In the fifth of this archly titled series (East of the Arch, 2002, etc.), Detective Joe Keough tracks a killer angel or two.
The three St. Louis victims are girls, the three Chicago victims boys. Otherwise, the cases are eerily similar. Ages: eight, nine, and ten. M.O.: strangulation. Time frames: two to three days between murders. Well, then, is the killer a single commuting psychopath who hits the highway for the four- to five-hour trip between the two cities to get the work done, or a pair of them? And if there are duplicate murderers, are they cooperating, or is one a copycat? Joe is interrupted as he’s flying a kite (“It’s catharsis”) and charged with finding out. Detached from the FSKTF (Federal Service Killer Task Force), Joe and his partner head for St. Louis and Chicago respectively, where neither meets a warm reception. The local cops, predictably territorial, prove not merely distant but downright obstructionist. Facing resentment, however, is the lot of star-quality sleuths like Joe, and pretty soon he’s got a pair of suspects. Turns out the perps are indeed twins—Gabriel (St. Louis) and Sariel (Chicago)—divinely inspired, of course, and hooked on the hype their sanguinary efforts have generated. Are they partners, or a leader and a follower? Or is there still another explanation? There is indeed—as far-fetched as any in crime fiction’s serial-killer annals.
As for the rest: deliberate pace, pedestrian prose, monochromatic sleuth.