An Australian writer’s fictional account of a serial killer catches the attention of a genuine murderer in De Michiel’s (Orchestrated Fate, 2013, etc.) thriller.
Jake Petersen is taken aback when retired cop Cary Layter shows up at his door asking for the source for his latest serial-killer story in Crime of Fashion magazine. It turns out that Jake made up the tale, but Cary has found parallels to his own 14-year-old daughter’s abduction two decades ago—including her name, Josie. Someone took her from her home and likely kidnapped other girls as well. Jake assures Cary that his upcoming story installment, which will reveal where the bodies are buried, is pure fiction. However, a real-life killer has also noticed Jake’s article and given him a couple of warnings, including an axe in his door and a phone call saying he saw Jake at his restaurant gig. Jake and Cary come to believe that a body or two may really be buried at a public park. The killer, meanwhile, amps up his threats, creeping into Cary’s home and trailing Jake’s girlfriend, Savina Carabini. Worst of all, the rate of his murders has accelerated. De Michiel abandons the mystery by revealing the killer’s identity early on, but he still delivers a stark procedural that shows the painstaking detail of proving that someone’s a murderer. The novel’s nuanced plot developments make it stand out; for example, Cary gets an assist from DS Fayne Breitling, who later becomes his love interest, and Savina is revealed to be the daughter of an infamous Italian crime boss. There’s also subtle humor, as when Savina repeatedly calls the killer “the axe murderer,” based solely on the bladed tool he left in the door. Cary is a licensed PI, but De Michiel ensures that amateur gumshoe Jake has razor-sharp dialogue at the ready, as when he responds to a cop’s dig about “playing detectives”: “Somebody has to.” In the end, the story resolves with a bit of a twist.
A meticulously plotted tale, headlined by two praiseworthy protagonists.