Prolific author O’Rorke (Gemini Girl Murders, 2013, etc.), a former probation officer and youth counselor, offers the second installment in her Astrology Mysteries series.
This rousing follow-up whodunit once again stars young, vibrant Christian Vargas, a Washington state police department probation officer who, on the second anniversary of her husband Tony’s death, finds herself embroiled in another murderous melodrama. After Mormon runaway Whitney Clist, a pregnant teenager, is brutally bludgeoned and tossed into an already occupied casket before it’s buried, Vargas is on the scene. The investigation centers on a thriving satanic cult of sanguinarians (people who believe they must consume blood to maintain their health) governed by an evil leader named Cancer. What Vargas learns about the devoutly religious, greatly troubled Clist family puts her hot on Cancer’s trail through leads offered by kids close to Whitney, namely Stephanie, an astute crime lab technician, as well as Whitney’s oppressed mother and Doug, a gay ex-Mormon friend. Ignoring threats and warning signs to back off, Vargas moves in to apprehend the cult’s ringleader, who she discovers runs a malevolent satanic temple aimed at recruiting vulnerable teenagers—and he’s also a Clist family relative! A road trip to a nefarious, rigidly operated Mormon polygamist camp in Utah sets the scene for a showdown pitting Vargas and her rescuers against the felonious cult leader. Her investigative partner, Daniel, and current lover, Matt, are also along for the ride in this installment, bringing some much-needed romantic relief to a suspenseful, treacherous mystery. Some of O’Rorke’s narration becomes compromised by awkward prose and dated references—one young suspect is “hella scared”; another has a MySpace profile—but that won’t deter fans eager to catch up with Vargas, a brave, impulsive police heroine.
Some delightfully astute sleuthing runs through this tightly written second case, fully stocked with menacing villains, tireless investigators and romantic intrigue.