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Book of the Week

Killing Streak
Merit Clark

Killing Streak is an exceptional first novel, better than many works put out by the major publishers. Clark’s carefully plotted story flows smoothly from an opening scene that takes a lot of the tenderness out of sadomasochism to a conclusion that affirms the possibility of love, even for the jaded and guilty.

As with all good police procedurals, Killing Streak has a solid skeleton in its well-articulated plot, and its bones are fleshed out by interesting, if reprehensible, characters. If the book has one problem with its characters, they are almost too strong for the plot. Evan Markham overshadows both his long-suffering wife, Corie, and her once and future lover, Detective Jack Fariel. Both Corie and Jack are complex characters in their own way, but neither can hold a candle to the imperfectly reformed serial killer.

This is not, however, one of those morally ambivalent novels. Clark makes a successful effort to throw a little light into Markham’s dark soul. While she’s at it, she turns over enough rocks in other heads to give her readers a glimpse of the nastiness scurrying about in those dark places and an unwelcome suspicion that the readers themselves might have a few rocks best left unturned in their own psyches. But the nastiness is not unremitting. The main characters have flaws, but even Evan possesses a streak of innocence and, as the book’s final climax approaches, Corie and Jack come closer to acceptance of their weaknesses and more confident of their strengths.

Killing Streak is not for readers with faint-hearts or weak-stomachs. Those who love cozies will be well-advised to add an extra dollop of warm milk to their tea and avert their eyes with a moue of genteel distaste. But for those who prefer their corpses bloody and their heroes troubled, Clark’s first book provides an exceptionally satisfying entertainment.

Harlen Campbell

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