Sprawling, pulpy account of the violent underbelly of Nashville, filtered through the career experiences of a veteran homicide detective.
A former police officer, Arntfield (Criminology/Western Univ., Canada; Gothic Forensics: Criminal Investigative Procedure in Victorian Horror & Mystery, 2016, etc.) argues that, following two foundational unsolved murders in the 1970s, the beloved “Music City” became a dark, violent locale haunted by merciless repeat offenders: “A sinkhole was about to open up beneath Music City to reveal a darkened recess—an abyss from which other odious and unfathomable things would soon come crawling.” The author focuses on the murders investigated by colorful central character Patrick Postiglione, a self-described “hoodlum” from New York whose service during Vietnam inspired him to pursue a law enforcement career: “He had to be a cop—a good cop.” Once in Nashville, Postiglione discovered that the city’s surface charm concealed surging street crime; “even iconic streets uptown were in complete disarray,” writes Arntfield. After several years of aggressive policing, Postiglione became a homicide detective, working complex, brutal cases of thrill killings in dive bars and serial rape-murders in cheap motels. The author argues that many of these typified “the hedonistic-thrill killer...a special breed of psychopath with an insatiable desire for stimulation.” Although Postiglione maintained an admirable clearance rate, by 2002, he’d organized a new unit to address the most violent and mysterious of these killings. “A full-time cold-case squad, even if unofficial, was a radical concept at the time,” writes the author. Postiglione relied on developments in profiling and DNA comparison, and he cleared the early unsolved rape-murder and child-abduction cases that haunted his colleagues since 1975. Arntfield writes capably about investigatory forensics and behavioral science theory in clarifying the motivations of these sadistic murderers, as well as the tactics developed over time by smart cops like Postiglione. Yet his prose tends to be melodramatic, with some repetition and lots of gratuitous description and asides.
A fevered yet mostly engrossing narrative of urban predators and the hardworking detectives who try to stop them.