Night Crimes
Judith Woolcock Colombo
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Night Crimes

Judith Woolcock Colombo
AmErica House
322 pages
March 2001
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Lara Bello is a Jamaican-American artist married to Tony Bello, a New York City police officer. At the opening of Night Crimes, the reader is introduced to two ongoing crimes, both of which involve the Bello family. First, Lara herself is being followed by someone unknown. She is initially not certain if she is being overly imaginative (thinking someone is stalking her) or is in fact the object of a lunatic's obsession. Why would anyone follow me, a nobody? she wonders, attempting to dismiss the sense of fear she feels. Yet someone is following her, and with bad intentions.

Curled Up With a Good BookThe second crime (series of crimes, actually) involves the killing of homeless people by the killer nicknamed the "Death Angel." Tony Bello is involved in attempting to solve this case. The "Death Angel" does not feel he/she is a mass murderer but rather a person of mercy:

"When I met him [says the Death Angel] he was living a life of degradation and squalor, going to sleep in his own vomit and awaking in his own or someone else's urine. Death was his only escape and he took it...I had befriended him when he had no friends...Death was my gift to him. It is my gift to them all."

So this killer is "freeing" these people from a life of misery. Sending them off to a better place. As someone said long ago: "Lord, save us all from good intentions."

The author deftly weaves these two separate tales into one compelling narrative. Night Crimes is a gritty, enjoyable page-turner of a New York City crime novel. It should appeal to those readers who like a good Mary Higgins Clark book but with a little more "grime" than Ms. Clark normally gives us. Judith Colombo writes her scenes vividly and the reader feels as if she is right there beside the "Death Angel" as another victim is "released," or walking beside Lara as she is being stalked by her pursuer. She writes with true suspense, as in this scene when Lara is sent with her children to the country house to escape the city and (hopefully) her stalker. Despite precautions it doesn't work, and Lara finds herself being hunted in the woods:

It was hard forcing herself through the interlocking branches of the pines. Tired, she paused briefly in the middle of the stand of trees, stretching herself upright to un-cramp her shoulder and give herself a short pause to try and figure out where she was. The stinging on her cheek had ceased, and she flicked the frozen blood off her face almost absentmindedly. In quick succession, a spray of bullets ploughed into the ground at her feet...Her pursuer had circled around, blocking her path. She peered through the branches trying to see if she could see him. "Why are you doing this? Why do you want me dead?"

She did not expect an answer and was surprised to hear a male voice reply. "He told me to hunt you, but he wouldn't let you belong to me. He went back on his word. He lied to me...."
Who is "he"? Is more than one person involved in this stalking of Lara? What is going on? This mystery, plus the mystery of the identity of the "Death Angel" adds up to an engrossing read for anyone who likes their mystery and suspense books a little less than "cozy".

© 2002 by Mary B. Stuart for Curled Up With a Good Book

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