A vigilante patrols the San Francisco Bay Area looking to stop pedophiles and other criminals from kidnapping or hurting any more young girls in Muthiah’s debut thriller.
When someone abducts teen Amanda Rivera from a mall parking lot, cops respond quickly. But it’s not authorities who save the girl; it’s a monk, complete with shaved head, blue eyes, and a red monastic robe. He brutally murders Amanda’s kidnapper and writes “Stay Away” on the dead man’s forehead. This being the second murder to feature the same scribbled message, the FBI sends its Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team. But CARD agents and feds seem to be steps behind the killer monk, who’s keeping a close eye on the sleazes with a penchant for young females. The killer is clearly a skilled fighter, and, at one crime scene, FBI intern Samantha Cruz recognizes the possible aftereffects of an Indian multibladed urumi. While the killer does prevent a rape, he primarily rescues abductees—and it turns out these kidnappings may not be random. Someone apparently spearheading the recent attempted-kidnapping spree decides to go out and snatch girls on his own. And this gives the killer a chance to thwart a potential human trafficking ring. Readers are (eventually) privy to the killer’s identity, plus a comprehensive back story that gives the protagonist both incentive and sympathy. At the same time, the author wisely doesn’t dwell on the feds analyzing crime scenes since they’re far behind readers. Female characters are typically victims, so Samantha is refreshing, an exuberant criminology student wanting to do a story on “the killer who kills all the bad guys.” It’s disappointing, however, that she has few appearances and contributes little to the plot. Muthiah provides an assortment of baddies, from an unsavory photographer to a despicable high school jock.
It’s hard not to root for a protagonist ridding the world of scum, even if he’s a merciless killer.