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The Serpent's Kiss    by Mark T. Sullivan order for
Serpent's Kiss
by Mark T. Sullivan
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Seamus Moynihan is called away from coaching his son's baseball game to oversee the investigation of a gruesome murder. Though at first it looks as if the victim has died of Ebola, eventually the medical examiner determines that death was caused by the bites of venomous snakes. Together with an elite investigative team that includes his bulldog-like Israeli brother-in-law Ricco, the analytical Moynihan begins sifting through scant clues left by the killer. His first stop takes him to the San Diego Zoo to question Australian reptile expert Nick Foster, a larger than life character reminiscent of the real life 'Crocodile Hunter'. Foster's expertise with snakes, his overall antagonism towards the police, and his questionable 'weekend pursuits' soon make him a prime suspect. While Moynihan and team chase leads, there's another grisly murder. Moynihan's superiors give the case top priority, certain they're now dealing with a serial killer.

After chasing down various false leads (one almost costs Ricco his life and another ends in a wild and destructive car chase) Moynihan is suspended. Determined to unmask the killer, and using information his team covertly feeds him, Moynihan ignores the suspension and goes solo. Armed with new insights, including a Biblical scholar's theory that the killer's motives may be triggered by the age old battle between Cain and Abel, Moynihan travels to Alabama to delve into the enigmatic world of a Christian snake handling cult. The tight knit community isn't about to give up any of its secrets, especially to an outsider. But eventually the truth surfaces and Moynihan attempts to bring the killer to justice, before he can strike again.

With several books already under his creative belt, Mark T. Sullivan takes another credible foray into thriller territory with this one. Initially I found myself rather disappointed in Seamus Moynihan's character, a close stereotype of one or two leads in other popular thriller series (a loner, bucks the system and his superiors, drives a Corvette, a womanizer, etc..) However, as the story progresses, Sullivan skillfully weaves these character flaws into the plot - flaws that are almost Moynihan's undoing. Overall The Serpent's Kiss is one nifty thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat -- and will make your skin crawl if you have even the slightest aversion to snakes. Seamus Moynihan and his team are worthy of an encore performance -- let's hope the author doesn't keep his fans waiting too long.

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