Midnight Rambler
James Swain
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Buy *Midnight Rambler* by James Swain online

Midnight Rambler
James Swain
368 pages
September 2007
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Incrementally building the tension of his thriller, Swain delivers a powerful tale set on the Florida coast with an ex-cop who now dedicates his time to recovering kidnapped and abused children after the denouement of his career in pursuit of murderer-pedophile Simon Skell. After the case that cost him his future in law enforcement and his marriage, Jack Carpenter is determined to block Skellís petition for release.

The state had but one provable case against the Midnight Rambler. Since that victimís body has been found buried in her sisterís backyard, prosecutors are inclined to blame another man for the crime. Jack knows it was Skell, can feel it in his bones, but has no reliable proof. The only witness is at risk as well, a young woman held captive and tortured by Skell and now at the top of his hit list. It is up to Carpenter to get the Ft. Lauderdale stripper to leave town for her own safety - if she can be convinced.

Savoring the damage done to the witnessís testimony and Jackís already tattered reputation, Skellís minions are at work again, turning public opinion and setting him up for murder. Undaunted, Jack assembles an intricate case that goes beyond the usual pedophile profile, racing against time and a clever psychopath who would love to rain more terror on unsuspecting victims, usually societyís throwaways.

While Skellís wife and lawyer hold frequent press conferences on the courthouse steps accusing Carpenter of framing Skell, Jack keeps his nose to the grindstone, pursuing every clue no matter how threadbare. Even though the cops view him with suspicion, Jack is not a corrupt opportunist and has never taken advantage of the helpless victims, nor has he betrayed his own conscience.

A bit worse for wear, Jackís commitment is complete. Though swamped by the particulars of the Skell case, Jack remains available to those in the network who need his help in finding missing children, solving random cases as they occur. One of the most fascinating is that of a missing girl at Disneyworld in Orlando, an increasingly curious case that has wider ramifications.

Working the distraught parents, the young father who has fallen off the wagon and lost his daughter and thwarting a clever scheme to disguise the identity of the child, Jack stumbles across a link that holds the key to Skellís success, a far larger and more lucrative enterprise than at first suspected.

Swainís cast of characters is impressive: the intrepid Jack Carpenter, his faithful dog by his side; the distrusting Ft. Lauderdale cops; FBI agents who offer help denied by local law enforcement; a loud-mouthed shock jock; a genius serial killer with a thirst for vengeance; and a perverted brotherhood of miscreants who dwell in the shadows. Through it all, the legendary Midnight Rambler eludes capture. Caught in a paradigm that favors the rights of the criminal, Carpenter is just crazy enough to care.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2007

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