DESERT KILL by Philip Gerard


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The action and descriptions in this haunting crime noir perfectly capture the beauty and brutality of its desert setting. Gerard (Hatteras Light, 1986) cleverly uses psychological insight and other, more conventional contemporary crime novel devices to great advantage while leaving many genre clichÉs behind. The story begins when English professor Roy Pope is asked by his uncle Paul, a Phoenix homicide detective, to identify what appears to be the mutilated body of Cindy Cailison, a part-time student in one of Roy's classes who, when not studying, made her living as a stripper. As the investigation drags on, Roy's wife, Eileen, becomes suspicious of her spouse's involvement in the case. Did Roy have a thing for good-looking Cindy, and was the attraction mutual? While trying to unravel that murder, Paul unearths other bodies in a similar state of dismemberment. He also discovers that the first corpse was not Cindy but some unlucky stranger dressed in her clothes. Now a brutal psychopath stalks the mean streets of Phoenix while the mysterious Ms. Callison's whereabouts are still unknown. Throughout these grim proceedings, a narrator, presumably the murderer, ""broadcasts"" from what he or she calls Base Station, describing in cryptic terms his or her crimes and motivations. These transmissions subtly imbue the reader with a mounting sense of dread as the hunt for clues in the desert landscape seems increasingly futile. After the perpetrator's gruesome hiding place in an abandoned mine is discovered, the investigation gets closer to the killer while the killer gets closer to the investigators. Then, seizing upon a disturbance during which Paul is wounded, Eileen disappears. Going after his wife, Roy eventually confronts the abductor -- whose identity has been cleverly hidden -- in a claustrophobic, chilling climax beneath the desert. A solid, satisfying read.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1994
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow