Set in post 9/11 Manhattan, Lutz's (The Night Caller) gritty psychological thriller finds NYPD homicide detectives Rica Lopez and Ben Stack on the hunt for a vengeful serial killer whose modus operandi includes binding and burning his prey in their high-rise co-ops. The only clue they have to go on is that the Torcher has an apparent penchant for wealthy victims, so they start at square one and investigate all of the known arsonists in the city. In the end, Rica and Stack prove to be no match for the Torcher, who manages to stay several steps ahead of them until the very end, but their lack of leads doesn't make this book any less compelling. Lutz's details concerning police procedure, fire-fighting techniques and FDNY policy ring true, and his clever use of flashbacks draws the reader deep into the killer's troubled psyche. The novel's primary weaknesses include the tenuous romantic link between Ben and Rica, frequent point-of-view shifts and an overwhelming parade of possible suspects ranging from an avaricious real-estate magnate and her aging male escort to a lesbian mayoral campaign manager. Unlike many authors in the genre, however, Lutz manages to present a fully realized villain who simultaneously inspires the reader's sympathy and revulsion.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.