In Mucci’s thriller, a sheriff in a Philadelphia suburb surmises that a string of missing people is actually the work of a serial killer.
Christian DeAngelo is the new sheriff in town, promoted from deputy after Sheriff Holbrook succumbed to a heart attack. During Holbrook’s legendary reign, the town of Macon didn’t have a single murder in over 20 years. But Macon’s had its share of mysterious disappearances: a local reporter points out to DeAngelo that Roger Sharpe is the 11th missing person in as many years. Evidence suggests, however, that someone killed Roger, and DeAngelo, noting that at least some of the vanished have committed infractions (like meth-dealing/-manufacturing Roger), believes the others are murder victims as well. DeAngelo, a notorious drunk, may have to step away from the barstool if he wants to stop a murderer. Author Mucci sets up a juicy murder mystery, opening with a coldblooded murder and an early indication of conspiracy, with DeAngelo uncovering someone’s sizable deposits (i.e., payoffs). The sheriff’s investigation largely comprises DeAngelo perusing the files of the 10 preceding cases, making headway only when more than one witness steps forward and there are additional murders, these with actual bodies and crime scenes. Readers will likely piece together all the information and name a killer well before DeAngelo does. But the novel’s latter half really ignites. DeAngelo starts to overcome the town’s uncertainty of its latest sheriff (even Holbrook’s widow and the mayor had described him as an inept boozer). When he decides not to drink, DeAngelo and the story focus on the nitty-gritty particulars of the missing person cases, which might lead to a serial killer. Deer-related metaphors abound since the alleged murders happen at the height of deer-hunting season and readers are privy to a murder that resembles a hunt. But Mucci ensures that most of these are subtle and often playful; an anxious man’s panting, for example, is equated to a struck deer “lying on the ground, waiting to die.”
Readers may guess the ending, but the sheriff’s diligent investigation is worthy of cheers.