There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. – Khaled Hosseini
Nick Nowak’s lover is sick with AIDS, back in the earliest days of the disease when fear and ignorance had the medical community scrambling to figure out how it was being transmitted and was at a loss as to how stop it, let alone how to treat the patients who seemed sadly destined to succumb to it. Bert Harker was a police detective until he became too ill to fulfill his duties with the CPD, but just because he’d left the force didn’t mean that he’d left behind the instinct or the desire to see justice served in the murders of five young gay men. The Bughouse Slasher is out there, somewhere, and Bert’s got the Murder Book and the will and more than enough desire to hunt him down, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.
It’s 1982 and the police not only have a serial rapist/murderer on their hands, but they’ve also got their hands full trying to solve the Chicago Tylenol murders, a crime with no clues, no suspects, and little hope of ever being resolved, a crime which eventually took seven lives. The CPD’s investigative priorities are overwhelmed by the tainted Tylenol case, relegating the recently low-lying Bughouse Slasher’s crimes firmly on the back burner; until, that is, he strikes again. And this time, for Nick, things get all too personal, and all too real. And thanks to Harker, Nick now has the tools he needs and the clues that will become integral to piecing together a killer’s identity, propelling the private investigator into a hunt for the monster who brought death to Nick’s doorstep.
Nick tells this story in all its raw emotion, drawing the reader in, page by page, exposing his pain and the conflict he experiences when secrets are unearthed and circumstances shift the outcomes of a carefully orchestrated plan, playing them out in a way that wasn’t supposed to be. He is a man who is struggling to achieve some sort of equilibrium in a life that’s been thrown horribly out of balance.
I’m going to be honest; I was just a wee bit concerned about reading this book. It’s the fifth in the series, after all, and not having read the first four novels, I was afraid every piece that’d been added to its foundation in the previous books would be lost on me and would then leave me entering Nick Nowak’s world at a major disadvantage. This installment of the series is most certainly a significant piece in a much larger puzzle in Burt’s life, but trust me when I tell you my worries were quickly laid to rest as I got drawn further and further into this tautly written cat-and-mouse mystery, where the line between who’s the cat and who’s the mouse blurs the link between the serial killer and the man who’s driven to stop him.
If you don’t like the idea of delving into a series mid-stride, then absolutely begin at book one and work your way forward to this one. I can’t speak to those first four books, but let me tell you, I loved this one just fine.