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Stark, Oliver - '88 Killer'
Paperback: 464 pages (Aug. 2011) Publisher: Headline ISBN: 0755370147

88 KILLER is the second book by Oliver Stark, which follows on from the first book, AMERICAN DEVIL. This new book again features NYPD Detective Tom Harper, and psychiatrist Denise Levene. The story begins with the disappearance of a young, pretty sixteen-year-old girl, Abby, after she has sneaked out to go to a gig, but took an ill-advised short cut across a park in the dark. The detectives following up on the missing person's report contact Denise, to ask her advice. Is Abby just another teenage runaway, or has she really been abducted? Her father Dr Aaron Goldenberg refuses to believe that she has just run away, but the police don't seem to have much evidence to believe otherwise. Denise discovers that a few weeks before she disappeared, Abby was roughed up by a group of men that appear to be linked to a far-right group of thugs, and a swastika was later painted on the door of the Goldberg's house. Is this connected to her disappearance?

A few weeks later as a couple, David Capske and his girlfriend, leave a nightclub, a man in a car is watching for them. The following morning David Capske is found dead in an alleyway. He has been rolled in barbed wire, resulting in multiple wounds, and finally shot in the head. The perpetrator has already alerted several newspapers about the murder, even before the police arrive, using an untraceable prepaid phone to send e-mails. David Capske is the son of a judge, and the e-mails hint at a political motive for the killing. Detective Tom Harper is called in to investigate David's murder. He is asked to re-form the special blue team to investigate the murder. It is clear that the murderer obtained some particular gratification out of the painful way in which David was killed, and Tom starts to suspect a serial killer might be involved.

Denise, intrigued by Abby's disappearance approaches Tom and asks for his help in investigating Abby's disappearance, and in return Tom asks her to profile his murderer. Inevitably it turns out that the two events may be linked, and as more bodies start turning up, the tension quickly ramps up. The story is told both through the eyes of the perpetrator, and through Denise and Tom as they work together to find the murderer and try to save Abby's life.

The novel works well on a number of levels. The two main characters, Denise and Tom, are interesting, with a complex history, and make a good team. Both Tom and Denise are obviously still traumatized from events that occurred in the previous novel. The investigation starts to help Tom and Denise move on and regain their trust of each other. Tom is the typical driven investigator, completely absorbed in the case, and neglectful of his own private life. Denise is still struggling to cope with her previous traumatic experiences, and overcome her fear of the unknown. Their interaction is used well to drive the story forward intelligently, but although they are smart, they make a number of mistakes along the way that delay the discovery of the murderer. In interspersed chapters, we gain a glimpse into the perpetrator's mind, and discover that Abby is alive, but slowly being starved to death. This, and the slow progress of the investigators helps to increase the tension, as we know that time is of the essence to save Abby. An absorbing book that kept me up reading till late.

Michelle Peckham, England
October 2011

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last updated 2/10/2011 09:45