THE SERPENT'S MARK by Robert L. Duncan


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Crisp, by-the-numbers serial-killer-vs.-cop novel from an old and steady thriller hand (Brimstone, Fire Storm, China Dawn, etc). Peter Stein, former ""monster catcher"" for the NYPD, now just wants to enjoy the good life in Charleston, W. Va., where he's moved with wife Karen and young son Barn and has launched a successful criminological information service. Stein's bucolic bliss shatters, though, when a Las Vegas priest shows up with a shocking tale: a Vegas-based serial killer has confessed to the priest--and will kill again unless Stein will meet with him. Although shaken, Stein refuses, until the killer--revealed in bloody crosscut scenes as one Gordon Oliver Desmond (a.k.a.G.O.D.), a warehouse grunt who envisions himself a divine instrument intended to ""harvest"" people with blade or gun--snatches a little girl. Enraged, Stein flies to Vegas, links up with a local cop, and cat-and-mouses Desmond--who thinks Stein is a second divine instrument--with disastrous results: Desmond kills the girl and the priest, and vanishes. All the while, Stein's own life complicates--the professional side blooming as an oily security-firm magnate offers him millions to buy him out, the personal side wilting as his wife threatens to walk over his return to crime-busting. And then the kicker: Desmond flies to West Virginia and grabs Karen and Barn, planning to crucify the boy and then resurrect him, the ultimate harvest to prove Desmond's divinity. As gutsy Karen schemes and struggles to save her son, Stein races onto their trail: Will he show up in time? Familiar stuff--when was the last time a serial killer hasn't attacked the cop's family?--but told with gusto, and featuring a believable crazy with real teeth. So: not in the same league as the novels of Thomas Harris, or Ridley Pearson's Undercurrents, but a competent, sure, and swift read all the same.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's