Rick Reed is more than a former police detective who has written
a novel about serial murders. He is a former police detective who
investigated a group of serial killings and brought the perpetrator
to justice. That would be enough to establish his bona fides
regarding his subject matter. Add to the mix the fact that he can
write remarkably well, and you have a winner of a debut novel.
Reed is not new to the publishing game; his true-crime book
BLOOD TRAIL, about the series of murders that he investigated and
solved, was published to critical acclaim in 2005. THE CRUELEST
CUT, his first foray into fiction, demonstrates that he is
extremely adept at mixing imagination with the real world, creating
a work that you will stop reading only to periodically ensure that
the doors are locked and that your children are safely tucked
Jack Murphy is the focal point of the book, a detective who not
only is in charge of an investigation of a chain of seemingly
unconnected murders, but also is the target of them. The slayings
cut across sex and age, and while they appear to be carefully and
calculatingly planned, they are carried out in rage and hatred.
Among the few clues left at the scenes are a series of rhymes that
bear a chilling similarity to the Mother Goose verse that so many
children learn at their mother’s knee. They are soon dubbed
the “Mother Goose murders” by an attention-hungry
reporter, which gives the killers some additional publicity and
makes the police’s job even more difficult.
Murphy and his partner, a wise-cracking but loyal cop named
Liddell Blanchard, have more than just the murders of innocent
citizens with which to contend. A series of political maneuvers by
a power-hungry administrator in their own department threatens to
derail their investigation by pulling Murphy off the case, and
possibly the force for good. This is the last thing the perps want
to see happen. As the Mother Goose murders continue with
frightening rapidity and increasingly violent methodology, Murphy
resumes the investigation on his own and with the de facto
assistance of the department. He and the culprits steadily head
toward their final destiny, which will draw the people who Murphy
loves most into the line of fire as well.
Be forewarned: Reed is a master of describing graphic violence.
Some of the crime scenes here will chill you to the bone. At the
same time, he skillfully describes the ins and outs of
relationships and emotions. Murphy does some interesting balancing
between his ex-wife, who is an elementary school teacher, and his
semi-significant other, a parole officer with a tie to the murders.
Not everything ends up quite the way one might expect in THE
CRUELEST CUT, so there are just enough loose ends dangling to keep
readers waiting for the follow-up, which will be released in 2011.
Additionally, Murphy is a strong character, with enough personality
quirks and problems to maintain the series all by his lonesome for
as long as Reed wants to continue it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 28, 2010