Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Published March 2011 by St Martin's Press
Source: the publisher and FSB Associates
Memorial Day, 1948: the railroad town of Vanport Oregon is washed away when a dike breaks and the warning to evacuate is received late. Afterward, fifteen bodies are recovered and fourteen people are never found.
Present day: Rain has been coming down for days and warm temperatures are causing massive snow melt to wash into the Willamette River. Portland, Oregon is bracing itself for a major flood. Thousands are down on the waterfront filling sandbags but otherwise the city is quiet. As the waterways fill and wash away land, a skeleton is uncovered by a jogger. Reporter Susan Ward believes it may be related to the Vanport flood sixty years earlier.
Detective Archie Sheridan is called in to investigate a body found in an amusement park. The police immediately recognize the body as that of a woman presumed to have drowned. But how did she get from the river on to the carousel? Hours later a bigger question emerges when a brown puncture wound is discovered on the woman's palm. The cause of death has now been changed to poisoning and Sheridan is put in charge of a task force to investigate when two more deaths previously presumed to be drownings also turn out to be cases of poison. Who is murdering the citizens of Portland and why? The clues? A most unusual method of delivering the poison, the token left by the murder with each victim, and a young boy rescued from the raging river by Sheridan.
When I was approached about this book, I jumped at the chance to read it remembering rave reviews of Cain's previous Archie Sheridan stories, involving Beauty Killer Gretchen Lowell. Gretchen remains a presence, albeit off-stage, in this novel as Archie, in particular, and his team continue to deal with the aftermath of what she did. Cain does a good job of bringing the new reader up to speed without interrupting the flow of this story. It felt less like I was picking up the fourth book in a series about Archie Sheridan and more like I was getting the background story I would expect to get in any good novel.
I powered my way through this book in what might be record time for me. I picked it up on Sunday afternoon and when I got home from work on Monday, I knew I would not be going to bed until I was finished. I didn't even have to miss the ten o'clock news. The story moves along at a quick pace and alternates periodically from what Susan's investigation into the skeleton and Archie's investigation into the serial killer. With a little over 100 pages left, the action really took off and the climax did not disappoint. Often this type of book feels like it spends entirely too much time wrapping things up but Cain was surprising me right up to the end of the book. The city, the flood and the rain play a major role in this book providing the perfect dark atmosphere and tension.
It is clear, from the details of Archie's background, that this book is not as extreme as the previous books.I must admit, I was grateful. I'm not a fan of very explicit torture and murder and I'm not sure I'll be able to make myself go back and read the previous books. But for those of you who were fans, you'll be glad to know that Gretchen does make an appearance in this one and makes it clear that we haven't heard the last of her.