Ann Benson weaves two eras of crime fiction together in her latest offering, Thief of Souls. Alternating chapters between two plots, one set in 1440 France and the other in the sprawling modern day city of
Los Angeles, Thief of Souls follows two female investigators. Each must uncover the monstrous deeds of a homicidal serial killer who utilizes his vast financial resources and station in life to achieve his wicked goals.
During the day, Lany Dunbar is an investigator for the
Los Angeles Crimes Against Children task force. The single motherís passion for solving crimes against children is only matched by the love she has for her three children. Guillamette le Drappiere is an abbess who came to the abbey after her youngest son met his demise under curious circumstances. She is driven by the need to know what happened to her son, and why.
Gilles DeRais was a serial killer of children in France who used his noble station in life to cover up his misdeeds and to continue his dark vices. Wilbur Durand is a wealthy special effects creator who uses his wealth and skill with costuming and disguises to keep his criminal activities hidden from the public eye. These are the two fiends Dunbar and le Drappiere must capture and deliver to justice.
Benson has done a good job of intermingling the two timelines and plots. The symmetry between the two plots is easy to identify, and perhaps that is what makes them such a pleasure to read.
The authorís note at the beginning of the book states that all information for the historical part of the book was taken from written documentation of the incident described within the pages of that portion of the novel. While it is interesting to note this, and the authorís diligent research should be applauded, the beginning of the historical storyline is difficult to get through at times. Perhaps this is due to the difference in style between European and American writing. In any case, once the reader has adjusted to the alternating writing styles of the novel, it becomes a joy to read. The historical portion of the novel is populated by notable figures of the time, including Joan of Arc and the notorious serial killer Gilles DeRais, also known as Bluebeard.
Thief of Souls engages the readerís interest with a suspense-filled turn of events culminating in a thrilling climax that even the most critical reader will be hard-pressed to disparage.