Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
Coincidentally, I happened to get this book to review right before a trip to Philadelphia . I am going to venture a guess The Killing Room is not top on the list of recommendations from the Philly Tourism board, even less so reading required by the local Catholic Diocese.
It is recommended by Shots!, though. Montanari combines a suitably daft and wild serial killer tale with a sympathetic and interesting view of Philadelphia and its finest. The two finest in this case are homicide dicks Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. The pair has worked together in previous books and in this instalment, have believable non-sexual chemistry and understandable mutual respect. They are both Catholics, as well, which is significant to this roller-coaster of religious conviction seriously derailed (and deranged). The culprit in Room is leaving bodies in out of use churches throughout the city and there is nothing brotherly or loving about the ways in which the victims meet their maker. One is tortured for more than a week, another forced to swallow stones. And so on. Nice stuff punctuated with Missals left next to all the corpses.
Byrne and Balzano investigate separately and together and Montanari deftly intersects their personal travails and family life with the rush to track down and stop the killer. Peppered throughout are clues to the killer’s motivation and background and the minor characters and places all feel very real. The plot works well - a neat tapestry with distinct patterns. The one subplot that, to me, felt out of place was that of sleazoid journo Shane Adams, ploughing through bins and generally making a nuisance of himself. His plotline seemed clichéd and facile and his goal of becoming a star reporter uninspired. Maybe living in the UK, I have read too much about sleazy tabloid hacks of late to be interested.
Otherwise, though, the book wraps likeable and touching characters into the by-definition off the wall plot. I want to know more about Byrne and Balzano past and future and am glad I had to chance to read this book before my trip to Philly. I’m not planning to visit any out of use churches, mind you.