Now that Inspector Sabrina Vaughn’s back in San Francisco Homicide, everyone wants a piece of her—her boss, her homicidal ex-lover, the Fourth Estate and, of course, a serial killer.
Relentless Sentinel reporter Jaxon Croft has mounted something of a crusade against Michael O’Shea, the high school sweetheart–turned–hired killer who came roaring so dramatically back into Sabrina’s life (Carved in Darkness, 2013). Croft, who’s already published enough about Sabrina to make her a media star, is dogging her footsteps and hectoring her with questions wherever she turns. Capt. Mathews, tired of watching the officers at the front desk lug in sacks of Sabrina’s fan mail, wants her back off Homicide instead of looking into the case of Kenny Denton, a seasoned convenience-store robber who departed from his usual script when he robbed David Song’s bodega and killed the clerk over a candy bar and $53. Mathews would be even more eager to show Sabrina the door if he knew about her latest epistle: a blood-red envelope inscribed to “Calliope” whose enclosed card says only “Mox” accompanied by the infinity sign. Luckily, Croft, who just happens to have double majored in journalism and classics, is in a position to explain that “mox” means “soon” in Latin, and Sabrina, alerted to her correspondent’s homicidal proclivities by the ritual slaughter of Berkeley sophomore Bethany Edwards, forms a fragile partnership with Croft to track down the killer as she herself moves steadily up the ranks on his list of potential victims.
All the characters, the quick and the dead, are forgettable, and the killer’s plot is as baroque and labored as any conceit Ellery Queen ever hatched but a lot less ingenious and compelling. The one thing that stays with you is Beaumont’s intensity, which would be scary if it were more sharply focused.