Friday, January 18, 2013

Stone Maidens by Lloyd Devereux Richards

Young girls are disappearing in the Midwest.  When found weeks or months later, their bodies show that their killer has removed all their internal organs and left them hollowed out.  Except for one thing.  The killer has inserted a carved stone figurine in their throats.

FBI Special Agent Christine Prusik is heading up the investigation into these serial murders.  A forensic anthropologist, her ability to make the most minute evidence speak has propelled her to the forefront in the agency.  But this case, her first as a lead investigator, has her confused and uneasy.  The method of the killings seems to mimic that of native New Guineans; a remote tribe that practiced cannibalism.  This tribe was the focus of Prusik's doctoral dissertation years ago, and she barely escaped with her life.  How can murders in Indiana mimic cases in New Guinea, which are known only to a few people?

The case progresses, and a suspect is identified.  His actions seem to shout guilt, yet Christine is unsure that he is the correct suspect.  The forensic evidence doesn't support the circumstantial evidence that has led to his arrest.  Has the Bureau made a mistake, or has Christine's past clouded her vision?  Can she unravel the clues to explain the mystery before another girl goes missing?

Lloyd Devereux Richards has written a fascinating debut thriller.  His background as a law clerk in the Indiana Court of Appeals, is clearly demonstrated by the inside knowledge of murder cases and the investigative process found in the novel.  The question of genetic inevitability is raised and left to the reader to decide.  The pace is fast enough to be compelling, and the reader will turn the last page with a racing pulse.

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