DEVIANT WAY by Richard Montanari


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A heavy-breathing debut thriller about a pair of sex-crazed serial killers and the lost-puppy cop who struggles to stay sober enough to nail them. Three young women with singles-bar habits have been found naked and dead in Cleveland motel rooms, their faces gaudily made up and strips of skin missing that once bore rose tatoos. Homicide detective Jack Paris has his hands full with alcohol and woman problems, but he's made head of the murder task force anyway. His hapless investigations include cruising the bars with pretty detective Cyndy Taggert; fielding calls from women who believe they've had run-ins with the handsome killer; and combing the city for fake mustaches like the one found tangled in one victim's hair. Meanwhile, a man who calls himself Pharaoh narrates occasional chapters detailing the seductions that precede the kills. The twist is, he's not acting alone: The murders are a uniquely bloody form of foreplay between Pharaoh and Saila, the woman he loves. The case seems closed when dandyish cop Tommy Raposo, a buddy of Paris's, is found with a bullet in his brain, a makeup kit in his car, and slices of skin in his freezer. Paris, however, is skeptical. Sure enough, his own 11-year-old daughter is kidnapped, and Saila puts Paris through a humiliating round of unpolicemanlike acts before she's brought to bay. Those hoping for illumination of the killers' pathology will be disappointed: A two-page chapter reveals that Saila's mother was a cosmetologist with a rose tatoo, and there's some hint that the singles-bar scene is lethally addictive, but that's it. Still, multiple depictions of sex games run amok will keep most readers turning the pages at a lively clip, and the killers' identities are a pleasingly slippery surprise. A lively, if inelegant, tour of the underbelly.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster