Two detectives working for the FBI chase a killer choosing seemingly random victims from around the United States in this debut thriller, the first of a proposed series.
Elijah Warren, recruited by the FBI from a homicide task force, doesn’t get along with Aurelia Blanc, the bureau’s best forensic pathologist. But Director Clint Adams can’t deny that the two work well together. After they close a case in New York in early 1997, Adams makes them indefinite partners and puts them on a plane to Nashville, Indiana. There, small-town residents are shocked by the discovery of a body “melted” and cut into pieces. The detectives scrutinize the crime scene and question locals but don’t make much headway. That is, until Elijah and Aurelia both receive notes left in their hotel rooms, poetic stanzas clearly from a killer watching and toying with them. Meanwhile, in Colorado, rangers find the remains of a woman with an accompanying poem. Now pursuing a serial killer, the detectives follow a trail of victims from different states, while the now-dubbed Poetic Murderer leaves behind additional clues. In one instance, a man’s name is provided at the scene of someone else’s body, and it’s soon apparent that the killer has abducted said individual, all part of an appalling plan. Though readers will likely spot a significant clue before Elijah and Aurelia, Cady’s novel is a solid detective story thanks to a meticulous investigation. Numerous characters, for example, have input, from a medical examiner to Adams, who brags he’s found the best lead (“You’re welcome,” he adds). A slowly developing relationship between Elijah and Aurelia eases the mutual tension, and Cady fortunately keeps the light romance from overwhelming the ongoing case. Rich prose is at its most indelible when detailing perspective from the vicious “man wearing black”; vibrant descriptions are gloomy but no less fascinating, like a man who’s mentally and physically “being twisted in a barbwire blender of what made him human.” The killer coldly conversing with his victims makes him even more disturbing, telling someone his death will “help prove a point.”
The ending may not be a surprise, but characters enmeshed in a diligent investigation never fail to mesmerize.