Adrian Magson is the author of 19 works of fiction and Write On! - The Writer’s Help Book. His series include the Harry Tate spy thrillers and the Lucas Rocco French police novels. His latest thriller is ‘The Watchman’, the first in a new series featuring protection specialist Marc Portman. The sequel – ‘Close Quarters’ – was out in April 2015.
This is the 4th in Chris Carter’s Det. Robert Hunter series, and pitches the L.A. Robbery Homicide Division investigator and his partner Carlos Garcia against their most deadly and inexplicable adversary yet.
I say adversary, because right from the start, it’s clear that the killer is not only taking his time to kill his victims extremely slowly – as if daring anyone to catch him - but in the methods he is using is providing a horrific puzzle for Hunter and his team to untangle.
The first pretty much sets the scene for this book, as the killer dissects the body and uses the various body parts to create a sickening sculpture, which he leaves for the police to puzzle over. As Hunter quickly realises, it’s a sculpture with a hidden message: if you shine a light on it, the resulting Chinese lantern effect provides a picture. But what does it mean and what is the real significance?
What seems clear fairly quickly is that there could be a connection to the professional past for the first two victims going back several years. Both were engaged in law enforcement and/or justice, which means the killer could be an ex-con out for revenge. This involves scouring the records for everyone they might have arrested ort put away – or, as Hunter begins to realise – someone they didn’t put away, in which case is it a victim exacting revenge for lack of justice?
With the help of a DA hot-shot investigator, Alice Beaumont, Hunter and Garcia go about their work, clue by clue, seizing on any information they can use, tracking down any name which holds a potential lead. It’s a desperate case because all their experience of past serial killer cases tells them this one is not finished yet. And who knows how many others he might have already racked up which have remained undiscovered?
Putting aside the gruesome imagery in Chris Carter’s vivid descriptions, the main story here is all about the investigators working the case, and the puzzle for the reader. It’s about the ever-intuitive and meticulous Hunter, who has put aside any private life or romantic involvements in his pursuit of being the best cop he can be, adopting his thinking as each new piece of evidence – or apparent evidence – comes along. And there’s plenty of that.
Hunter’s an interesting police character, albeit oddly remote on the page, but that may be a reflection of his choice not to get close to people. The job is enough. But this book might be where he begins to thaw, and opens a small chink in his armour.
A real puzzler of a story with a great twist in the tail.
Carter fans will love it.