Hot Lights, Cold Steel
In the second installment of this thriller series that began with STRESS FRACTURE, forensic and criminal behavior expert Dub Walker helps an old friend find her estranged teen daughter, Noel. When hers and another body are unearthed from shallow graves --- and horrifically gnawed --- by feral pigs, Walker and sidekick "T-Tommy" Tortelli of the Huntsville, Alabama police department open a Pandora's can of worms.
More of a whydunit than a whodunit with a psychological twist is Lyle's trademark.
Two dozen bodies are discovered, all with highly-skilled surgical procedures performed shortly before death. None of the surgeries caused their deaths. Tragically, none aided the victims, apparent surgical experiments on disposable subjects. "All that organ stealing...is urban legend. Besides, not much of a market for an appendix or a gall bladder."
Complicating matters is that many of the victims are prostitutes with connections to Rocco Scarcella, who owns a lap-dance bar. "High Rollers leaned toward the skanky end of the spectrum." Also connected to Scarcella is Alejandro Diaz, who deposits to his bank large sums contemporaneously with the disappearance of each victim. "A slug like this will leave a slime trail." On a red herring visit to the ritzy digs of an attorney's office to trace Noel's last day alive, and then the lavish apartment of a high-priced call girl, Walker opines, "All forms of prostitution pay well."
Walker's medical consultant, Dr. Liz Mackey, dispenses dark humor. "Hot lights and cold steel. Surgery. The hot overhead lights and the cold steel scalpel. Got to find humor where you can." A mysterious and diabolical surgeon straight out of a sci-fi flick gives whole new meaning to cold steel. "Alejandro slipped from a strange dream into an even stranger reality." He will not be paid to dispose of his post-surgical body.
The folks at Talbert Biomedical in an industrial complex manufacture surgical supplies but don't perform surgeries. Or do they? Eventually, T-Tommy makes the connection between a security firm and Talbert, through phone calls made by Alejandro. "Too bad life didn't have background music. If it did would we now be hearing the dirge-like droning of impending doom?"
Walker and TV reporter/ex-wife Claire McBride "had been divorced for a decade. Though we couldn't hang under the same roof, the sex was always good and we still played that game from time to time." Claire uses the power of the media to get past doors at Talbert closed to all but those with a warrant. And Walker doesn't have enough info to get a judge to authorize one. Claire uses her charm and cleavage to get information from head honchos at Talbert. T-Tommy tees off Sergeant Furyk, who says, "You're off the case. Now. And suspended. Turn in your gun and badge." The "slime trail" widens to include a member of the Huntsville PD who has political aspirations. Talk about prostitution!
Macavity Award-winning and Edgar Award-nominated D.P. Lyle has written five thrillers and four nonfiction books. Lyle, a California cardiologist, also works with writers of TV shows, such as "Law & Order" and "CSI: Miami." Synonymous with the name Lyle (a four-year board member of Mystery Writers of America and Sponsor Charter Member of International Thriller Writers) is his ability to portray medical terminology and probability realistically and understandably.
More of a whydunit than a whodunit with a psychological twist is Lyle's trademark. Motivation of those who commit crimes and the forensic science of crime solvers is the success of the Dub Walker thriller series, though loose ends are tied a little too neatly.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on June 14, 2011