The "See-No-Evil" serial killer is jailed awaiting trial, and the last thing Sheriff's Detective Tony Mendez needs is another murder victim, especially a beautiful young woman brutally stabbed and slashed.
Marissa Fordham, a rising young artist and the protégé of the wealthy Milo Bordain, is discovered murdered in her isolated cottage. Haley, her 4-year-old daughter, rests badly injured on her mother's bloody corpse. Mendez catches the case, ably assisted by Vince Leone, a retired FBI profiler who helped solve the "See-No-Evil" mystery. Leone has retired and married a local teacher, Anne Navarre, who was almost murdered by the jailed serial killer. Anne is now studying child psychology and working as a court-appointed special advocate in juvenile cases, and she persuades a reluctant Vince to let her care for Haley. That necessary and time-consuming task deflects her from counseling an apparently psychopathic middle-school student who has stabbed a classmate. Mendez and Leone have more than one suspect in Marissa's brutal murder, even though the victim isn't all—or is more than—she seems to be. Hoag (Deeper Than the Dead, 2009, etc.) again stages her mystery in Oak Knoll, a fictional town somewhere near the beautiful landscape surrounding Santa Barbara and Lompoc, Calif., and her gift for description makes the area come alive. The author also discovers a suitable set of suspects ranging from Bordain's Mercedes-dealer son, a mathematical genius and college professor with Asperger's Syndrome and mother issues, and a prosperous and adulterous attorney who may or may not have been linked to the "See-No-Evil" serial killer. The good guys are less dramatic, although Hoag's character sketches are memorable, right down to minor players like the county sheriff, Cal Dixon.
Fans of literate mysteries will appreciate the complex but realistic story, the satisfying resolution and the descriptive writing.