Written by Kara Voorhees — Regular crime fiction readers will probably have lost count of the number of ‘grizzled police detective tries to solve one last case before his retirement’ stories they’ve come across. Men at Night fits the description too, but it is to Kara Voorhees’s credit that she manages to find a unique take on the plotline.
The man in question is Leo Kessler, a police detective in Harris County, Virginia. He has just a few months to go until he can retire and the powers that be have decided that his remaining time will be best employed knocking a team of younger officers into shape. It isn’t a job that Leo relishes, but it’s certainly better than the role he soon finds himself in – leading the investigation into a particularly gruesome murder. The victim in question has been butchered to the extent that all the police have to go on is her torso. Where is the rest of the body, and who could have committed such a heinous crime?
The three younger men in his team are bursting to share their theories, but they stand back and let Leo do the talking. After all, he is their hero, a legendary detective who made headlines almost 30 years ago after single handedly tracking down and capturing a serial killer. The arrest has featured in true crime television shows ever since, but for almost 30 years Leo has steadfastly refused to talk about his part in the case.
When a second carefully stage-managed crime scene is discovered, Leo and his team are at a loss to connect the two victims. Then the head of victim number one is found – and the garter snakes painstakingly sewn to her scalp makes her a dead ringer for Medusa. The pieces begin to drop into place as the spotlight falls on a high profile rehab centre. And with the FBI joining in the manhunt, surely it is just a matter of time before the killer is caught?
Men at Night is not a book for the fainthearted, but if you enjoy your thrillers laced with plenty of blood and gore, then it’s a fine choice. The story is imaginatively plotted, although I had worked out the identity of the killer well before the final reveal. Voorhees is a dab hand at characterisation, and I particularly warmed to Kessler, his wife Myra, chief FBI investigator Melanie Holmes and rookie cop Otto Foster.
However, the attentions of an editor could have made this a much better read. There are a number of glaring errors (kissed her forward – should be forehead) and the author’s propensity to switch tenses in the middle of a sentence sometimes ruins the flow. These things are a pity, because this book has much to recommend it.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars