The Sandman, a serial killer, has been terrorising New York for months but his reign of terror just might be coming to an end. He has finally been unmasked as Daniel Miller but to the dismay of the authorities, he has eluded capture. His wife, Carrie Miller, has not. Everyone is convinced she was a willing accomplice in the murders and her trial is about to begin.
Eddie Flynn, lawyer and human lie detector, is convinced of her innocence and sets out to defend her, but there is one particular fly in the ointment. The Sandman wants Carrie released and will do anything to bring that about. After a number of witnesses are murdered before they can testify, the Sandman turns his sights on Eddie. Unless Carrie is found innocent, someone close to Eddie is going to die. Assuming you can trust the word of a serial killer…
I still haven’t read the early Eddie Flynn books, coming into the series with book four, Thirteen, and then Fifty Fifty and The Devil’s Advocate. I must get round to the first three at some point because these definitely can be filed under “page-turners”. Given that due to Skyrim-related issues – just got to kill one more dragon – my reading has been a little disjointed recently, it is definitely worth noting that this book was the priority for the past day or so, not my little imaginary dragon-slaughtering world… It kept me hooked from beginning to end.
The real strength here is the characters. The books are blurbed as “high concept” but I’m not convinced of that. Thirteen, the notion of the serial killer being on the jury rather than in the dock, that was high concept, but “wife of a serial killer” has been done before – Aftermath by Peter Robinson was the first one that sprang to mind. Whether it’s been done with this much panache is questionable though.
But as I said, the characters. Eddie Flynn, the courtroom conman with, it seems, a very specific lie detector as to no one’s surprise, Carrie is hiding something. I’m slightly confused as to why Eddie takes the case when he knows she is holding something back – we are talking about an active serial killer here so that “something” might be crucial. His usual team are backing him up, along with a new character, Gabriel Lake, a damaged former agent who hunts serial killers. Lake has the legs to have his own series, I think, so I hope he does show up again.
I advertised this in a tweet as a rollercoaster – rollercoasters are exhilarating, but you can see the track ahead so you can often see what’s coming. There are some nice surprises here, most notably in Eddie’s gamesmanship in and out of court – the scene in the restaurant is priceless, but if you’re one of my classic mystery fans… well, I’d be surprised if you were surprised by the main reveal of the story. One aspect is guessable (and in my case, guessed) from very early on due to something structural about the narrative and as the story progresses, the only missing detail becomes clear far too early. In fact, almost all the primary Sandman-related reveals were, I thought, not desperately surprising. But that didn’t cause me a problem – I never thought of flicking to the end, I was strapped into the ride and wanted to see if I was right and how Eddie and chums would get to the end. And given the outcome in one book, mentioned here a few times to up the ante, whether all of Eddie’s chums would make it to the end.
Overall, I think this is the best book in the series since Thirteen. A top-notch thriller.