A serial killer’s misguided revenge endangers a Los Angeles homicide detective as well as his loved ones in this third installment of a series.
DS Gabriel McRay knows for certain he’s arrested the Malibu Canyon Murderer. The killer, Victor Archwood, confessed to Gabriel while trying to murder him after burying alive medical examiner Dr. Ming Li. Ming, Gabriel’s girlfriend, fortunately survived. But a lack of hard evidence against Victor and a surprise during his trial mar the chance for a guilty verdict. Gabriel fumes as Victor subsequently wins the public’s approval, seen as a man wrongfully accused. But Victor has his sights set on Gabriel. The two share a past: Gabriel had once been Victor’s babysitter. Young Victor confided in Gabriel that his grandfather was sexually abusing him. But Victor’s mother later convinced her son that Gabriel was the abuser. While Gabriel investigates another case, he periodically spots Victor, who’s clearly keeping an eye on him by following him around LA. It seems Victor has a plan involving Gabriel. While he’s an unmistakable menace to the detective, Victor also poses a threat to Ming and Gabriel’s estranged family, with whom he’s recently tried making amends. Stevens’ (Deep into Dusk, 2013, etc.) dense installment is a skillfully woven tapestry of subplots and character development. Gabriel’s backstory, for example, both gives the protagonist depth and links him to his serial-murderer nemesis. The detective also suffered abuse as a child, which he suppressed for years. Nevertheless, the story remains focused on Victor’s desire for vengeance, which leads to a lengthy, horrifying final act. Remarkable characters, in addition to Gabriel, enrich the narrative: Ming, who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and Victor, whose diligence makes him a disturbing but memorable killer. Though the author eschews graphic descriptions of violent acts, her crisp prose leaves a lasting impression (“Her deputy coroner…used rib shears to snap the ribs so that Ming could easily lift away the breastplate”).
A taut thriller with complex characters and an unforgettable villain.