Detective Gabriel McRay returns to investigate a case of strangled female victims in the second installment in Stevens’ thriller series.
Tara Samuels is assaulted by a masked man but narrowly escapes with her life. She leads cops to a woman’s body, nearly decapitated with baling wire. Detective McRay, who’s on the outs with his girlfriend, medical examiner Dr. Ming Li, is drawn to Tara, despite her being a witness in an open case and a married woman. Meanwhile, more bodies with the same M.O. have been discovered, and an elusive killer is seeking new victims. Stevens’ (The Dark Before Dawn, 2011) novel is an enticing murder mystery with an unorthodox protagonist. Gabriel, particularly in his relationship with Tara, isn’t a typical hero in the role of protector; he empathizes with those who’ve suffered abuse, having been repeatedly molested by a neighborhood boy when he was seven. He’s a flawed character, one who was fired for police brutality and who’s constantly besieged by his own anger, but his ability to relate to victims will earn readers’ support. Stevens delights in playing with conventions set forth by past detective novels as the plot delves into the S&M world. The mystery of identifying the sadistic murderer stays in the foreground without being overrun by subplots. Stevens doles out several especially disconcerting moments, including an unexpected late-night visit to Gabriel’s apartment from a disturbed Tara and Gabriel’s attempt to speak with his estranged parents, whom he evidently blames for either not stopping or being unaware of the molestation he endured as a child. There are numerous references to the preceding novel in the series, but Gabriel and Ming are still reeling from the prior case, so it’s neither redundant nor a retread.
Respects the old-school murder mystery while showcasing contemporary characters.