Thiede (Miss Me?, 2015) weaves a gruesome tale of suspense in the fourth book of his Max Larkin series.
This story picks up just where the last adventure left off. Max’s life and career are on a tremendous upswing. He’s just solved yet another challenging case, this one bringing both local acclaim and national media attention to him and his best friend/partner, Jesse. Newfound fame and a job offer with the FBI would be more than enough to keep many gumshoes occupied, but Max finds himself catapulted into a new case almost immediately when, on live TV, an anonymous killer murders an old flame of his, threatening more to come if Max can’t find and stop him. What’s more, the killer holds the entire town hostage, using expertly planted bombs and cameras to force Max to play his twisted game, all while charging strangers for the privilege of watching it unfold on a live webcast. The killer’s sick humor and gamesmanship aren’t particularly novel, but as signs begin pointing toward someone connected to Max’s past, the story takes on new depth, peering into the life of the boy who would become a hero. It’s during these glimpses that the book is at its most complex, revealing sordid details lurking behind small-town living and Max’s personal history. The present day also features some strong character moments. Although there’s not much relationship development between Max and Jesse, that can be attributed to how solid the dynamic has become over the last few books rather than a lack of thought in this episode. Additionally, there’s plenty of development for many of the major romantic relationships, adding some color to a generally grim story. New readers will certainly want to pick up previous installments, but this volume has enough of the breakneck pace and grisly murders—hallmarks of the series—to make it a gripping read even for the uninitiated. Some readers may be put off by the extremes of what Max witnesses, but those with stronger stomachs will feel right at home.
A dark, bracing volume in a series that’s making it a habit.