Lutz is one of the mystery genre’s grandmasters. He has been
the recipient of the Edgar Award and two Shamus awards, including a
Lifetime Achievement Award. His novel SWF SEEKS SAME was the basis
for the movie Single White Female, which did for picking a
roommate via a classified ad what IT by Stephen King did for
clowns. Even after 30-plus years of writing novels and short
stories, Lutz continues to take tried-and-true formulas in the
mystery and thriller genres and tinker with them, making them ---
and each of his books --- better.
IN FOR THE KILL grabs you at the very beginning and does not let go
until, utterly spent, you have reached the last page. It’s an
ensemble work --- think, for purposes of a very general frame of
reference, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels but much
different --- with a cast of characters almost as interesting as
the villain of the piece, a serial killer known as The Butcher. The
victims are all single females living and working in and around
Manhattan, and The Butcher is killing them all in the same horrific
manner. The reader gets an idea fairly early on as to the
inspiration for The Butcher’s actions, as well as the fact
that he is sending a message to retired NYPD Homicide Detective
Frank Quinn (last seen in DARKER THAN NIGHT), who has been pressed
back into service to help catch The Butcher.
Lutz puts a spin on the police procedural scenario by reassembling
Quinn’s old team, which consists of Fedderman, whittling away
his own retirement down in South Florida, and Pearl, Quinn’s
ex-girlfriend who herself had quit the NYPD to become a bank guard.
The three of them together function as a well-oiled machine, even
if Quinn’s residual feelings for Pearl cause him some wistful
moments while (almost) not getting in the way of the
Matters are complicated, however, by the sudden appearance on
Quinn’s doorstep of Lauri, his 18-year-old daughter from a
prior marriage. Lauri has decided to leave her mother’s home
on the West Coast and live with Quinn in New York, which will have
unexpected and immediate repercussions for both father and daughter
in ways neither of them can imagine or anticipate.
The Butcher, meanwhile, is continuing on his murder spree. And as a
terrified city waits for him to do more damage, he prepares to make
his most significant statement of all, one that will strike at the
heart of Quinn’s task force.
IN FOR THE KILL stands on its own merits as an entertaining and
enthralling crime novel, but there are layers to this tale that
Lutz has interwoven into the fabric of the plot in a subtle manner.
He has much to say here about father-daughter and mother-son
relationships, and how things can go wrong (and right) with both.
What stands out, however, is his continuing ability to publish a
fast-paced, readable novel without sacrificing characters, plot or
style. At a point in his career when he could probably phone in his
work comfortably, Lutz continues to produce some of his best work.
IN FOR THE KILL is yet another example of such.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011