In Churchill’s debut thriller, two sisters team up to catch a serial killer before he murders again.
Rachael Pennington, a police officer in Bullhead City, Ariz., is chasing down a serial killer who’s terrorizing the women of Bullhead and Laughlin, Nev., two desert towns separated by the mighty Colorado River. Every year, the killer, known as El Jefe, kidnaps a woman he hopes will become his wife, and imprisons her as his personal sex slave. On the same date every year, he inevitably becomes dissatisfied with the woman as a potential spouse and kills her; he then cuts out her heart and dumps her body in a dramatic fashion. As this novel begins, El Jefe is due to dump his sixth victim, Melissa Gordon, on July 30 and kidnap his seventh. Rachael’s older sister, Amanda, is working undercover for the FBI on an assignment that brings the two sisters together in the hunt for El Jefe. Meanwhile, both women worry about the safety of their naïve younger sister, Meg, who lives in Bullhead City—the killer’s stomping grounds. Any good cop novel features a final showdown between the killer and the hero, but in the lead-up to this final confrontation, readers may find it all too easy to guess the identities of both the serial killer and his next victim. There are also a few dubious plot elements; for example, why doesn’t the police department pull out all the stops to save Melissa instead of simply waiting for El Jefe to make a move? The story also takes a long detour during which Rachael vacations on the island of Catalina, seeking to fix her relationship woes. Overall, it’s a fine thriller that might have been much better, as Churchill has a smooth prose style, reminiscent of Michael Connelly, and clearly has great potential.
A readable thriller hampered by awkward plot developments.