Feckless psychopaths. Can those two words really be mentioned in the same breath?
Well, yes. And speaking of breath. . . . meet the Epps: Dr. Emily and Dr. Phil, anthropologists and serial killers. They kill for the sake of dying breaths, convinced that if they can suck these up in sufficient quantities they can live forever. Never mind how they came by this unwarranted (certainly unscientific) approach to immortality. What’s relevant is their unshakable belief in the concept’s validity and the ease with which surface ordinariness can blind the average citizen to rampant nuttiness. For 15 years, the Epps have gone about the business of population decimation “without so much as a cross word from the authorities,” Emily airily informs a potential disciple. True enough, but that period is about to come to an abrupt end with the advent of former FBI Special Agent E.L. Pender. He arrives at St. Luke (fictitious) in the Virgin Islands at the behest of embattled Police Chief Julian Coffee, a onetime colleague and unabashed admirer of Pender’s special abilities (“When it comes to serial killers, you're the man”). And no question about it, Chief Coffee does have a situation on his hands. Hands indeed. Right hands to be precise, which a sudden series of corpses have been materializing without. It doesn’t take long for Pender to sniff out the eccentricity in the Epp household, though catching the weird doctors red-handed, as it were, seems another matter entirely. But, then, who knew the silly pair would be cooperative enough to record 15 years of serial killing in meticulous, evidentiary detail?
Unsparingly gruesome in places. Still, it’s a colorful cast, sharply observed and wittily presented: Pender in love is almost as much fun as Pender the sleuth. By far, Nasaw’s third is his best yet (The Girls He Adored, 2001, etc.).