A serial killer resurfaces after six years and targets victims connected in some way to the cop who captured his partner.
Black (The Killing Lessons, 2015) is back with his sophomore effort under this name—as Glen Duncan, he spilled blood through werewolves and vampires (By Blood We Live, 2014, etc.). Also back is Valerie Hart, his tough, attractive San Francisco homicide detective. When she nabbed the “exquisitely beautiful” Katherine Glass, the killer's male partner remained at large. The couple had money, looks, and brains, which they used to play videotaped sex and sadism games with their victims before the torture ended in death. More games are afoot when a raped, mutilated, murdered woman is found with a note addressed to Valerie promising more victims while Katherine remains in prison. (Yes, she’s wearing orange in the new Black!) Why her partner waited six years to spring her slowly becomes clear in otherwise mysterious one-page italic chapters. When a package of complex clues to the next victim arrives for Valerie, she is forced to seek Katherine’s aid in solving them. As a psychological thriller, this one has the added touch of Valerie’s prison interviews with Katherine, who feels an affinity with the cop, knows her lover, and constantly pokes into her mind. This Katherine’s intellectual toying suggests Sharon Stone’s Catherine in Basic Instinct. Black writes tension-release like a rock-ballad composer, with high-stress episodes suddenly visited by homely rumination. Much of the monstrous violence is offstage but not all, and the suggestions alone are strong enough. A surprisingly big clue is dropped early on, but it’s not necessarily a spoiler and may even have been intentional in this crafty piece of plotting. Black is a clever fellow, not least in Katherine’s mental acrobatics on the concept of evil.
A high-grade thriller strong on character, police procedure, and page-flipping tension.