Daniels’ debut is a psychological thriller, complete with a deranged but charismatic serial killer and a damaged but intrepid cop.
For her first major case, Atlanta homicide detective Beth Sturgis is thrown into the deep end: a scarecrow at a nearby farm has turned out to be a dead body mounted on a stake. Two equally grisly murders soon follow, and Beth notes that the murderer’s style resembles that of Howard Pell, a former FBI agent–turned-sociopath. Joining her investigation is retired detective Jack Kale, who had a violent confrontation with Pell before putting him in prison. For reasons that aren’t initially revealed, Kale is haunted by his memories of Pell’s rampage and is now fighting to stay sane and sober. As the bodies pile up, so do the Silence of the Lambs parallels: Pell has a refined sensibility and no apparent conscience, and Beth’s prison interviews get her caught in his mind games. Both Pell and his mysterious protégé are prone to elaborate murders that involve mummification and surgical instruments; and both have a deadly grudge against Kale.
The story’s execution is smooth if a bit predictable; the murders, chases, and last-minute rescues all arrive like clockwork. But Daniels provides a killer with a believable back story and motive, bringing the mystery to a satisfying conclusion.