A murder mystery lifted straight from the diary of a serial killer.
Stephens (Aloha Means Goodbye, 2012) introduces a cycle of murder doomed to repeat itself. Marcus Carter and his partner, Angela Darden, are investigating a series of disturbing homicides when the killer’s pattern suddenly changes. Instead of targeting only female prostitutes, whose faces he removes post-mortem with a knife, the murderer starts victimizing people close to Marcus: his grandfather, who recently passed away, and even Angela’s own family. In between the action, Stephens keeps readers engaged with glimpses into the journal entries of a madman whose killing spree in the 1940s matches some of the details in the present-day murders. Each time readers step inside his head, they learn a little more about the psychology behind the crimes. To the killer, who receives his instructions from a demon, the only way to speak to God is to work with the devil. As the case unravels, Stephens uses supernatural influences in place of scientific explanations, and only at the end does he offer a less fantastical theory. Still, the lack of a traditional smoking gun makes for an unsettling read, even if it does lay out a premise that’s been explored before, most notably in Hollywood. This version reads like a series of plot points; characterizations aren’t much deeper than what’s necessary to drive events forward and maintain suspense. For many readers, though, this murderous tale will be a page-turner, an easily digestible thriller with a few effective images—creepy mannequins that appear seemingly from nowhere; the sagging, peeled faces of the dead; and disembodied voices that speak of unstoppable evil.
Not particularly original but sure to unnerve.