Detective Gabriel McCray, the prime suspect in the Malibu Canyon serial killings, grapples with the ghosts of his tormented past in Stevens’ (Follow Your Dreams, 2009, etc.) dark murder mystery.
Set in the Santa Monica Mountains, the novel begins with the termination of Det. Gabriel McCray, who is serving a suspension for police brutality. Meanwhile, the Malibu Canyon murderer lures unsuspecting victims into the mountains, carving them up with an old Army knife before engulfing them in flames. When the serial murderer leaves a peculiar message lodged in a gaping hole in a victim’s chest, three things become apparent—the perpetrator knows Gabriel, he or she is intent on revisiting his past and the Los Angeles Police Department cannot solve the case without reinstating him. With Gabriel back on the case, Stevens sets the stage for graphic sensory details and a fast-paced, tantalizing mystery that utilizes her passion and research in forensics and psychology. From fingers still displaying wedding bands to severed ears, the serial killer collects one gruesome souvenir after another in an attempt to achieve the seven chakras of power. As the plot unfolds, dialogue between Gabriel and his psychologist Dr. B produces revelations about “Gabe’s” childhood, and his suppressed memories are extracted through hypnosis. Stevens seamlessly integrates flashbacks of Gabriel’s life in San Francisco as a neglected child and his traumatic experiences with Andrew Pierce. Readers will relate to the San Francisco and Los Angeles settings, and Stevens’ allusions to “Cask of Amontillado” and Frankenstein craft a story immersed in theater, disguise and secrecy. In the midst of the upheaval caused by the unsolved murders, the author provides Gabriel with a fascinating love interest, Ming—the chief medical examiner assigned to examine the victims’ bodies. Gabriel’s bouts of violent behavior and incessant blackouts at inopportune times leave him as the prime suspect and thrust him into a world of self doubt, old wounds and suppressed memories in which key clues are concealed.
Memorable characters, macabre scenes and a dazzling portrayal of reality will leave readers anxious for book two in the Gabriel McCray series.