DEAD GAME by James Neal Harvey


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 They keep moving NYPD's Lieutenant Ben Tolliver around--now he's in Special Investigations--but it doesn't matter; all he keeps drawing are serial sex killers like Edward Razek. Razek is a real romantic. He brings flowers and a condom to his tryst with Jan Peterson, then shares some soothing endearments with her before he rapes and strangles her. His motive? For one thing, he's a hardcase nutcase--something the cheeseheads at the Stanipac Hospital for the Criminally Insane were too lily-livered to realize when they declared him completely cured nine years after his last little experiment in homicide. But besides having some unresolved hostility toward women, Razek's got a grudge against Tolliver, who arrested him last time, and is determined to frame him for his current spate of killings. Tolliver, of course, isn't taking Razek's behavior lying down; he immediately recognized the signature postmortem treatment of Jan Peterson's corpse. But when he confronts his quarry, Razek, now a wildly successful commodities trader whose boss suspects nothing, laughs in his face. It's the old race between the dogged cop and the game-playing killer--a race that's handicapped by the fact that the killer, even though his alter ego, ``the thing,'' tells him that he's ``the number-one player of all time,'' is only moderately clever in executing his murderous plans, and Tolliver, who ought to realize what he's up against, isn't much smarter. The real handicap, though, is Harvey's dependably penny-dreadful writing, which purges every character of the slightest subtlety (Razek is a comic-strip bogeyman, his psychiatrists a bunch of wimps who think Megan's Law is unconstitutional, Tolliver's newscaster girlfriend a good- looking cipher stenciled Threaten Me Last) that might make this familiar saga worth caring about. Not as floridly sadistic as Tolliver's other cases (Mental Case, 1996, etc.), but still no place you'd want to spend a weekend.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15100-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


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