SHADOW DANCERS by Herbert Lieberman


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A psycho-killer-stalks-Manhattan novel that recycles the middle-aged cop-hero and high-impact prose of Lieberman's best (Nightbloom, 1984) but that generates only the modest thrills of his The Green Train (1986) or Night Call from a Distant Time Zone (1982). This time, Lt. Frank Mooney is after both the Dancer--a savage serial killer who rapes, then kills--and his Shadow--a suspected copycat killer whose M.O. differs only slightly from the Dancer's. There's little apparent question about the identity of the two (although a stunning twist belies that appearance), whom Lieberman graphically depicts chalking up body counts: the Dancer is Warren Mars, a street-orphan grown into a feral killer who lives with a bag lady in her unlikely house on three acres in the heart of Wall Street; the other is Ferris Koops, the spacey, well-groomed heir to a trust fund who spends his spare time hanging out around the toy displays at F.A.O. Schwarz. Lieberman defines Warren and Ferris so well, in fact, that they lose their aura of mystery and thus of evil--they simply aren't scary (compare the masterfully fearsome aspects of the two killers in Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, 1988). Thus, no matter how much careful detail (procedural, forensic) or mechanical tension (Mooney threatened with firing if he doesn't score fast) Lieberman graphs on to the manhunt, it picks up steam only near novel's end, where, in a scene ripe with dread, Mooney confronts one killer in an abandoned sewer pipe. Some compensation for the lack of screeching suspense does come, however, from the story's human dimensions: Mooney's irascibility, his strong bond to wife and co-workers; a parallel, fascinating subplot of professional and sexual tensions between two pathologists. Competent, but nothing special--just Lieberman and Mooney (who's appealing but not series material) treading water, albeit with style.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1989
ISBN: 316-52417-4
Publisher: Little, Brown
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