Nicky Parrish is one bad boy. He enjoys doing unspeakable things to women—after they’re dead, too. And is he ever sold on himself. He thinks he’s the smartest serial killer who ever lived, much smarter than anything the Las Piernas (California) PD can put up against him. And, just to show you how hubris can distort reality, he even thinks he’s smarter than series heroine Irene Kelly, ace reporter for the News-Express. He isn’t, though for a while he makes Irene’s seventh appearance (Liar, 1998, etc.) an authentic walk on the wild side. Why? Because Irene turns out to be Nicky’s type, and discovering that a serial killer wants to get it on with you in a highly psychotic way is enough to darken anybody’s worldview. Nicky, who in his best (read: worst) moments can be almost as unnerving as Hannibal L., proceeds to set his complex game afoot. He allows himself to get caught, promising to lead the cops (and Irene) to the gory grave somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains of his most recent blue-eyed brunette, then springs his trap. As a result, it’s Nicky and Irene one on one: a grim, nail-biting, life-and-death struggle that reaches its climax on page 175. Trouble is, there are 203 pages to go, during which little that happens (Irene has emotional problems, gets help; Irene has career problems, gets frustrated) equals what preceded it. Sure, Nicky overreaches and will pay the price for his unabashed wickedness, but it’s all so indefensibly long-winded. Taut and suspenseful early on, Bones goes soft around the middle.