Jack Ryder’s latest case involves a dismembered body, and a precursor to a string of deaths, in this first thriller of a series featuring the Florida detective.
Jack’s been at the Sheriff’s Department in Cocoa Beach for seven years, but only now has his first homicide assignment: Laura Bennett’s partially mutilated corpse that cops find in her bedroom. Her husband, Brandon, who claims he slept through the murder, is unsurprisingly the first suspect. But Laura’s estranged father was John Platt, the celebrity writer who bequeathed his millions to the daughter he didn’t know and possibly incited his three other children. So it can’t be a coincidence when Laura’s neighbor Rhonda Harris is discovered dead from an apparent suicide, her house filled with Platt’s novels. The subsequent death of a judge in a fire takes top priority, especially after a gasoline can at the scene points to arson. Jack, however, isn’t any closer to finding a killer, though there very well could be more than one. His personal life, as it turns out, is just as demanding. Helping his parents run their beachside motel, Jack meets and befriends Shannon King, famed country singer under an alias while she and her 6-year-old daughter, Angela, abscond from abusive husband, Joe. Rose (Edwina, 2016, etc.) bolsters her tale by thoroughly developing the protagonist. Jack, for one, is a single father raising spunky twins, Abigail and Austin, and moody teen Emily, daughter of former, killed-on-duty partner Lisa. The likewise riveting killer, whom readers know as The Snakecharmer, is frighteningly diligent, and whether or not he’s responsible for every murder remains a mystery for much of the story. Various subplots abound, including a flashback to the life of Annie, a college student who endured rape two decades ago. There are red herrings, though Rose sufficiently ties up all the storylines. Jack and Shannon’s (potential) romance, despite momentarily benching the detective’s ongoing investigations, is a welcome addition. But while the killer’s identity plus ultimate motivation are plausible enough to satiate and maybe even shock readers, the big reveal is something Jack probably should have noticed a lot sooner.
The charming protagonist surrounded by a winsome family should surely enhance future mysteries.