An LAPD detective goes out on an emotional limb chasing a violent serial killer.
Lena Gamble and her new partner, Hank Novak, are called to an early morning crime scene in a small house near the Pacific Coast Highway. The bloody crime scene recalls Lena’s first homicide case, the recent murder of Teresa Lopez, whose husband, Jose, currently sits in jail awaiting trial. Today’s victim, Nikki Brant, may have been raped before her brutal murder. Suspicion naturally falls on Nikki’s husband James, who has a shaky alibi and an alleged history of violence against his wife. The reader alone knows that Nikki did not see the face of the sex partner she assumed was her husband shortly before her murder. James hires high-profile lawyer Buddy Paladino, who can’t (or doesn’t) stop his client from taking a lie detector test, which he fails. But Lena’s slam-dunk arrest is abruptly turned upside-down when DNA results clear James and link the crime to the Lopez murder. The press dubs the killer Romeo. The pressure’s on Lena at a time when she’s already dealing with the death of her drug-addicted brother David and the new demands of her promotion to detective.
A complex portrait of the flawed but righteous Lena by Ellis (The Dead Room, 2002, etc.) makes this sure-footed police procedural something special.