There’s a serial killer operating in Los Angeles, here in Mason Cross’ latest Carter Blake thriller. Trouble is, nobody realises it until the mutilated body of a young woman is found in the Santa Monica mountains after torrential rain produces a mud slide and reveals her body. When officers begin to investigate the dump site they find more bodies. Each victim was mutilated before the coup de grace: having their throats cut using an unusual knife which leaves behind a distinctive wound.
LAPD detective Jessica Allen has just recently transferred to the force. On viewing one of the corpses Allen knows she’s seen the killer’s handiwork previously. The cut is unmistakable. It’s a killer she’s remained keen to catch. She and partner Mazzucco begin to piece together the case. The killer preys on lone female drivers who’ve broken down. Dubbed The Samaritan by the press, but there’s nothing good about him. Somehow he manages to persuade them to get into his vehicle and sadly for them, it’s the last thing they do. Allen’s work and background knowledge prove that The Samaritan has been operating undetected for a long time and across many US states. But what has brought him to LA?
Carter Blake, ex-military and now private contractor for hire, is in LA too. He finds missing people and he’s very good at it. After wrapping up his latest assignment he sees the news. The manner of the women’s death has been leaked and Blake believes he knows The Samaritan. So he begins his own investigation and offers his help to the LAPD but Mazzucco turns him down, much to Allen’s frustration.
As the case widens The FBI enters the frame and Allen loses the investigation to them. She wants to catch The Samaritan, whatever it takes, and starts working with Blake behind Mazzucco’s back. As the net tightens around the killer, the real reason he’s in LA is revealed. Blake and Allen are in a race to prevent more deaths – can they find The Samaritan before he goes to ground again and starts killing elsewhere? Time is against them…
Mason Cross is a Scottish writer producing American crime thrillers and he does it very well. One of the strongest points in his writing is the American styling that pervades the novel, from spelling conventions right through to mannerisms and observations. Although this is the second Carter Blake novel it can easily be read as a standalone. The opening chapters set up the narrative very well, with an introduction to Blake’s special seek-and-destroy skills.
Blake operates in first person perspective and an air of mystery is maintained about him. Blake isn’t his real name, for instance. Snippets of his past are revealed, while keeping the rest closed off, presumably for the future. The remaining characters are covered in third person narrative and because there are so many of them it’s easy to lose track now and again. There’s a mixture of chapters for Blake, Allen, Mazzucco, the killer and so on…
This is a minor flaw with in an overall package which is tightly woven and continues at a very high pace. It really is a difficult novel to put down. The characterisation is strong, the sense of place powerful and Cross’ scenic descriptions vivid and compelling. This is a very well written crime thriller and Carter Blake deserves many more outings.
Originally reviewed for Crime Fiction Lover.
Rating: Four Stars