A deranged serial killer is captured and brought to justice. That’s usually the end of a good thriller, but it’s the start of this unusually thoughtful first novel, which relies more on character studies than gory details.
As the book opens, a string of murders in Denver is definitively pinned on Jacky Seever, a respected restaurant owner who’s been stashing victims in his crawl space. But the cops who capture him are no paragons themselves: Detective Ralph Loren has an abusive temper and a strange fascination with Seever, to the point of dressing up in his clothes. His long-suffering partner, Paul Hoskins, is also prone to violent mood swings. His sometime lover is Sammie Peterson, a journalist whose career is made by the exclusive Seever stories Hoskins feeds her. Everyone is still scarred when the story resumes after seven years: Seever is in jail, Loren is still on the force, Hoskins has been demoted after one of his outbursts. Having lost her connection for news exclusives, Sammie is now selling makeup in a mall. And Denver suddenly sees a new string of murders that look suspiciously like Seever’s. This time the suspects include Seever’s wife, Gloria, who managed to stay oblivious while the bodies were being buried.
The pace is unusually slow for a thriller with no grisly murder scenes, but that’s part of the book’s strength. It’s the escalating psychological tension and the interactions of three-dimensional characters that lift this well above the serial-killer norm.