In Hack’s (Cassidy’s Corner, 2013, etc.) latest thriller, a detective faces off against a dangerous killer desperate to find the mother who abandoned him years ago.
Frankie Chandler has bounced around foster homes ever since his father died and his mother, Angela, left him. What upsets Frankie is not that Angela fled the police, who suspected her husband’s stumble down the stairs was no accident, but that she deserted her own son. Years later, as Frankie searches for his mom while hiding under a different name, a series of murders of women the same age and appearance catches the attention of homicide investigator Danny Boyland, who worked Angela’s case back when he was a beat cop. Despite repeated references to Danny’s yearning for a whodunit, Hack’s crime novel isn’t that type of story; instead, it’s the incisive study of a murderer. The story is broken into first-person narratives, mostly from the perspectives of Danny and Frankie, but also Angela and Ellen, Frankie’s birth mother who likewise exited her son’s life and who Frankie initially doesn’t know exists. Frankie’s perspective—he’s 9 when his dad died and 25 in the present day—is often intense; he suffers under cruel, abusive people, including foster parents, and consequently garners a great deal of sympathy, regardless of his later actions. His account is so impassioned, in fact, that Danny winds up playing second fiddle in his third literary turnout. As such, his much-praised investigatory skills—the director of the FBI even vouches for him—aren’t really on display this book, since he tends to have revelations only after another person is found dead. Nevertheless, Danny’s guilt over his ruined marriage and estranged children—a welcome allusion to an earlier Boyland novel—relates to his taking blame for not helping Frankie when his mother abandoned him. Pitied or not, Frankie is a terrifying killer as he goes through a list of 32 females who resemble his mother; though he’s well into his 20s, he still refers to Angela as “Mommy.”
May not stir much interest in the Danny Boyland series, but a mesmerizing killer makes this story a triumph.