Seattle man Martin Reese, a retired "dot.com superstar," has his obsession with finding the remains of long-missing young women disrupted when he crosses paths with a murderer who isn't happy with his grave digging.
Martin fancies himself a public servant in doing what police were unable to—giving closure to the families of the victims. He takes great satisfaction in taunting cops for their failures via anonymous phone messages following each of his discoveries. The only cop he doesn't scorn is one he befriends in order to lay his hands on cold case files. The bones he most covets are those of Tinsley Schultz, whose apparent murder 20 years ago so stoked his interest that he married her sister, Ellen. Things start going south for Martin when he is shaken to discover not only what he thinks is Tinsley, whose remains have been deposited in someone else's grave, but also a fresh corpse hidden beneath her. Stalked and manipulated by the killer known as the Ragman, Martin becomes a potential victim himself. Pressed to determine whether this notorious finder of bodies is responsible for the recent murder, newly promoted police detective Sandra Whittal finds herself breaking badly with standard procedure. Ripley, a pseudonym for Canadian writer Naben Ruthnum (Curry: Eating, Reading and Race, 2017), has come up with a fresh angle to the serial murder game. There's a certain Silence of the Lambs feel to the twisty narrative. But as clever and diabolical as the book is, Ripley's dry, calculating style has a way of neutralizing the horror. Perhaps if the novel didn't seem geared toward a sequel, it would have gone more for broke.
This unusual debut thriller has a lot going for it but may be too calculating for its own good.