Abe Beckham of the Miami State Attorney’s Office has an opportunity to work closely with FBI Agent Victoria Santos when a woman’s
decapitated body is found in the Everglades. Santos has been on the trail of a Palm Beach serial killer known as “Cutter” for his use of a machete in the murders. If this new body bears the same signature as the others, it will signify an expansion of the crimes to another county, Miami-Dade. The problem is establishing the identity of the new victim without a head, though she is clearly black. The other victims have been white women, so this would certainly be a break in the established pattern.
This is familiar territory for Beckham, a widower who has remarried.
His wife, Angelina, is a white woman he dated until falling in love with the beautiful--and deceased--Samantha Vine, who was black. Abe has yet to come to terms with his loss, still committed to watching out for his elderly ex-father-in-law, Luther, who is currently in care, and Samantha’s schizophrenic brother, J.T., who has recently gone off his meds and run afoul of the law. Abe is frequently called on to monitor J.T.’s erratic behavior, often staying over to keep the excitable young man from giving into his demons.
None of this sits well with Angelina, who is convinced Abe is still in love with Samantha, that the “other woman” in their lives is a ghost--none of which is on Abe’s radar when he has an opportunity to get involved in the serial killer case. Between the demands of Beckham’s job and the hours spent with J.T., Angelina is not happy with the current state of her marriage. Abe tries to understand his wife’s perspective, but long hours and frustration with J.T.’s antics often make him short-tempered when he has meant to be patient.
Regardless of what’s happening in his private life, Beckham is anxious to assist Agent Santos with the case. Unfortunately, when the new victim is identified, it only complicates Beckham’s role and creates more difficulties in his marriage. Abe once had a short relationship with the victim, a high-powered attorney litigating on behalf of Big Sugar, a big player in Florida. When photographs of Abe and the victim are delivered to Angelina, Abe’s personal life not only becomes a distraction to the case but suggests that the killer has now had contact with Abe’s wife. Such is the nature of this mystery, a series of cold-blooded killings in Palm Beach now possibly surfacing in the Everglades, a representative of the State Attorney’s Office with intimate ties to the victim and the suggestion that Big Sugar may somehow be involved. Angelina’s sudden disappearance throws every phase of the investigation into disarray, Beckham terrified that his wife is “Cutter’s” latest victim.
The action by law enforcement goes into overdrive, suspicions of various suspects, the press clamoring for information, even Abe’s boss forced to question his veracity about his relationship with the Everglades’ victim. Beckham’s situation spirals out of control in a nightmare scenario that thrusts him--and his personal life--into the spotlight, the authorities suddenly focusing on his past activities. Desperate to find his wife, mistrusted and unable to convince Agent Santos of his innocence, Beckham is trapped in a conundrum that involves everyone he loves--past and present--in a bizarre drama right out of
The Twilight Zone.
This is a tale that can make you crazy, the author expertly weaving the threads of Abe’s personal life into an investigation that veers off course toward a different suspect than anticipated.
Misdirection surfaces like funhouse mirrors, distorting not only the identity of the serial killer but the true nature of those involved in the case. This purposeful obfuscation is doubtless more true to real police investigation than fictional crime stories, a reflection of arbitrary theories and how easily clues can point to the wrong suspect. To make it more nerve-wracking, it’s not even over when it’s over.