As we begin this discussion of John Lutz’s excellent new thriller, TWIST, it is important to remember that the man has been writing short stories and novels --- and very good ones, I might add --- for over 40 years. While he has a book for which he is best known (SINGLE WHITE FEMALE aka SWF SEEKS SAME), by no means is it his only worthwhile work. Virtually all of his books deserve recommendation, a state of affairs that continues to hold true even at this late stage of his career. Lutz has experienced a revival of interest in the past several years due to his Frank Quinn series, which features a retired NYPD detective who runs his own investigative agency named Q & A and in turn is frequently retained to consult with his former employer to solve tough cases.
"Lutz really pulls out all of the stops here. Perfectly paced throughout, the last 50 or so pages will leave you breathless, wondering what will happen not only in the book itself but beyond as well."
That brings us to TWIST, the latest addition to the Quinn series and one of Lutz’s best books to date. Equal parts plot- and character-driven, it is a fairly straightforward police procedural concerning a hunt for a particularly effective serial killer who is running loose and seemingly at will in midtown Manhattan. With no distinguishing characteristics other than that he is, well, average, Dred Gant is a twisted individual, a personality that almost certainly was set in stone literally from the moment of his birth. His unusual and gruesome method of killing women of a certain type is marked by his calling card, one of those miniature models of the Statue of Liberty, which he leaves in a rather strategic position at all of his crime scenes. This signature quickly earns him the quasi-honorific title of “The Liberty Lady Killer” from the media, a name that only encourages him to continue his activities.
Q & A is called in to assist the NYPD in its investigation, but Gant is a slippery man to catch. The team finally gets a break on two fronts. One comes from somebody in Gant’s past, a character who enters and exits the narrative all too quickly. The other arrives in the form of Quinn’s niece, Carlie Hobbs, who is visiting New York on a business trip and quickly becomes involved in the investigation, in large part because her appearance is so similar to the Liberty Lady Killer’s other victims. Quinn reluctantly uses Carlie, with her encouragement and full cooperation, as bait for a deadly trap for Gant, which almost succeeds in its first attempt but ultimately fails due to a surprising circumstance. On their second attempt, the trap is sprung...but the hunters become the hunted with an ending that may result in a major --- and permanent --- change for the team.
Lutz really pulls out all of the stops here. Perfectly paced throughout, the last 50 or so pages will leave you breathless, wondering what will happen not only in the book itself but beyond as well. That is not to say that TWIST is incomplete --- you can read it and thoroughly enjoy its beginning, middle and definitive ending without first reading the other titles in the series --- but Lutz leaves an issue unresolved at the end that will have readers wondering while awaiting the next installment.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 1, 2013