888 Challenge #5
Charlie Parker’s police career ended shortly after the lives of his wife and daughter. Now he’ freelancing, doing what he can to find their killer in between odd spots of private investigation. The moonlighting’s not going well; first the bail jumper he’s about to take in gets shot in broad daylight, and then he gets roped into doing a missing persons case. Although Charlie suspects that Caroline?? simply doesn’t want to be found he accepts it anyway, and soon finds himself on the trail of a child-killer.
But when one case closes, another re-opens. Down in Louisiana, bodies are appearing with similar mutilations to those of the Parkers. A sadist is on the loose, turning his victims into three-dimensional artworks of death, memento mori for the modern age. A gang war is about to commence. And there are more things than just alligators haunting the local swamps.
First, a word of warning: This is probably not the sort of book you want to read over lunch. The killer’s preferred method of displaying his handiwork really is gruesome. I haven’t even bothered checking to see whether the historical basis is fact or fiction; if fact, my imagination has already provided pictures enough without Google adding to them. That aside, it’s a good, if at times unsettling read. Charlie is an interesting character, having become as much a dealer of death as the felons he once sought to put away ... but only to the bad guys. He’s very far from perfect, but he doesn’t mind admitting his faults and has a sharp sense of observation. The structure is unusual, with one case framed by another, and Charlie constructs enough of a connection between them that they fit together nicely. And the supernatural element made the book doubly creepy (in the best possible way).
Apart from the gruesomeness, the thing that detracted from it was the sheer excess of the body count. I didn’t try to keep count, and suspect I would have failed anyway, there were so many. Enough to fill several morgues, I should think.