Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
In Saint Paul, Minnesota an
entrepreneur sets up a business via the internet, advertising for clients who
need to purchase a kill, the fee no problem. This contractor is a family man
running his enterprise from home, taking time off to train his “assets”: hitmen
recruited from traumatized veterans on their return from Iraq.
is no whodunit; everyone is identified from the start, their behaviour and
motives laid bare to the reader but not to the cops, who kick off the action
when they witness a shooting and the escape of the killer. An indication of the
peculiar nature of forthcoming events is a glimpse of the shooter whose eyes
are dead. That basilisk stare stuns one cop, reaction that bewilders the other.
These are Laukkanen’s series characters: Carla Windermere, an FBI agent –
black, beautiful, alluring, and Stevens – a state cop, plain and sensible
except that his ageing libido itches to sow one last wild oat.
that first murder – of a billionaire seemingly without enemies – the couple are
set on a trail of further violent deaths with the intrusion of old cold cases
and always several steps behind the plot, but the gap closing. On the other
hand, as the action switches from cops to puppet master, to the mind of the
first and proven assassin, and so to the recruit in training, the reader knows
everything except how it will end. All suspense is in the dramatic crescendo.
relief is sketched in by Stevens’ domestic situation and there is sex interest
in the triangular relationship when Mathers arrives: a younger FBI agent and
hunky dogsbody. And the trail becomes a travelogue as the cops follow killers
and their affairs from the Twin Cities to Vegas and Florida and back again.
Logistics are complicated but, like senior policemen, one is content to leave
times and alibis to the workers and accept their conclusions.
audacious thriller based on a form of torture that is unsavoury to those with
long memories. Like a few years.