A pathology resident investigates a series of murders tied to a killer she fought off years earlier in Schwalbe’s (Toro!, 2015) sequel thriller.
Since she survived a near-death encounter with a serial murderer known as “Toro,” Dr. Allie Parsons has received occasional notes from someone claiming to be him. The latest anonymous message, however, is unusual; it’s written in a child’s scrawl and, among other things, warns Allie that Toro “will kill us all!” Around the same time, Cordelia Mutare, a local woman, kills Herman Warner in self-defense and claims that he’d said that Toro had ordered him to murder her. Allie speaks with Cordelia, who implies that they share a link with Toro’s victims; she further references “Druden,” a name from the anonymous note. That’s all that Allie gets before cops push her away from the case, as Cordelia’s attorney is Allie’s fiance, Duncan Maxwell. On her own initiative, Allie learns of two unsolved murders that Herman may have committed as part of a “kill list.” And there’s a chance that she; her teenage daughter, Chrystal; or her old pal Andrew are on that list, as well. Schwalbe’s novel is packed with details, as in Allie’s back story: she’s a former stripper and drug addict with a somewhat mysterious background, and very little is known about her father. Various suspicious characters help to boost the tension; for example, Lady Dana Donahue, the CEO of genetic-research company Minos Corporation, professes to know Allie’s dad. Other players provide effective comic relief, such as Allie’s boss at the morgue, Dr. Bartles, who seems more invested in a true-crime TV series that he hosts. The dialogue, however, is sometimes stilted, as when an agitated Chrystal tells her mom, “Please listen to me. I implore you.” The madcap final act includes a plot twist that inches the thriller toward an entirely different genre while also providing a satisfying conclusion.
An entertainingly hectic tale featuring an eccentric protagonist.