In the iconography of thrillers, a serial killer can be psychologically complex as well as gruesomely entertaining. But you can't beat a spree killer for raw action, and in Dead or Alive, Michael McGarrity has produced a true monster in Craig Larson…McGarrity, a former deputy sheriff, knows the drill. He also knows the territory, which he portrays in a blunt, invigorating style that, even after a dozen books, still feels fresh.
The New York Times
McGarrity's 12th Kevin Kerney novel (after Death Song) displays the author's usual fine sense of place along with an unusual amount of gore. When escaped convict Craig Larson goes on a rampage that includes the murder of Riley Burke, a neighbor and business partner of former Santa Fe police chief Kerney, that's enough to bring Kerney, at least temporarily, out of retirement-and back from London, where Kerney's wife is a U.S. embassy employee. Larson's crime spree becomes more deadly as he tacks back and forth as far south as Texas and north almost to Colorado. Kerney, acting as a special investigator with the New Mexico State Police, and his lawman son, Clayton Istee, partner up for the statewide manhunt. McGarrity is particularly adept at portraying multijurisdictional investigations. While this isn't a good starting place for newcomers, series fans will relish the deepening relationship of Kerney and Istee, who only recently learned they were father and son. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
McGarrity has a long list of solid mysteries in his Kevin Kerney series. Unfortunately, the 12th (after Death Song) is not up to the same standard. Like all the Kerney books, it is set in New Mexico, peopled with a cast of likable characters, and features McGarrity's crisp and colorful writing. However, readers familiar with Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men(2005) or the Coen brothers' 2007 movie version will recognize the plot of the madman roaming the countryside and ruthlessly killing anyone who gets in his way. McGarrity's latest is as well done as McCarthy's so that those who haven't read No Country may be satisfied with the story of ex-sheriff Kerney, his army wife, and their family. Yet even McGarrity's knack for using the intriguing New Mexico setting as an integral aspect of the plot cannot redeem this relentless bloodbath of a novel. Coming so soon after No Country, it just seems derivative. Buy only where the series is popular.
Ex-Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney comes out of retirement to track a monster. Craig Larson is a psychopath's psychopath. Remorseless and relentless, he'll kill anything that moves. Or not. And whether he does or doesn't in any given situation is both unpredictable and inexplicable, since he himself has no clue. On his way to prison, Larson overpowers a guard, steals his weapon, stabs him in the eye-a deliberately selected target-and launches a one-man guerrilla attack on much of New Mexico. Early in this maniacal murder spree, he blows away young Riley Burke, a partner in Kevin Kerney's ranching operation. At the time, Santa Fe's former chief of police, famous in law-enforcement circles as a fearsome combination of bloodhound, bulldog and elephant, is living in London with his wife Sara, Army colonel and military attache to the American embassy. Learning of Riley's death, Kerney returns at once to New Mexico, where he joins Lieutenant Clayton Istee and just about every other police officer in the state in a manhunt that has "dead or alive" written all over it. By this time, Larson's homicidal rampage has developed a much sharper focus. He wants to kill cops. Cops want to kill him. It doesn't get any more basic than that. McGarrity (Death Song, 2008, etc.) plays to one of his core strengths-the police procedural-but the human drama, another of his usual strengths, is muted here. Fans will miss it.