Montanari’s latest thriller (The Echo Man, 2011, etc.) reunites Philadelphia detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne in the hunt for an elusive killer.
Prior to his death, Detective John Garcia worked a strange and horrific murder case involving a nondescript businessman found dead in a Philadelphia park with a stake driven into the back of his head. But Garcia, suffering from an undetected brain tumor, did little to solve the case, so it sat dormant until Balzano and Byrne draw it from the cold case files. Soon, there’s another murder that’s tied into the first one, and it’s every bit as terrible and mystifying. The investigating team unearths clues that make no sense: Old photos of elderly people shown nude and performing bizarre sex acts, a box of cash, a raggedy looking man who shows up at odd moments and a very old abduction that has haunted a retired police detective for many years. While Balzano struggles to balance law school with motherhood and her job, her partner, Byrne, deals with his daughter going off to college and becoming an independent young woman, despite her deafness; but the case wreaks havoc with their private lives as it grows more and more complex. And that complexity forms the crux of the problem with this novel. Flashing back and forth between times, places, and points of view and including one massive coincidence, Montanari piles on the details, but many of them are so convoluted that they serve only to confuse readers as they also progress the storyline. In the end, when most readers will expect the case to be wrapped up, almost as many questions as answers remain, leading readers to conclude that the Philadelphia Police Department, though capable of deploying dozens of officers and two supposedly crack detectives to catch the killer, isn’t all that good at its job.
Overly complicated and confusing in places but with pacing that makes the prose crackle.