James Patterson is successful largely, but by no means exclusively, because he is an “idea” guy. His latest idea is to conquer the world (in the publishing sense); as part of that worthy strategy, he has paired with Liza Marklund to write a new (to these shores) novel. Marklund is not a household name in the United States --- though that may change very shortly --- but is considered to be the #1 bestselling author in Europe by those who tabulate those things. THE POSTCARD KILLERS was published there in January 2010 and is just now reaching readers in the U.S.
The novel is styled as “the scariest vacation thriller ever.” While I’m not entirely sure if that’s true, I can say for certain that it’s not far off either. Someone is killing couples who are vacationing in Europe, and then sending postcards depicting the murders to the authorities. The crimes are taking place in all of the hotspots --- Paris, Madrid, Rome and, of course, Stockholm --- and the police are chasing their tails while the killers are chasing…well, let’s just say that there is a somewhat erotic aspect to all of this that Patterson and Marklund present in up-close-and-personal fashion.
About that frightening part: While on vacation, what couple hasn’t run into at least one cheerfully over-aggressive individual who treats you with a familiarity that kind of oversteps bounds? That’s what you get in THE POSTCARD KILLERS, as you are provided with an over-the-shoulder look at how the killers --- revealed, almost immediately, as Mac and Sylvia Randolph ---- make the acquaintance and then murder couple after couple.
The Randolphs are being pursued by an NYPD detective named Jacob Kanon, an obsessed and driven cop who knows everything about the assailants except who they are. His single-minded pursuit is due to the fact that his daughter Kimmy and her boyfriend were one of the Postcard Killers’ first victims. Kanon pairs up with a Swedish journalist, Dessie Larsson, and between the two of them --- with some help from the Swedish police (Larsson’s former lover among them) --- they figure out that the Randolphs are the murderers. The only problem is that, as we see, the Randolphs couldn’t have committed the murders.
Then things really heat up, going from Los Angeles to Finland, delving into Larsson’s and Kanon’s pasts, and climaxing (as in the end of a story) in the parking lot of a trendy store. There are twists and turns and mysteries galore stretching into the past and colliding with the present, to the extent that you’ll still be catching your breath when the last page is turned.
THE POSTCARD KILLERS is a fun read, full of sex, violence, puzzles and more exotic places than you will probably ever visit in person. Larsson and Kanon are wonderful together, and assuming that they make it to the end of the book intact and together, it would be nice if Patterson and Marklund could work their chemistry once again. At least.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 7, 2011