This dark thriller is a fast-paced plunge into a hell that reeks of sex and blood.
Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist Danny Ryan gets right to the point: “We’re all dying, so we might as well get on with it.” He finds his friend and colleague Michael Cohen gut-shot and dying in a BMW on his property, and the victim’s dying word is “Inferno.” Danny’s wife, Beth, and son, Conor, had died in an accident almost a year earlier, so the coincidence of so many deaths is not lost on detectives John Novell and Sean McFarland. They suspect Danny may be good for the crime. But clearly someone has it in for Danny, who gets mysterious phone calls demanding he turn over a package he doesn’t think he has. And then he finds his poor dog, Beowulf, bludgeoned, dead in a pool of blood. In his car, Danny finds a woman’s human heart wrapped in a G-string and later finds the rest of her body in his bed. Inferno, he learns, is an organization that runs sex clubs with a clientele that includes important people having kinky sex. A congressman is burned to death, 22 girls have already been strangled by the Sandman, who is also suspected in the Ticonderoga-pencil killing of Danny’s brother, Junior (a No. 2 to the temple). Lots of people meet untimely ends at the hands of delightfully disgusting villains such as Mason, who sees in Danny “beauty wrought by the exquisite hand of suffering.” Repetition of William Blake’s line “Some are born to endless night” weaves an apt theme throughout. The novel’s title, of course, is from Dante’s Inferno, where some of the victims are bound for “the eighth circle with the other hypocrites and frauds.”
This dark debut isn’t for everyone, but it’s great for what it is: tight, well-crafted, and nasty. It nails the noir.