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CompulsionWritten by Bruce W Perry — Karl Standt has a back story. The former New York cop, now a private investigator, is still regaining his health after broken bones and a drug addiction were the price he paid for tracking down a missing heiress. All this happened in Gone On Kauai, which we reviewed back in February. Standt is no super hero. He is fit for his age (he won’t see fifty again), has a gorgeous girlfriend half his age, and has an understanding with the NYPD which gets him past crime scene tapes to have a look.

When one of Wall Street’s finest is found dead, Standt has to chat up an Asian morgue technician to find out that the deceased was drained of every drop of his Type O blood via some suspiciously deliberate puncture wounds. What’s more, these appear to be decorated with delicate Aztec-inspired tattoos. When another corpse is found with the same wounds, Standt and his cop buddy Vladimir Yevgeny make another connection – both men used the same up-market escort agency. Their focus shifts onto the exotic females who are rented out by the hour, one of whom may be a sadistic ritual killer. Along the way, Standt goes for a skiing holiday in Vermont with his son, and notices a missing persons poster for a young woman who, like the two dead New Yorkers, has matching initials.

To trap the killer, Yevgeny works his way through the employees of the escort agency, and he even adopts the name Bobby Baron to see if he can trap the killer. Meanwhile, Standt is convinced that if he can trace a mysterious but controversial pair of academics – one being an expert in Mexican folklore and history – they may hold the key to solving the crimes. Eleanor Tyson certainly becomes a person of interest when it becomes clear that she was deported from Switzerland for wanting to recreate an Aztec blood sacrifice.

The book’s great strength is its characters. Standt has hacker contact codenamed Church, with an adorable Emo girlfriend called iz (yes, lower case) who is worth a book to herself. Indeed, after a dramatic and and literally explosive finale, Compulsion ends with a slightly odd valedictory episode involving iz herself. Yevgeny is a tough and resilient Russian who once saved Standt’s life by staying cool during a street shoot-out. His girlfriend is a beautiful (and jealous) latina, and Yevgeny’s mixture of joy and terror as he has to sample the wares of the escort agency is great fun to read.

Perry’s writing style is not entirely consistent. There are passages of philosophical introspection, usually from Standt’s viewpoint, mixed in with a more no-nonsense and punchy narrative style. And the plot? Some readers may spot the very brightly coloured red herring at an early stage, and I am still not entirely certain what the brief prologue was about. Perhaps it is down to careless editing that one of the victims seems to change his name from Gregory to Guy over the course of a couple of chapters, but these casual irritations don’t make this a bad book. Standt himself is becoming a more three dimensional character, and it is refreshing to have a male lead who is anything but Superman.


CFL Rating: 3 Stars

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