Move over, Zodiac. The latest of the countless fictional serial killers you’ve inspired gives you a blistering run for your money.
Two decades after a mysteriously self-limited five-year murder spree that cost 11 Bay Area citizens their lives and cost Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Detective Mack Hendrix his partner, his peace of mind, and much of his sanity, the killer whom police departments in two Bay Area counties have dubbed the Prophet roars back with a vengeance. Mack’s daughter, Caitlin, a newly minted Narcotics detective with the ACSD, is detailed to Homicide in hopes that she can make use of her father’s encyclopedic knowledge of the case. Ignoring her distraught mother’s advice that “you’re throwing yourself into the volcano,” Caitlin struggles to tap Mack’s memory for forgotten insights, fight off the attentions of obnoxious East Bay Herald reporter Bart Fletcher, and anticipate the next move of the Prophet, aka Mercury. The Prophet meanwhile dispatches two pairs of victims—a waitress and a supermarket checker are whipped, strangled, and nailed to death, and the deaths of two partners are broadcast live in a coffee shop to a horrified audience in an unforgettably grueling set piece—but has to settle for only one of still another pair he’s targeted. Along the way, he leaves a series of taunting notes addressed to the wider public before focusing in particular on Caitlin, who luckily turns out to be just as clever as her diabolical prey when it matters most.
Every detail Gardiner (Phantom Instinct, 2014, etc.) uses to grease the skids is over-the-top, but readers sucked into this vortex won’t care; they’ll be too busy counting down the hours to the appearance of the promised sequel, which seems poised to begin about five minutes after the final scene.