This police procedural takes on a new twist in the hands of plucky Puerto Rican Federal Prosecutor Melanie Vargas. At the scene of a particularly savage murder of a media darling, high-profile tabloid television reporter Suzanne Shepard, Vargas is thrust into the spotlight as the prosecutor by default. Asked by her superiors if she is ready to spearhead this case, Vargas answers in the affirmative, not unaware of the career boost such an investigation may offer to a young prosecutor. Truth be told, even Melanie harbors a slow-burning desire to make her mark with an important case.
Immediately the pressure is on. Everyone wants in on this story, from the department’s top brass to the murdered woman’s TV station, Target News. In spite of an inside track because her current love interest, Dan O’Reilly, is the FBI agent assigned to the case, Melanie is confronted with a serious conflict of interest. The father of one of her co-workers, who is running for office, is incriminated in the murder, although so far merely as a collateral issue.
The media pressure is extreme, citizens demanding answers and impatient with the threat of a brutal killer on the loose. Although she is a very effective prosecutor determined to uncover all of Shepard’s office secrets, Vargas may be in over her head when thrown into the cannibalism of office politics, as evidenced by a series of threats she receives on her office computer.
Once it is decided that the emails may indeed have been written by the murderer, the department closes ranks, protecting Vargas while at the same time admitting she may lure the man to her. “The Central Park Butcher”’s threat against Melanie adds an undeniable urgency to the investigation which unfortunately has no shortage of suspects, including the father of Melanie’s co-worker.
Progress is slow, the efforts to sort through potential suspects painstaking, especially when the life of the prosecutor is on the line. Caught up in the drama, Melanie makes a fatal error, forgetting the threat on her life in her eagerness to pursue the murderer.
As a “starred review,” I expected this mystery to be a page-turner but was disappointed by a sluggish start that only accelerates toward the end of the book. The plot is further hindered by ridiculous dialog: “When you start saying stuff like that I get very nervous” and “He could be just some pathetic jerk with time on his hands.”
By the end, the plot tightens dramatically, the author delivering fast-paced action that might have given the first chapters a much-needed jolt and the appropriate starred review. Maybe this relatively new mystery writer will get it right the third time.