The Dramatic True Story of the Detective Who First Used DNA Testing to Catch a Serial Killer
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 A propulsive true-crime thriller about the first use of DNA fingerprinting to nab--and ultimately execute--an American murderer. Trial attorney Mones (When a Child Kills, 1991) has a surefire story line here, with fascinations wholly apart from the obvious tie-in to the O.J. Simpson case. Detective Joe Horgas is a blunt, pugnacious, 16-year veteran of the Arlington County (Va.) Police Department, the kind of cop who challenges superiors and alienates colleagues in monomaniacal round-the-clock manhunts. In December 1987 he gets the assignment of his career: to catch the man who raped and slowly strangled to death a 30-ish, white female writer living alone in suburban Arlington. Horgas immediately spots parallels between this case and other recent rape-murders in Arlington and nearby Richmond, but when he presents his theory of a single murderer--a black parolee named Timothy Spencer--to his fellow officers, they shoot him down. The FBI said to look for a white suspect, they tell him. Besides, one of those rape-murders had already been solved: David Vasquez, a young janitor of borderline intelligence, had confessed to the crime and was serving 35 years for it. So Horgas contacts Lifecodes, a laboratory located in Valhalla, N.Y., one of the pioneers of DNA profiling. Over the next ten weeks, Lifecodes tests blood and semen stains found at rape-murder scenes dating back to 1983. Finally, after an excruciating wait, they present their conclusion: Horgas was right. Timothy Spencer was indeed the lone ``South Side Strangler,'' and David Vasquez, despite his ``confession,'' was innocent. Horgas, the abrasive renegade detective, seems almost a fictional creation, but Mones brings to his story gritty, specific descriptions of high-tech forensics that will fascinate true-crime buffs and mystery fans alike. Novelistic suspense, strong characterization, plus state-of- the-art crime-solving add up to a natural for summer reading lists. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-70348-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995


NonfictionBAG OF BONES by J. North Conway
by J. North Conway