The murder artist

Searching for his kidnapped twin sons, a TV journalist follows an eerie trail.

However sensitive the matter in real life, child abduction can loom as a canard when the subject of a thriller. But the pseudonymous Case (The Eighth Day, 2002, etc.) rips into the topic as if it’s never been used before. Jaded readers will snap to attention when reporter Alex Callahan returns home to find shiver-inducing clues—a bowl of water, an origami rabbit, a row of Mercury dimes—in the bedroom of his six-year-old twin sons, who’ve just been kidnapped at a Medieval Fair in northern Virginia. Nearly all of what follows continues to unsettle and intrigue as Callahan, determined to recover his boys, crisscrosses the country, digs through musty files, interviews quirky sources, and surfs the Internet to break the case. He first works with the FBI, but they soon reach a dead-end. Moving ahead alone, Callahan grasps for leads. Might there be links among other cases of abducted twins? Gradually, he connects the grisly murders of two Las Vegas strippers and the abductions of two young boys from Oregon to the kidnappings of his sons. He discovers that, besides twins, the cases also involve a man who practices dark magic: the murder artist. Now Callahan is off to Bayou country, where an albino guide leads him to a voodoo master who promises to help if Callahan will spend a night buried alive. The devoted father complies in a scene claustrophobics will find literally breath-taking. Then, acting on a promising hunch, Callahan speeds to California. Minus one notable flaw in credibility, the rescue scene delivers the reward and excitement that the steady, fascinating build-up has promised.

It’s all in the telling, and Case does it just right: no clue, moment, or character unturned.

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