The presence of a potential terrorist group and a serial killer’s return amp up two private investigators’ deceptively simple caseload in this thriller.
Harry Powell may have made the right call when informing cops of Larry Janakowsky’s dead body at the New York hotel where Harry works security. His boss, however, promptly fires him, apparently for calling her at night. Janakowsky had been a private eye in Wilmington, North Carolina, the same place where Bernie Mannion asks Harry to help at his private detective agency. Janakowsky’s scrawled note, meanwhile, seems to associate armed forces–protesting radicals, the Military Liberation Front, with an upcoming Wilmington July 4th celebration. Sure enough, the group’s in North Carolina and includes David Dodd, a Marine who may be court-martialed for involving himself with government protesters. (Bernie’s looking into that via client —and David’s lawyer—JD Henzlein.) The mysterious death of Col. Bogart, reputedly spearheading the court-martial, is certainly suspicious. Meanwhile, missing girls who are turning up dead share similarities with recently uncovered skeletal remains of 12 women in Lebanon, Indiana, buried for nearly a decade. Only readers know that serial killer Lloyd Curtin, now a Wilmington resident, is methodically choosing his victims. Bernie’s finding his office ransacked and Harry’s dodging gunshots must mean that the gumshoes are getting close to exposing a killer—or terrorists. Olsinski (Death by RX, 2009) creates an intricate web connecting characters and subplots. Though they rely on happenstance too often, the links generate endless surprises. Lloyd, for one, is blood-related to a significant character, while David’s Army sister Carolyn once had a relationship with Harry. Characters are equally complex, with some, like Harry and Carolyn, with tragedies in their pasts. Others are darkly humorous: Lloyd, proud of his pirate ancestry, is upset the media’s dubbed him the Goat Man; the Lebanon bodies were found near a goat farm. Notable mistakes unfortunately mar the narrative: conflicting reports put the Indiana victims’ ages at all under 30 and also late 20s to early 30s; and Bernie tells colleagues his Lebanon cop nephew Robert is his cousin. Nevertheless, the book ends on a high note, a realistic conclusion in which not every murder is solved.
A deliberately convoluted detective tale that occasionally stumbles but consistently delights.