Small-town Tilton, Virginia, already rife with vice and corruption, adds a serial killer to its ranks in this mystery by Motley (Thrill Kill, 2009, etc.).
While investigating the beheading of an African-American man, Detective Zack Townes and Sgt. Kim Patterson discover that he dealt drugs, and that he was most likely murdered by people masquerading as migrant workers. As more grisly killings occur, Zack and Kim realize that a serial killer may be stalking Tilton. Enter the petite, lovely FBI agent Becky Talley, who quickly becomes the cops’ best friend. Zack is so distracted by the case (and his social life) that he’s disturbingly unconcerned by his teenage daughter Kathy’s arrest on prostitution charges, and he fails to act when she runs away. Meanwhile, Texas native Maria is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, and she seeks revenge on three men who raped her as a young girl and left her for dead. Her quest brings her to Tilton, where, under an assumed name, she becomes a dancer at Big Nasty’s Naughty Women club. She forms an unlikely attachment to the repulsive Big Nasty himself, whose only redeeming qualities seem to be his talents for making money and sexually satisfying women. Maria has only one true target in Tilton, but she doesn’t hesitate to take her revenge on any other middle-aged male who seeks a dalliance with her. Overall, the novel is an absorbing mystery, and its tone is surprisingly noir for a contemporary mystery set during the late summer in the American South. It falls only a little short of being exceptionally good, due to the one-dimensionality of most of its characters and the implausibility of Zack’s disregard for a daughter he claims to love. Similarities of circumstance, the natures of the crimes, and the setting are all that bring the three disparate storylines together, and the abrupt ending is consistent with the lack of development in other aspects of the story.
An often intriguing, if flawed, novel that fans of formulaic mysteries will likely enjoy.