The Crucifix Killer (Robert Hunter #1)
Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)
2010 (originally 2009), 423p
Read from my TBR pile
Homicide Detective Robert Hunter is gifted at his job. A child prodigy he has a PhD, has written a paper that is mandatory reading for FBI training and is well regarded as gifted at interrogation and reading a suspect.
When a young woman is found savagely tortured and murdered in a remote location, that in itself is chilling enough. She has been strung from wooden posts, the skin expertly sliced from her face while she was still alive. But then Robert sees the double cross carved into the back of her neck and suddenly things take a whole new turn.
That double cross was the trademark of the Crucifix Killer, a serial killer psychopath who murdered and tortured. Robert and his former partner worked all the hours under the sun on that case and they had nothing – no evidence was ever left behind, no witnesses, no tangible connection between any of the victims. Until they got a lucky break – the Crucifix Killer was caught, tried and executed two years ago, although the result never sat well with Robert’s instincts. He just didn’t like the way the case broke – random luck. And there were instances in the interrogation where he doubted he had the right man, despite the full confession.
Either this is the work of a copycat killer or Robert is forced to face the fact that he may have been right two years ago…. And they caught the wrong man.
The Crucifix Killer is the first novel in the Detective Robert Hunter series. I checked the third novel, The Night Stalker out of my local library last year not knowing that it was a series book, just based on a brief review I’d read. I returned it when I realised and I managed to find the first two books, this one and The Executioner cheap in a local bookstore a couple of months ago. They’ve been sitting on my shelves ever since but I was in the mood for a) some crime and b) a new series so I picked this one up to give it a go.
Robert Hunter is a bit of a genius – graduated school and high school early, accepted into Stanford’s early admissions program, degree and PhD by 23 years of age. He could have gone to the FBI, he could’ve gone anywhere but as an FBI profiler, he’d be mostly restricted to working behind a desk, sinking into the mind’s of some of the country’s most loathesome, deranged psychopaths. As a Detective with the Homicide Special Section 1 Squad, Hunter feels that he gets to make a difference. He gets to be out in the field, finding evidence, tracking down suspects, getting the confessions or enough to put them away for a very long time. It’s somewhat satisfying, despite the nightmares.
Two years ago Hunter interrogated the only suspect in the Crucifix Killer a case. There were a number of victims, each tortured and left to die in a horrible fashion. Although he got the confession, it seemed rehearsed to Hunter but the DA was happy and the case proceeded. Hunter went on to be distracted by other things, even though it always lurked in the back of his mind. Now it’s rising up to haunt him again with yet another victim found, mutilated and tortured in a horrible fashion and with that double crucifix carved into the back of her neck.
Hunter and his new partner, nicknamed Rookie due to only having been a detective for two years, have very little to go on. As the killer did last time, they make contact with Robert again via his cellphone, engaging him personally in the murders. Robert needs to use every bit of his psychological knowledge in working out what the killer is thinking to attempt to predict their next movements. This is one case he might need to solve personally.
I can see the weaknesses in this novel, such as having a lead character who is so gifted and fantastic, that it often appears hard to connect with him. Robert has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of well, pretty much everything which he generally defends with a deadpan “I read a lot” whenever he’s called out for knowing something ridiculously obscure. Naturally he’s messed up, a bit too reliant on his single malt, because I don’t think it’s possible to do the job he does and not be screwed up in the head. He was bullied at school but sometime in college he discovered the gym and bulked up to fill out and be handsome. Women find him attractive but he doesn’t actually have any long term relationships (presumably due to his stressful job, the hours it consumes and his often bleak state of mind). His fresh-faced partner balances him out with his wide eyed view of the world, his incredulous surprise of what he’s going to be dealing with in his promotion. However it doesn’t take Rookie long to begin to experience the nightmares.
Despite all of this though and perhaps the neat ending, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fantasy, an escape. I read it to be entertained and entertained I certainly was. It’s gruesome, it’s intricate, I felt like I was along for the ride. I also didn’t guess the murder (although I did find something suspicious) but then again, I seldom do. That’s what I like about these novels. They might not be literary masterpieces but they’re fun and they keep me guessing. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series.
Book #112 of 2013