For Texas Ranger Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong the summons to Galveston to investigate the death of some big shot didn’t seem that important at first. The only criminal profiler in the Texas Rangers, she works out of Ranger Company A, based in Houston. It took her an hour to get from her Houston office to the multimillion dollar beach homes that signify a far different lifestyle than her own of a single mother raising a young daughter.
Almost from the start, the investigation is problematic as she has a history with the lead detective of the Galveston P. D.Â The fact that the two dead bodies are posed on the bed in the master bedroom under a bloody cross means only one thing to Detective O. L. Nelson. He is convinced that the wife of Edward Travis Lucas the Third, Priscilla Lucas, arranged to have him and his mistress, Annmarie Knowles, killed. Nelson’s theory is that Priscilla got mad he was cheating, maybe he wanted a divorce, maybe there is a prenup, and so she hires herself a killer. The cross on the ceiling, the posing of the bodies using fishing line to orchestrate the tableau, and other details are camouflage to throw Law Enforcement off track.
Detective Nelson has been horrendously wrong before and as he makes the case for his theory, she is absolutely convinced he is very wrong again. She is convinced that a pro killer didn’t do this for money. Instead, she believes it to be the work of a serial killer who targeted the lovers for some other reason. She believes from the details at the scene that he took his time to clean up after himself because he has done this many times before and enjoys doing what he does.
Unfortunately, Sarah Armstrong’s opinion is a minority point of view with the case quickly becoming a media circus and Priscilla Lucas the target. Despite being able to possibly link other cases to the serial killer, Sara Armstrong’s career becomes threatened by political pressures due to the prominence of the families involved and media hysteria forcing consequences on every one involved.
Known for her published work in non fiction true crime books, this is author Kathryn Casey’s first fiction novel and it frequently shows for readers familiar with the mystery genre. Somewhat clichÃ©d in terms of character development (Sarah Armstrong is a recent widow raising an eleven-year-old daughter with the help of her own strong willed Mom), the novel soon turns into the classic deal of the taunting killer and Sarah engaged in a battle of wits. One expects the mailed notes quoting scripture and isn’t surprised that they show up. What is surprising is how long it takes for them to arrive.
Long on legend and lore regarding to Texas Rangers, readers never get the sense Sarah Armstrong really is one. Despite the fact that she works on facial reconstructions with clay in the dark of night when she can’t sleep, there is no depth to the character in the law enforcement arena or any real specific unique details that make the Texas Ranger angle of the novel come across as real to readers. Instead, this material comes across as generic and the same basic character type stuff seen in many books in the genre despite the acknowledgements page. It also isn’t surprising and rather clichÃ©d when two FBI agents become involved in the case with one being a negative influence and siding with Detective Nelson and the other siding with Sarah Armstrong and becoming a romantic interest. Such conflict is a classic stereotype within the mystery genre.
Yet, such classic stereotypes exist because when the human element is added well the resulting novel can and usually does work. Such is the case here as the novel builds at a steady pace while adding in the human factor making the main character and her family come alive for readers. Â While Sarah as a Texas Ranger is never totally believable, Sarah as a parent dealing with the tragic loss of her husband, Bill a year earlier comes across extremely well to readers. Not only the impact on her but the impact on her young daughter Maggie rings all too true to readers who are parents. The relationship between Sarah and her own mother also comes across well to readers making the family dynamic one of the strongest plot points in the novel. The human element is what drives this novel forward and when Author Kathryn Casey concentrates on that the book is at its best.
While readers expect the showdown between crimminal and avenging Sarah Armstrong at the end of the novel, the setup to get there and the resulting outcome contains a few surprises. That fact, along with a strong character that frequently pushes at the boundaries of stereotype, plenty of action and depth to the mystery, make this a good novel that will keep readers entertained and turning pages.
Another novel featuring Sarah Armstrong titled “Blood Lines” is currently scheduled to come out some time this summer.
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Large Print Version
This book was provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2009