Susan Shader (Eyes, 1998), a renowned Chicago psychiatrist with psychic powers, returns in a stomach-turning, explicit mix of sexual obsession, torture, and murder.
The stage is set for Shader's second adventure when a Wisconsin third-grader is abducted during a school trip. The child's body is found a week later in a muddy farm field. There is strong physical evidence that the murder was committed by Calvin Wesley Train, a loner from Oklahoma with a long list of convictions for sex crimes. Shader's expert testimony helps convict him, and he's sentenced to death. Now the story shifts to Chicago and a new series of murders. The young female victims are ritually tortured by someone with religious hang-ups and a fascination with Romeo and Juliet—someone who spills his semen into the victims' wounds, mixes his own blood with theirs, and earns the nickname “The Undertaker” for his habit of leaving their corpses in body bags. Because all his victims recently had abortions, police wonder whether the culprit has a medical background of some sort—or whether he's a demented right-to-life zealot. After Detective David Gold calls on Shader and her psychic powers to find the killer, she visits the morgue and gets an intriguing clue from the corpse: “Civil blood . . . civil hands.” Meanwhile, one of Shader's private patients, a clinically depressed rich girl named Wendy, can't stop from indulging in sweaty, gratuitous sexual interludes with men from lower social classes. As Shader collects psychic clues, the Undertaker plans his final abduction, that of TV news anchor Meredith Spies. Only after the killer is caught in the act does Calvin Wesley Train return for a final dose of unrelated grisliness.
Below-average prose and over-the-top plotting by a pseudonymous, allegedly best-selling author.