Ballantine, 2006 (2006)
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
is the fourth in Mariah Stewart's
series. Though some plot threads obviously followed from previous episodes (that I hadn't read) this one could still be appreciated on its own. Regan Landry is the daughter of a true crime writer, Josh Landry (murdered two years before this story begins) and has taken up her father's profession with great success.
ow Regan is researching her next book, while trying to sort through her father's papers. Her significant other, FBI agent Mitch Peyton, suggests that she hire an assistant to help. Regan is also pursuing her ongoing search for a man named Eddie Kroll, after finding an old school report of his amongst her dad's papers. She discovered that Eddie was jailed for a juvenile killling and disappeared after his release. She's tracked down Eddie's sister Dolly Brown, but Dolly oddly refuses to take her calls or meet with Regan. She does get together with Dolly's sister-in-law Stella Kroll, who is friendly but reticent about family details.
t the same time as Regan seeks a new subject, the revelation of fraud at an overworked DNA lab has resulted in challenges to several convictions including that of death row inmate Lester Ray Barnes, who's found his '
'. Barnes was convicted of raping a woman, slitting her throat, then laying her, her lips smeared with her own blood in a parody of a smile and plastic flowers arranged in her hands. Barnes and his lawyer see the book opportunity as a major moneymaker. But after Lester Ray's release, more women begin to die, the bodies all arranged in the same way as that first victim.
major hunt begins for Barnes, who's disappeared as has his lawyer. Haunted by her role in his release, Regan cooperates with the FBI, as Barnes is highly motivated to keep in contact with her, '
his ticket to fame and fortune
'. She also gathers information on his past history, important for profiling. But while they're hunting a serial killer, he's already watching Regan from the shadows - and he has plans for her. While waiting for Barnes to show, Regan finally meets the elusive Dolly Brown, and learns facts about her dad and her own childhood that throw her for a loop. She loses touch with Mitch just as the bad guy catches up with her.
hough I had figured it out in advance, the killer's identity made a nice plot twist. And the cavalry do ride up, but it's Regan's own wits and gutsiness that get her through the final chilling confrontation, after which she and Mitch decide to take well deserved, and badly needed,
together. Fans will not be disappointed in this satisfying conclusion to a thrilling series.
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