The streets of Philadelphia swim with blood in the latest Byrne and Balzano adventure.
Kevin Byrne, one of Philly’s best homicide cops, and Jessica Balzano, his former partner who's become a prosecutor, team up to stop a killer who’s brutally murdering people with no apparent connection. The first killings, of a family named Rousseau, leave a woman, her husband, and their teenage son dead. All three have been duct-taped to chairs and shot once in the chest. In addition, the mother’s face has been cut off. Other murders follow, all identical in nature. Each time, the victim’s face has been hacked off and an old linen handkerchief with a strange five-letter word written in blood is found at the scene. Witnesses also report seeing a singing woman in white nearby. Flashback to Byrne’s childhood, when he and three other boys roamed the Irish neighborhood known as the Devil’s Pocket. When a little girl named Catriona is murdered, the boys immediately know who killed her: a degenerate named Des Farren, the not-quite-right son of a murderous criminal family When Des is killed, Byrne has his suspicions as to the killer’s identity, and the memory of the day the little girl died floods back when another Farren is implicated in the citywide killings. Montanari creates rich, interesting characters, but he spills buckets of blood and brutally murders everyone who crosses his killer’s path. Fans of writers who keep the carnage to a minimum will find Montanari’s bloody stories both disturbing and rife with unnecessary violence; those who like their bad guys depraved, killings graphic, and violence amped to high volume will find this and the author’s other works more to their liking.
Montanari researches his books well, but the almost clinical explanations of police procedure add little to the narrative and serve mostly as a vehicle to yank the reader out of the story.