The sixth fast-paced entry in the Stevens-Windermere crime-fighting series (The Watcher in the Wall, 2016, etc.).
Runaway Ashlyn Southernwood knows better: “You don’t ever surf trains on the High Line,” because “there’s something evil up there” on the prowl for vulnerable young women like her. But she hops a High Line freight train anyway and doesn’t survive the Prologue. Soon, police find cellphone photos suggesting that someone is killing a lot of girls—forgotten girls—whom no one knows or cares about. But the violent-crimes task force of Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere cares a lot. He’s with Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, she’s from the FBI, and thriller readers won’t find a more dedicated series team anywhere. Windermere is the primary character, a “whip-smart” and beautiful African-American agent who's relentless in her pursuit of bad guys. There’s no obvious sexual tension between her and the happily married Stevens, who is close to being her equal. But there’s plenty of sexual tension in the “ghost rider,” who just can’t resist hopping the long-haul freight trains in search of more women to kill, especially the pretty ones. Stevens and Windermere know he’s killed at least 25. The villain is a survivalist who thinks of women as “ignorant beast[s], simple and cruel,” who have always rejected him. The former Army Ranger washout burns with anger and is “a damned evil soul” and “a creepy-ass dude” who finds killing to be fun. When one victim, Pamela Moody, barely escapes half dead from her injuries and the bitter winter cold, readers feel the chill. Maybe she can help the investigation, but only if she survives.
Laukkanen combines great storytelling with deep compassion for the underdog. Despite brief references to earlier cases, you can safely read the novels in any order.