Meet Dr. Atkins, a serial killer so dubbed by the police of Bath, England, because he starves his victims to death.
Chris Honeysett, part-time painter, part-time sleuth, full-time pain in the neck to Bath’s constabulary, loves trouble. This time, however, he’s virtually blameless. Bath’s on edge because two local women have disappeared within weeks. When Chris accidentally stumbles on the cavern where Nikki Reid has been imprisoned, his concern escalates into terror. The emaciated woman dies before she can say anything that might have helped to identify her captor. Who could have hated her enough to treat her with such bizarre cruelty? And why does her killer hate Chris as well? His friend Alison, a fellow painter, turns out to be the next victim. A kidnap note warns Chris not to go to the police and informs him that he’s been drafted into a macabre cat-and-mouse game. If he can unravel the clues Dr. Atkins doles out, Allison gets to eat. If he fails, she goes hungry. Chris is Ali’s only lifeline; in the duel of wits he’s been forced into, her survival depends on his cleverness.
The riddling serial killer gambit is a bit worn around the edges, but Helton (Headcase, 2005) provides breezy prose and a lively cast to anchor a series that could get better.