For those new to Lisa Jackson’s writing, the name “Rick Bentz” means nothing. Fans of Ms. Jackson, on the other hand, already know they’re in for a terrific treat as the New Orleans detective stars again in Malice. This latest Jackson mystery sweeps readers away with well-developed characters, flawless narrative elements, and a setting that almost literally transports you there. All these wonderful parts come together putting this book down once you get started nearly impossible.
Rick Bentz is back as the talented but vulnerable man still haunted by his first wife who died after Bentz filed for divorce. He is also still suffering from an injury incurred at the end of Jackson’s Lost Souls. Bentz wakes up in a hospital bed following the accident after smelling the same gardenia-scented perfume his wife wore and seeing her, Jennifer, standing there. She blows him a kiss, but as quickly as she came, she disappears. Bentz shakes himself - it couldn’t have been Jennifer as she died twelve years ago.
After being discharged, however, Bentz continues seeing Jennifer almost everywhere. He begins to ask himself, as will the reader, if she might still be alive. Did he identify the wrong body after the terrible car wreck? No - that WAS her behind the wheel of that car. She had the same clothes, the wedding ring…but now he begins to doubt himself. Bentz wants to tell his wife, Olivia, about this, but he realizes she will think he is out of his mind. What he doesn’t know is that Olivia is also hiding a secret from him.
Things get even worse when a copy of Jennifer’s death certificate arrives with a red question mark inscribed across it. The death certificate has a Los Angeles postmark, so Rick Bentz makes his way there. Rick didn’t leave L.A. on good terms with anyone and it’s a tough thing to go back to. What Rick doesn’t know is that by returning to L.A., he is playing right into the hands of a serial killer set on making Rick look like the perpetrator. This patient fiend has waited, knowing that Bentz would eventually take the bait. When he does, he hooks Bentz while Jackson hooks the reader.
The Twenty-One Killer was Rick’s last unsolved case before he left L.A. The Twenty-One Killer has the morbid M.O. of strangling identical twins on their 21st birthday, and it looks like he’s up to his old tricks again when Rick arrives. Pictures of someone in L.A. who looks like Jennifer are sent to Rick, and that only adds to the confusion he feels. The serial killer, Jennifer—alive or dead? He also doesn’t know that Olivia is the next target of this madman.
As the story goes into the sad, sordid details of Rick’s past, it seems only natural that he just can’t seem to get a break. The main story line includes many twists and turns, and Jackson uses different points of view to tell the story, adding to a realism that puts the reader right in the middle of this murderous mess. A few rough places are hard to follow, but it all adds to the reader’s trying to figure out the mystery. The ending is a shock to Bentz AND the reader. Fans of Jackson will like the book; while it isn’t my favorite of her novels, it’s still a crazy ride and fun read.