Variations on a threadbare theme: the infernally brilliant serial killer, who this time thinks he’s Edgar Allan Poe, or Jesus Christ, or maybe both.
Susan Pulaski, late of the Las Vegas PD, is in a bad way. She’s just become ex-Lt. Pulaski because she can’t get her head out of the bottle. Luckily for her, young girls have been meeting grisly deaths accompanied by the sort of gnomic messages that smarty-pants psychos habitually leave behind to tantalize law-enforcement hotshots like Susan. Even though he fired Susan, LVPD Chief O’Bannon has no choice but to turn to her, since, drunk or sober, she’s the best he’s got. In turn, Susan calls on Darby O’Bannon, the chief’s 26-year-old son, an idiot savant with mediocre interpersonal skills but a world-beater when it comes to gnomic messages. Together they establish the Poe connection, but to what end? Are the increasingly messy murders leading to some sort of Edgar-inspired Apocalypse? Before Susan can figure it all out, she discovers that the killer, who once cast her as his own “beautiful Annabel Lee,” now thinks she’s betrayed him—and that the tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells is tolling her fate.
Bernhardt’s lawyer series (Hate Crime, 2004, etc.) has had its ups and downs, but ne’er so deep a plunge as this pulpy mix of uninspired plotting, warmed-over characters, and dialogue from the cutting-room floor.