If you like murder mysteries, you are going to love PULSE, the latest installment in the Frank Quinn series. Journeyman author John Lutz has steadily built an intriguing universe set around Quinn, a former NYPD homicide detective who heads up Quinn & Associates, a private investigation agency known in law enforcement circles as “Q & A.” Quinn is often tasked with quietly assisting his former employer with particularly difficult cases, notwithstanding his somewhat prickly relationship with Harley Renz, the cheerfully corrupt New York police commissioner.
"PULSE is violent and chilling, with graphic (though not gratuitous) descriptions of horrific and particularly imaginative killings.... it is ultimately the murders that drive PULSE and motivate readers to keep reading, stopping only to make sure that the doors are locked and the windows are secure."
PULSE is the most ambitious installment of the series to date, combining a number of elements and a cast of familiar and new characters to provide an engrossing and fast-paced read that doesn’t let up. Lutz is well-known for his ability to create chilling and maniacal yet unique serial killers, and his latest introduces what has to be his most frightening antagonist to date. Daniel Danielle, a brilliant and talented personality with extreme homicidal tendencies, disappeared in 2002 in central Florida during a hurricane while en route to a maximum security prison. Ten years later, victims are turning up all over New York City, each bearing the unique but horrific signature of Danielle’s murders. Quinn’s agency is brought into the investigation, and it is noted almost immediately that the victims each bear a striking resemblance to Pearl, one of the principals of Q & A and Quinn’s love interest (though not necessarily in that order).
Meanwhile, there appears to be a shadowy connection between the murders and a small but prestigious nearby college, which in turn is mysteriously involved in a contentious real estate lawsuit concerning a commercial development company and the tenant of an apartment complex scheduled for demolition. It turns out that one of the students --- a young woman named Jody Jason --- has a connection to Pearl that, when revealed, will cause a sea change in the lives of Pearl and Quinn. But it is the unending string of grisly murders that primarily drives the plot. As the killer continues to murder seemingly at will, Quinn and the NYPD are left to wonder if it is someone who is emulating the notorious Danielle, or if the fiend, presumed to be dead, is alive and well and wreaking havoc upon the women of New York.
PULSE is violent and chilling, with graphic (though not gratuitous) descriptions of horrific and particularly imaginative killings. The imagery is tempered somewhat with gallows humor and a call-and-response relationship among any number of the characters, particularly the employees of Q & A and Dr. Julius Nift, the totally inappropriate New York medical examiner whose offhandedly offensive comments at the crime scene are worth the price of admission alone. Then there is the self-described Mutt and Jeff team of Sal Vitali and Harold Mishkin, the Q & A investigators whose back-and-forth repartee (Vitali = caustic; Mishkin = malapropism) never fails to amusing.
However, it is ultimately the murders that drive PULSE and motivate readers to keep reading, stopping only to make sure that the doors are locked and the windows are secure.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 12, 2012