Giambanco’s (The Dark, 2014, etc.) Seattle-based detective tackles a new case while navigating her thorny past as two killers stalk the city.
Homicide Detective Alice Madison is living with Aaron Lever, her childhood friend–turned-lover, while coping with the hectic pace of the Seattle Police Department’s Homicide unit; then Matthew Duncan’s wife returns home from a run and finds her husband’s body. Matthew hasn’t simply been murdered, he’s been obliterated, beaten to an unidentifiable pulp and left in a broken heap. Meanwhile, John Cameron, a man from Alice’s dark past, has resurfaced. Cameron—who’s stalking and killing members of a drug cartel—and his friend Nathan Quinn, now senior executive counsel for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, grew up together and figured prominently in one of Alice’s old cases. In fact, Alice saved Cameron’s life 18 months previously, and with Cameron now on the prowl again, it appears that move may come back to haunt her, the same way her partner, Detective Sgt. Kevin Brown, may be haunted by one of his old cases. While Giambanco’s writing has only gotten better since she launched the Alice Madison series and is especially successful at evoking the city’s moodiness, the author stumbles with the overly complicated plotting. Scant back story is provided for the Cameron/Quinn part of the tale, but Giambanco devotes considerable literary real estate to continuing to follow them. Add in the second very complicated serial killer plot and an ever expanding number of named characters, and the story begins to take on the appeal of a history exam. There’s also the puzzling editorial choice of mixing a smattering of British terms into a tale set in Seattle ("recce" for reconnaissance, "beaker" for cup of coffee, "bin" for garbage). The generally excellent writing starts to sag under the accumulation of narrative flaws.
Evocative writing spoiled by complicated dueling plotlines and oddities that pull the reader away from the rainy, dark streets of a city under siege.