A serial killer and the woman he covets play an elaborate game of cat and mouse in this over-the-top thriller.
Jaff's disappointing debut follows the exploits of freelance art critic Katherine Emerson. It's summer in New York, and a serial killer à la Son of Sam is terrorizing the city. Known as the Sickle Man for the intricate wound patterns he leaves in his victims—all female, all found bound in their apartments—the killer has everyone on edge. Katherine narrates her story in the first person, and in alternating chapters overflowing with meaningless metaphors—"addiction is metallic," "pure relief is the color of a ripe peach"—the killer tells his own story in second person, an overused technique that's notoriously difficult to pull off (Jaff does not succeed). Though Sickle Man is focused entirely on Katherine, her attention is split between two new men in her life, who happen to be best friends: sweet lawyer David and bad boy tech CEO Sael. Even an inattentive reader will make the connection between the pair and the killer on the loose. Also woven throughout are excerpts from a medieval manuscript that Katherine and David saw on their first date and that supposedly correlates to the story; in reality, it's merely distracting. Jaff brings nothing new to the table, trotting out well-worn clichés and plugging in cookie-cutter characters.
Katherine—and the police investigating the Sickle Man murders—could have saved time and solved the case much faster by consulting any number of stronger examples in the serial-killer subgenre.