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Bookends: A Tainted Cop pursues redemption and a serial killer October 12, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A Tainted Cop pursues redemption and a serial killer

By Dan Davidson

February 4, 2015

– 834 words –


Darker Than Night

By John Lutz  Darker than Night                        

Pinnacle Books

548 pages


Frank Quinn is a down at the heels former cop who was let go from the force after being accused and tainted, but never charged or convicted, of having raped a young girl. It was a frame engineered by corrupt officers within the NYPD who didn’t like his straight arrow ways, but he couldn’t prove it and the taint stuck like glue. When we meet him he’s just barely getting by as a very low rent private eye. His marriage broke up after he was terminated by the NYPD.

He used to be a very good cop, and so he is recruited by an NYPD official to run a side-bar investigation into the case of the Night Prowler, a case the official force can’t seem to make a dent in.

We meet the Night Prowler first, as seen through the eyes of his latest victims. This insidious killer targets married couples in a particular socio-economic range. He invades their homes, unseen, leaves little gifts and flowers for the wives, puts favorite food in their refrigerators, watches them at night while they sleep, makes himself snacks in their kitchens (leaving no traces), and ultimately murders them.

Next we meet Fedderman and Pearl, the actual homicide detectives assigned to these cases. They will become Quinn’s associates in his investigation.

Finally we meet Quinn, who is approached by Harley Renz, NYPD’s assistant chief of police, to take on the case. Quinn is 45, he needs “ a shave, a haircut, new underwear, a new life” and a new apartment. Or at least he needs to make an effort to clean up the one he has. He’s a mess and this is his last chance to redeem his tarnished reputation after four years living pretty rough.

We don’t spend all our time with Quinn and his associates. We jump way back in time and place to some rural area in Missouri where a teenage foster child named Luther is taken in by a lonely housewife and her workaholic husband. It seems almost inevitable that an illicit affair will blossom and we watch all of that, not really guessing how it will turn out, or that it will lead to the creation of the Night Prowler.

On another track of the story, we spend time with a psychiatrist and her disturbed patient, who calls himself David Blank. He has obsessions that he doesn’t exactly want to talk about.

In he the Night Prowler? Is he Lars Swenson, who has a series of very violent BDSM sessions with several women during the course of the book. Is he the Prowler? Is a grown up Luther the Prowler? So many red herrings, and Quinn has a deadline looming as the body count increases.

Quinn’s team members have baggage of their own. Fedderman does not shine in this book and we don’t learn much about him. Indeed, we know more about the victims in this story than we know about him. I’m guessing he will get more development in succeeding books.

Pearl has the issues that one might expect a bright, aggressive, attractive young woman to have, including having had to deck one of her superiors who tried to hit on her when he was drunk. Oddly, she decides to take on Quinn as a reclamation project and it’s not long before they have a not terribly secret affair going on. They don’t advertise it, but people can tell.

We follow more couples as the Night Prowler insinuates himself into their lives and even when the team manages to profile his moves and identify his next targets, he almost manages to get away with another murder. There’s a bit of a muddle there at the end, and the eventual takedown (No spoiler, right? There has to be a takedown.) is not as satisfying as it could have been.

This first novel in the series concludes with a batch of “what happened next” postscripts which seems to me to signal that Lutz originally intended this to be a standalone book. Guess the reception of this one changed his mind.

John Lutz is new to me as a reader, though it seems he has been publishing since 1971. Between 1971 and 1998 there are 12 standalone novels to his credit, including the one that inspired the movie Single White Female. But it appears he really turned up the temperature on his career when he began writing series novels. From 1986 to 1996 he turned out 10 Fred Carver mysteries. From 2001 to 2006 there were five books in a series called Night.

With some overlap of publication dates, he has been working on the Frank Quinn series since 2004. Darker than Night is the first of nine books and was recently offered as a Kobo promotional item, so I picked it up as an e-book.




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