Tierney (Bullet Beach, 2011, etc.) serves up a dark, twisty little gem in which a pair of embittered detectives and a not-quite-dead victim combine irresistibly.
Inspectors Gratelli and McClellan are grizzled, rumpled and, often enough, despairing members of SFPD Homicide. This is truer of pot-bellied, nicotine-stained McClellan than it is of quieter, tougher-grained Gratelli, who has somehow managed to craft a coping mechanism. Not so his partner, whose world view has grown almost insupportably bleak. “It’s the survival of the sickest,” he insists, commenting on their daily work product. Moreover, both are depressingly aware that their colleagues—those smartly dressed, brainy new men—think of them as has-beens. So when they’re shunted aside, relegated to what seems a minor piece of a major investigation, they don’t like it, but they’re hardly surprised. A serial killer has been battening on the city’s young women, beating, raping and murdering them, then marking each with his signature, a roughly carved flower. Julia Bateman, too, has been beaten, raped and marked, but not quite murdered. Comatose, she clings to life. Will she prove to be the serial killer’s downfall? Certainly they don’t come much braver than Julia. Or more dogged than Gratelli.
Every year the genre has its Goliaths, bigger and better ballyhooed than this modest entry. Come Edgar time, however, Tierney’s well-written, tidily plotted, character-driven David of a book deserves to be remembered.