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In a word, WOW!

William Oliver Layton-Fawkes (Wolf) is back (kinda) in Daniel Cole’s astounding second crime fiction thriller.

London’s New Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector Emily Baxter learns that Fawkes --- who went missing in Cole’s Thriller Award-finalist debut RAGDOLL --- has been located in New York City, suspended from the Brooklyn Bridge. “Tangled up and bent out of shape where it hung, like a fly that had torn itself apart in its desperation to break free, William Fawkes’s broken body eclipsed the sun, the word ‘Bait’ carved into his chest.” Say it isn’t so!

"Cole pushes the envelope with grisly homicide scenes, each more gruesome than the previous. Squeamish readers may want to close one eye."

Across the pond, CIA Special Agent Damien Rouche and FBI Special Agent Elliot Curtis ask to interview convicted Lethaniel “Ragdoll Killer” Masse. DCI Baxter “had a total lack of respect for authority” and quips, “How special can they be…when we’ve got two just in my pitiful excuse of an office?” The American agents want Baxter on a joint task force concerning New York’s apparent copycat case.

Make that cases. By the time the trio arrives in the Big Apple, more bodies pile up. One is an NYPD detective strapped onto the grille of a squad car and rammed into the precinct wall, with PUPPET etched into his chest, confirming for Baxter “that things are likely to get a hell of a lot worse.” London’s “incomprehensible acts of violence and cruelty” now mirror those in New York. The investigators rack up a ton of frequent flyer miles flitting between the metropolises. A massacre in a Gotham church has bodies strung up like marionettes, while a London Tube station becomes “a chilling prelude to an unknown horror.”

This is Baxter’s story, not a Fawkes tale. A score of central characters coalesce to prevent unimaginable loss of human life. Law enforcement officers sacrifice blood to infiltrate “crazies” in the Azazel cult, who orchestrate the human bodies carved to resemble autopsy cadavers. DCI Baxter observes that they’re “crazies who have managed to coordinate attacks on two different continents without anybody being able to stop them.”

The author succeeds in portraying the mindset of key characters, one having experienced heart-wrenching losses. Wickedly wry humor only slightly softens the scalpel-sharp edge of mutilated bodies, which seem to be the focus of this outing. Cole pushes the envelope with grisly homicide scenes, each more gruesome than the previous. Squeamish readers may want to close one eye.

Cole is a puppet master author, who pulls strings of horror, suspense and intrigue attached to each reader.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on July 27, 2018

by Daniel Cole

  • Publication Date: February 11, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062653997
  • ISBN-13: 9780062653994