Written by American Richard Montanari, this story combines the pace and comforting cliches of a traditional US crime thriller with the sophisticated psychological twists and turns more associated with recent Nordic murder mysteries. It is not hard to see why Montanari's novels have been published in more than twenty-five languages. Although it took a while to get into, it then became un-put-down-able.
In the very first chapter, the reader encounters the murderer, although his identity is not revealed until much later. However, as Philadelphia Detective Jessica Balzano and her partner Kevin Byrne quickly realise, this is not so much a whodunnit as a why-dunnit. The crimes are so extravagant and symbolic that opportunism is quickly dismissed. The question, then, is what connects the victims with each other, and with the disparate and unusual ways in which they meet their ends.
And murder is not the only crime committed in this novel; child abuse and abduction also feature, making this not a novel for the squeamish. Skirting the line between gruesome and disturbing, the graphic details are, thankfully, few and far between - and the novel is far more eerie for relying on what is implied.
Even as Jessica and Kevin make the connections they need to break the case, the murderer becomes ever more audacious and, despite their best efforts, he seems able to fade into the shadows and avoid the police at every turn. Pressure on Jessica and Kevin grows and, supported by some pleasingly detailed police procedural activities (although hindered by the ruthless elimination of witnesses), they try to close the net.
It would be giving too much away to say whether they are successful or not: tragedy is certainly part of the denouement. The twists and turns will keep you guessing right to the last page, and for this reader, it was a thought provoking ending that stays with you long after the book is done.
Reviewer: Joanna Leigh
Earlier books are: The Violet Hour (1998), Kiss of Evil (2001), The Rosary Girls (2005), The Skin Gods (2006), Merciless (2007), Badlands (2008), The Devil’s Garden (2009), and The Echo Man (2011).
Richard Montanari was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the scion of a traditional Italian-American family, which means he learned two things very early in life. One: ravioli tastes much better than baby formula. Two: if you don't get to the table on time, there is no ravioli. After an undistinguished academic career, Richard traveled Europe extensively, living in London for a time, where he sold clothing in Chelsea, and foreign language encyclopedias door-to-door in Hampstead Heath. Needless to say, he hawked a few more ties than tomes, but neither job paid enough to keep him in beer and skittles. So, he returned to the States and joined his family's construction firm. Five years and a hundred smashed thumbs later, he decided that writing might be a better job. After working as a freelance writer for years, during which time he was published in more than two hundred publications -- including The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Seattle Times, and many others -- Richard wrote three pages of what was to become the first chapter of Deviant Way. He was immediately signed to a New York agency. When he finished the book, Michael Korda signed him to a two-book deal at Simon & Schuster. In 1996 Deviant won the OLMA for Best First Mystery.
Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.
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