to Ben, making the writer a possible target as well as a police suspect. He struggles to help track down the killer, whose constant contact with Ben involves threats against wife Maggie and Special Agent Lainie MacKenzie, an FBI profiler whom Ben gets to know quite well. Krebs’ protagonist is multifaceted and endlessly fascinating. He’s linked to girlfriend Christine’s murder from nearly two decades ago when he was 18—a rape/mutilation death that uncannily resembles the present-day murders. Ben’s home life is also brimming with melodrama, including a volatile relationship with ex-wife Jennifer and tension with Maggie, whose friends and family believe Ben married her—CEO of a department-store empire—for money. Yet Ben clearly loves Maggie and treats stepdaughter Julie as his own, which only heightens the unmistakable sexual tension between him and Lainie. Krebs expertly weaves suspense with welcome breeziness: Ben often has a revolver handy—a killer is apparently following him, after all—but scenes feel lighthearted, with the narrative repeatedly referring to the gun by its absurd name, Pure Reason. On the mystery front, there isn’t much. Ben scours some crime scenes for clues, but the story’s latter half consists primarily of the writer and Lainie staying at his home and waiting for the murderer to stop by. That doesn’t much diminish the intensity, which includes more murders, Ben pursuing the killer on foot, and a few gleefully cringe-worthy moments: for instance, victims’ heads aren’t with the bodies, but they eventually pop up.
The investigation is a bit sparse, but the menacing killer terrifies and entertains.