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Books 95-96: Play Dead and The Echo Man by Richard Montanari

Book 95: Play Dead (Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne 04) .
Author: Richard Montanari, 2008.
Genre: Crime Thriller. Police Procedural. Serial Murder.
Other Details: Hardback. 381 pages.

This was published in the USA as Badlands, which is the name of the area in Philadelphia that becomes the focus for a new serial killer. Detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are currently assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, which handles among other things cold cases. It is one such case that opens this novel when a man telephones a tip line and confesses to the murder of a young runaway. Yet his intention is not to turn himself in but to tease the police and lead them in a series of scavenger hunts from one victim to another, each murdered and posed in a bizarre way.

Montanari uses the device of inserting chapters following the killer, which reveals their identity and the pattern they are creating with the murders. It had been some time since I'd read the last one in this series and I certainly enjoyed this macabre crime thriller with its many twists and turns and appealing lead characters. I moved swiftly on to the recently published Book 5.

Book 96: The Echo Man (Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne 05) .
Author: Richard Montanari, 2011.
Genre: Crime Thriller. Police Procedural. Serial Murder.
Other Details: Hardback. 458 pages.

The novel opens with a prologue set 20 years ago in which Kevin Byrne, on one of his early cases, arrests a beautiful, gifted young musician for murder. Flash forward to the present day where in the Special Investigations Unit Bryne and Balzano are faced with a bizarre sadistic murder that proves to be identical to crime scene photos from an unsolved case eight years previously. This new murder heralds the beginning a a series of linked murders.

Again Montanari uses the device of mixing in the occasional chapter that reveals the killer's point of view, though only teases the reader about their identity. I actually didn't find this novel in the series as compelling as his others. I felt it was let down by a rather implausible 'Scooby-Do' denouncement. I've enjoyed Montanari's crime novels and so trust this was just a blip. On the plus side the character development for Balzano and Byrne was excellent.
Tags: crime fiction, police drama
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