Publication Date: January 1, 2005
Teenaged girls are turning up dead all over town, and the only thing that connects them are the rosaries on their hands and the fact that they all went to Catholic schools.
Kevin Byrne is partnered with the new rookie, Jessica Balzano, after an accident involving his previous partner. With the horrific new killer on the streets, it’s time to test Balzano’s skills and the new partnership that she has with Byrne.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Date Read: May 14, 2018
I picked this up after having started in the middle of this series earlier this year with The Doll Maker. Partly, I was really excited because this narrator does an excellent job with the story and because I wanted to see how the series started and how much it’s improved over the past decade.
This started out so strongly and was able to hold my attention the entire time. There are many mystery series that start out with strong first books, then fizzle out into weaker sequels. But from having already read the 8th book in the series, I think I can say that this series holds out pretty well.
The premise of the story is that a serial killer has been targeting Catholic schoolgirls and leaving them in different locations, each with a rosary. Right from when the first body drops and the police department realizes how dangerous and serious the case is, there is action and suspense. For both detectives, Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, there are high stakes. Byrne is trying to bounce back from a mishandled case and his old partner being hospitalized from a gunshot wound, while Balzano is trying to prove that she can make her mark among the hundreds of men in the police force while also raising her daughter alone after separating from her husband. Being the rookie, it also means a whole new dynamic between her and Byrne.
I really enjoyed the way the case was handled and how I was able to see from so many different perspectives. Montanari is great at handling the different points of view and making them distinct, which can often be a problem with books that have multiple POVs. Getting to see from people other than Byrne and Balzano also made things more interesting as the case developed, giving me a better idea of what was at stake for other characters in the story.
One of my biggest issues with mystery novels is that I either figure out the killer or the motive too quickly, as I’ve spent so many years reading mystery novels and am currently going through my 3rd re-watch of Criminal Minds. However, I was thoroughly surprised by the way this book ended. Not only did it throw me off by letting me think that I figured the whole thing out, it gave me a conclusion that made perfectly logical sense.
The ending was really well done and I could see the growth in the character since the beginning of the book. I already have the next book in my Audible library, so I hope to listen to that soon.
It’s really nice to see where Kevin Byrne was at the start of the series, especially as I was introduced to him in the middle of the series. I liked knowing more about his background and seeing his relationship with his daughter when she’s younger. The way he’s written as a character sets him apart from many other male detectives that I’ve read about
I also really liked seeing Jessica Balzano start out as a rookie and see how she started working with Byrne. It gives a lot of space for her to grow as a character, and this starting point also leaves a lot of room for development in her personal and family life. Knowing that she’s already a single mom at this point means that we’re going along with her for a significant part of her life as she figures out how to balance her work and personal life.
4.5 stars. I really love this series from the 2 books that I’ve read so far. It’s a solid mystery series and you should check it out if you like darker mysteries.