Review

Urge to Kill

by John Lutz

John Lutz has created an interesting concept that has passed
under the radar of some readers but, for fans of mystery and
thriller fiction, is worth a second and third look. The concept is
remarkable: take a former New York homicide detective who was
frog-marched out of his job, his ex-lady friend and a retired law
enforcement colleague, and retain them in a private capacity to
solve the cases that the police department can’t.

Frank Quinn is the ex-detective; Jewel, the former flame (for
whom Quinn still retains a flicker); and Fedderman, the Florida
retiree who makes the trek back to New York at Quinn’s
intermittent request. Lutz, a veteran wordsmith, has chosen to
infuse his primary character with age and guile in place of youth
and experience; with URGE TO KILL, he has come up with a solid and
compelling winner.

Those familiar with Quinn and company from such previous works
as NIGHT KILLS and IN FOR THE KILL will find Lutz’s trademark
elements of sharp characterization, compelling dialogue and graphic
depictions of evil present in URGE TO KILL. Quinn is brought in to
the hunt for a serial killer who seems to be targeting his victims
--- including a retired cop with a reputation for being bent --- in
broad daylight. The murderer is dubbed “the 25 caliber
killer” and appears to be unstoppable. What neither Quinn nor
the politically astute New York police commissioner realize,
however, is that another series of murders is being committed at
the same time.

When the victims --- young women who are strung up, bled out and
gutted like hunting trophies --- are discovered, it creates a
controversy: Is this the work of the same person due to the common
elements of hunting that are present in both sets of murders, or is
the commonality a coincidence? Quinn himself isn’t entirely
sure, but under pressure from the commissioner, he treats the two
cases as if they have a common killer. Jewel feels that the team is
heading in the wrong direction. Additionally, she is at loose ends
from dealing with a medical problem and her own conflicted feelings
over Quinn. Sure that she was done with him, she is nonetheless
aggravated over Quinn’s attraction to a psychiatrist who may
hold the key to the case.

The true star of URGE TO KILL, however, is the intricate plot,
which puzzles and intrigues not only the reader but also the
characters who remain a step behind the killer (or killers) until
almost the very end. In order to bring matters to a head, Quinn
engages in a risky and dangerous ploy to draw the culprit(s) out,
putting his own life on the line while inadvertently drawing Jewel
into mortal danger as well.

Lutz knows how to keep the pages turning, and the pages that
make up URGE TO KILL fly by. The prickly interplay between the
perpetually smart-mouthed Quinn and the perennially grumpy Jewel is
worth the price of admission alone, but the various dances between
killer and victim and good and evil will keep you on the edge of
your seat and steal your sleep away.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

Urge to Kill
by John Lutz

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786018453
  • ISBN-13: 9780786018451