Serial killers strike fear into the heart of any big city police force, but in Port Dundas, Ontario, not only is the police presence barely sufficient, it is overwhelmed with the advent of a number of murders that come to the attention of Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef. Sixty-one and with a bad back, Hazel spends her days with a curmudgeonly mother who she brought to live with her following Hazelís painful divorce after four decades of marriage.
Perhaps her job as defanged head of the department led to the demise of her marriage; Micallef has yet to be promoted, and earlier bouts of excessive drinking contributed to her former husbandís unhappiness. Still, Hazel loves Port Dundas, as married to her rural town as ever she was to Andrew. Unfortunately, a small police force is woefully inadequate to deal with a serial killer who has a particularly creative criminal signature, apparently entering the homes of his victims with their permission.
The victims have one thing in common: all are in the advanced stages of physical debility, their daily lives pain-wracked and challenging in every aspect. Could these be mercy killings? If so, why the horrible crime scenes and extreme violence of the killerís methodology? Given the careful planning of the killer and the cooperation of his victims, the number of crimes has become significant before Hazel even begins to see the connections between one and another.
This monster is like a shadow, creeping around the edges of rural society, visiting solitary individuals as they endure the endless agonizing days before they will be delivered from their pain. In spite of the brutality of the scenes, there is an undeniable symmetry to the murderís choice of victims and methods; it is what happens after death that so strains and confuses the authorities.
Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef is a fascinating protagonist, her life riddled with contingencies: often excruciating back pain; a crotchety, opinionated octogenarian mother; the emotional connections to a man she married four decades earlier. A moral, thoughtful woman, Hazel makes few demands on her community, this particular case causing her nightmares to rival the pain that vibrates through her spine.
Pitting wits against a clever psychopath who masquerades as a mercy killer in pursuit of his own twisted rituals, the author chooses an unusual theme for this offbeat mystery. Brought to ground by irresistible bait, the killer is exposed, Hazel proving her mettle.
Halfway through, this book picks up steam, coming alive in the final chapters. There are a number of interesting components: eccentric characters, a very human female protagonist and a serial killer not soon forgotten. And the beleaguered Hazel is forced to swallow one more bitter pill before she can face the future.