Hightower, whose Satan's Lambs (1993) won a Shamus Award for best first p.i. novel, shows an equally gritty mastery of the police procedural with this tale of homicide cop Sonora Blair, one tough lady--just ask her colleagues in the Cincinnati PD, or the ex-lover she briskly disposes of--who meets her match, though, in the woman who's handcuffed Mark Daniels to the steering wheel of his brother's car, doused him in gasoline, and set him afire. Dogged police work by Sonora & Co. reveals a pattern of identical crimes stretching back seven years, but it's no stretch to get a voice recording of the perp, who alternately phones Mark's brother Keaton to brag and threaten (""He was brave. Will you be?"") and Sonora to warn her off Keaton. Convinced that she's close to putting a name to the killer, Sonora allows herself to get involved with him anyway--and sees her family suffer a horrifying revenge before she reaches a final confrontation with the unsmiling murderer that's as disturbing as any scrap of prison dialogue since The Silence of the Lambs. Hightower takes one of the hoariest clichâ€šs in the genre--the psychokiller doubled with the cop on the edge--and by reimagining psycho and cop as three-dimensional women, produces something miraculously fresh and harrowing.