1. The Last Victim by Kevin O'Brien
Back in high school, some kids accidentally killed a classmate in a prank gone wrong. Years later, someone is bumping off the former friends. It's a familiar set up, which is fine because it's one I happen to love whether in books or movies. And O'Brien manages to breathe fresh life into the premise, mixing in politics of both an electoral and family nature as our protagonist, Bridget, goes to work on behalf of her twin brother's Senate bid. Then the bodies start piling up, and she has to get to the bottom of things to save the campaign (which is the main concern of some of the characters) and, oh, her life. The characters are well drawn and their conflicts believable, particularly the familial dynamics. If you read this, tell me you don't hate Bridget's sister-in-law. I dare you. The killer's gimmick, by the way, is that he's a painter and he constructs each crime scene to his artistic vision, which he later transfers to canvas. If there's any flaw in the book, it's how inorganic that feels at times. It seems like, well, something a killer in a book does. Solid story, though, with a satisfying ending.
2. Hot Blooded by Lisa Jackson
What's that thing Randy Jackson says, like when he acknowledges that a performance may have merit to someone else but it just wasn't his cup of tea? Something about dawgs, I think. That's pretty much my experience with this book. It's about a radio talk show psychiatrist who's targeted by a demented killer. That part sounds good. The man's obsession is driven by some dark secret from her past (I wasn't purposely choosing that as a theme by the way; nothing Freudian in there), but damned if I know what because I only made it through a hundred pages or so. The pacing killed me. That hundred pages is almost all set up. And while the protagonist's past romantic relationships may play an important part in the story, there was so much ruminating about them that I stopped caring. If that wasn't enough, the writing contained some real howlers. The second chapter ends with, "...she knew with mind-numbing certainty that this was just the beginning." Really? I've never been that certain. I may not want to be--it sounds uncomfortable. And a few pages later the hobbled radio doctor is described as "walking unevenly" twice in seven lines.
Next time: C.J. Box, Dorothy L. Sayers, and some impossible crimes.