Publishing date: Jan 12, 2009
Starred Review. Philadelphia homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano take on a high-profile cold case in Montanari's superior thriller, which combines a genuinely creepy villain with fully fleshed-out victims. The dead-end inquiry into the drowning death of 17-year-old Caitlin O'Riordan four months earlier gets a boost when someone, privy to details never made public, tips the police to an abandoned building in a bad neighborhood that later turns out to house a second corpse. The stakes are raised even higher when another body turns up, an ex-girlfriend of Byrne's who'd worked for the local district attorney. Segments from the killer's perspective increase the tension, and Montanari (_Merciless_) does a nice job of concealing one of the murderer's alter egos. The fiend's methods, modeled after elaborate magical tricks, are a welcome change from the gore typical of the serial killer subgenre. Likewise, Byrne and Balzano possess a psychological depth all too rare in such fiction. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Starred Review The new Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne mystery is also, by far, the best is the series, a novel worthy of comparison with such elite procedural authors as Michael Connelly. Philadelphia homicide cops Balzano and Byrne are working a cold case, the disappearance of a young girl. Following some new evidence, the partners discover that a serial killer is stalking runaways, abducting and killing them in bizarre ways. This is a stunning novel, combining the best elements of the police procedural with the most unsettling aspects of the psycho serial-killer genre. The villain is not merely a psychopath but a fully realized human being, with a backstory that explains his obsessions. We feel a certain amount of compassion for him even as we’re seriously creeped out by his actions and what goes on inside his head. Along with such Connelly jewels as The Narrows (2004), this outstanding, truly memorable novel will remind readers of Ridley Pearson’s Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews series, especially The Pied Piper (1998), which also includes a riveting portrait of a deranged serial killer. Montanari seems poised to take his place on the top ranks of the mystery field. --David Pitt