Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews the newly released Shadowkiller (Harper, $7.99) by Wendy Corsi Staub.
The final installment in Staub’s second trilogy for Harper, Shadowkiller follows Nightwatcher (August 2012) and Sleepwalker (September 2012), the latter of which was just nominated for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award.
As the story opens, we revisit Allison Taylor MacKenna, wife and mother of three, who has finally put the tragedies of her past behind her. Or so she thinks. As she prepares to embark on a road trip that will reunite her with the half brother (and the small Midwestern town) she once left behind, somebody from her past is plotting out an act of retribution that will threaten everything she holds dear.
Meanwhile, an explosion at a bar on a Caribbean island leaves behind the burnt remains of a handful of victims whose identities are suspected but not yet confirmed. Authorities have no reason to suspect that a case of assumed identity has allowed a psychopath to exit a self-imposed exile and re-enter the states, continuing a reign of terror that has been decades in the making.
While Allison remains blissfully unaware, this cunning predator is inching ever closer – and leaving behind a trail of bodies. This allows Staub to reintroduce seasoned NYPD detective Rocky Manzillo and retired FBI agent Vic Shattuck, who may be the only two individuals qualified to make the murky connections between these troublesome events and Allison. While a nice homage to the original “Nightwatcher” killings, it also allows for some procedural elements – as does the inclusion of a private investigator charged with solving a missing person case – in what could otherwise be categorized as domestic suspense.
Alternating between past and present day, Shadowkiller serves as part sequel and part prequel. At its core, the book is an exploration of the relationships between who people once were and who they become – and the drastic measures that some will go to in order to rectify history. As Staub exposes the secrets of Allison’s childhood (which propel her to leave that life behind for the promise of redefining herself in New York) and the circumstances leading to her and Mac’s meeting, one truth becomes increasingly evident: the past is not at rest – and seemingly random events are anything but…
Shadowkiller is a fitting ending to this dramatic and intricately plotted saga. The book also serves as evidence of Staub’s continued willingness to take risks, as it represents more of a whydunit than the more traditional whodunit. While longtime fans may miss trying to discern the malevolent force masked behind a familiar face, Staub’s strong characterizations and skillful exploration of the seemingly ordinary events that suddenly morph into extraordinary ones will sustain them. A veteran of nearly eighty books, she well knows how to keep you turning pages long into the night…