I’m going to be in the minority here, but I really did not enjoy this book.
It is a bit of a departure for Alex McKnight, heading out of Paradise, MN because a serial killer wants to talk to him – a serial killer unknown to him either by sight or name. Martin Livermore promises to lead the FBI and local authorities to proof of his crimes, but only if Alex McKnight is there. Once there, it’s clear that while Alex does not know Livermore, Livermore knows plenty about him, from his minor league baseball days to his work as a Detroit cop and the incident that caused him to leave the force and return to Paradise.
OK, that’s fine – sometimes you have to go along with the premise to get into the story. Sometimes it pays off. This time, however, it did not.
Probably spoilers ahead, so….
HERE BE SPOILERS
That investigators get in deep with criminals of all sorts is not a newsflash. But this one simply became more and more unbelievable as the book went along. There are also some of the usual cliches/tropes, which we’ll get into.
Livermore leads various law enforcement personnel (and Alex) into the desert in Arizona, and subsequently through what amounts to a small canyon. Alex has his doubts about the whole thing, but of course, the FBI guys say they have to go through with it, even if they are still suspicious that Alex knows something about Livermore when he says he doesn’t.
The team gets shredded by armaments Livermore has embedded into the wall of the small passageway/canyon thing. But not Alex. Just before everything fires, he’s taken to the ground by one of the FBI agents because Livermore stops, turns around, and looks at him. Said look apparently is enough for the suspicious FBI agent, who effectively saves his life, taking him out of the line of fire, while getting killed himself.
We then go on to hit all the usual tropes: Alex goes to the scenes of the various killings, picks up on and interprets the supersmart killer’s codes or symbols, supersmart killer playing not just the long game, but the looooong game, having picked out Alex as his ultimate target years ago because of something that happened decades ago, bringing back Alex’s ex-wife into the picture to act as bait, etc.
Speaking of the ex-wife, the whole book is devoid of women except as victims in the main story. They are either already dead, killed while the supersmart killer plants clues for Alex to follow so Alex ends up either tripping a napalm(!) trap that kills one woman or sleeping in a room below where supersmart killer has merrily drilled through the floor above Alex’s hotel room so he gets covered in the woman’s blood as supersmart killer tortures and kills her, or a current victim (the ex-wife).
From the outset, it was difficult to put aside disbelief. As each woman dies, or after Alex stumbles across another clue, it got harder and harder.
Alex is also not himself in this book, compared to all the previous ones. In this one, he’s laser -focused on tracking down the killer. That’s fine, and would be completely believable if he wasn’t such a bumbler without a lick of sense at times, which is how he is in all the previous books. He does get shot at and injured a couple of times here, so at least that is somewhat in tune with the previous books, but that isn’t enough. Here, Alex is dour, and apparently able to grasp the psyche of a serial killer he’s never met and knows nothing about, unlike the FBI, who can’t seem to figure things out if he isn’t there.
The end: let’s talk about that. I know people get obsessed by things or people. But getting obsessed with a person you met, once, decades ago, barely spoke to? That’s the connection between Livermore and Alex: he’s pissed off because Alex married Jeannie, claiming Alex “stole” her because she wasn’t immediately enamored by Livermore when he spoke a few words to her when they were thirteen and she was sitting on the dock at her grandparent’s house. That’s is – that’s the “twist”, such as it is.
Livermore abducts Jeannie, ties her up n an elaborate fashion. Alex shows up, and instead of taking appropriate precautions, knowing what he’s dealing with, just walks right into the Livermore house. He gets knocked out and then handcuffed to a sink via the plumbing under it. Livermore, of course, plans all sorts of tortuous things for Jeannine when she doesn’t act the way he wants. Conveniently, he leaves Alex handcuffed to the sink and takes her down to the basement, where he stores the bodies and bones of his victims.
Naturally, Alex manages to get loose, stumbles down to the basement, and thanks to help from Jeannie, who manages, somehow, to stab Livermore in the back just as he’s about to kill Alex, strangles Livermore with the handcuff chain as he turns to Jeannine, the knife sticking out of his back.
And that’s it. That’s the end. Alex goes back to Paradise, fields a call or two from Jeannie. I suppose this means she’ll be popping up in another book. If she does, her fate will probably not be a good one.
This book had none of the humor of the previous books in this series. It started dark and got darker, and the usual characters only make an appearance in the beginning and at the end. We’re left with a completely different Alex hauling himself around chasing a serial killer who is, of course, smarter than anyone else, ever, and leaves no forensics except those he intends to leave.
Not recommended, unless you always read every book in a series.