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Badlands: A Novel of Suspense (Byrne and Balzano Book 4) Kindle Edition

21 customer reviews

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Length: 401 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Philadelphia homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano take on a high-profile cold case in Montanari's superior thriller, which combines a genuinely creepy villain with fully fleshed-out victims. The dead-end inquiry into the drowning death of 17-year-old Caitlin O'Riordan four months earlier gets a boost when someone, privy to details never made public, tips the police to an abandoned building in a bad neighborhood that later turns out to house a second corpse. The stakes are raised even higher when another body turns up, an ex-girlfriend of Byrne's who'd worked for the local district attorney. Segments from the killer's perspective increase the tension, and Montanari (Merciless) does a nice job of concealing one of the murderer's alter egos. The fiend's methods, modeled after elaborate magical tricks, are a welcome change from the gore typical of the serial killer subgenre. Likewise, Byrne and Balzano possess a psychological depth all too rare in such fiction. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The new Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne mystery is also, by far, the best is the series, a novel worthy of comparison with such elite procedural authors as Michael Connelly. Philadelphia homicide cops Balzano and Byrne are working a cold case, the disappearance of a young girl. Following some new evidence, the partners discover that a serial killer is stalking runaways, abducting and killing them in bizarre ways. This is a stunning novel, combining the best elements of the police procedural with the most unsettling aspects of the psycho serial-killer genre.  The villain is not merely a psychopath but a fully realized human being, with a backstory that explains his obsessions. We feel a certain amount of compassion for him even as we’re seriously creeped out by his actions and what goes on inside his head. Along with such Connelly jewels as The Narrows (2004), this outstanding, truly memorable novel will remind readers of Ridley Pearson’s Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews series, especially The Pied Piper (1998), which also includes a riveting portrait of a deranged serial killer. Montanari seems poised to take his place on the top ranks of the mystery field. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • File Size: 861 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Publication Date: August 26, 2008
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001E7BLQA
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,608 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Richard was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the scion of a traditional Italian-American family, which means he learned two things very early in life. One: ravioli tastes much better than baby formula. Two: if you don't get to the table on time, there IS no ravioli.

After an undistinguished academic career in junior high and high school, culminating in an undistinguished five-year career as an English major at Case Western Reserve University, Richard traveled Europe extensively, living in London for a time, where he sold men's clothing on Oxford Street, and foreign language encyclopedias door-to-door in Hampstead Heath.

Needless to say, he hawked a few more ties than tomes. So, abandoning his dream (that being to become the next Bryan Ferry) he returned to the States and joined his family's construction firm.

Five years and a hundred smashed thumbs later, he decided that writing might be a better job.

After working as a freelance writer for years, during which time he was published in more than two hundred publications, Richard wrote three pages of what was to become the first chapter of Deviant Way. He was immediately signed to a New York agency. When he finished the book, Michael Korda signed him to a two-book deal at Simon & Schuster.

Deviant Way was published in hardcover in 1995. Richard went on to publish The Violet Hour in 1998, Kiss of Evil in 2001, The Rosary Girls in 2005, and The Skin Gods in 2006. His books have now been published in more than a dozen countries.

His next novel of suspense, Merciless, will be published by Ballantine Books in spring 2007.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tracy L. VINE VOICE on September 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Montanari write some of the best mysteries on the market, and it truly surprises me that there are not more reviews for this fantastic book.

Byrne and Balzano are great characters, in fact all the characters are well-defined and realistic. Montanari does a remarkable job making the city of Philadelphia so much a part of the story. It's very existence is a part of the mystery here. Also, the killer is so unique and his murderous reasons so unusual that they truly set this book apart from other mysteries.

While BADLANDS is part of a series, you do not need to have read the previous books to get into the story. This is great thriller.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on September 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Lock the doors, settle into a comfortable chair, and prepare to be swept away in the mystery and intrigue of Badlands. This chilling suspense novel, filled with gruesome murders conducted along a twisted plot in north Philadelphia, will keep you turning page after page as the puzzle unfolds.

Joseph Swann, known to his victims as Mr. Ludo, is the brilliant son of a magician-gone-madman. Keenly adept with his hands, he builds keepsake furniture pieces for the wealthy to support his passion for magic, puzzles, and murder. With tormented thoughts from a long-lost childhood, Swann attempts to collect revenge on his past by hunting teenage runaways to become his magician's assistants. A handsome, smooth-talking man with knowledge on current events and pop culture, and a vast array of stage disguises that transform him into anyone he wants to become, Swann is able to gain the confidence of his young victims and lure them into his trap. In his relic mansion with hidden passages, Swann tenderly cares for each of his victims until he is ready to display their bodies as part of his Seven Wonders.

Detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are assigned to the cold case of Caitlin O'Riordan, and quickly find that the case is not really cold, and the killer is on the loose. Collaborating with officers who worked the case in the past, street-smart runaways, and the famous author of a tangram book, the detectives begin to close in on their prey. The question is, will they catch him before the seventh girl dies?

Author Richard Montanari is a skilled novelist, essayist, and screenwriter whose work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications. He is an OLMA award winner and has also written Merciless, The Skin Gods, The Rosary Girls, Kiss of Evil, Deviant Way, and The Violet Hour.

Armchair Interviews says: Chills and suspense in a well-written novel.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TMStyles VINE VOICE on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Richard Montanari brings back Philadelphia detectives, Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, in what may be their most bizarre and terrifying case so far. Working on a "cold case" of a missing runaway girl, Caitlin O'Riordan, the detectives are quickly led into a maze of young female runaways, dead bodies in grotesque and bizarre "presentations", a murdered former lover of Byrne's, and a psychopathic killer who seems always one step ahead of them.

"Badlands" refers to a desolate section of north Philadelphia which becomes an integral part of the story itself due to Montanari's uncanny ability to create a "sense of place" so strongly that the reader can see its ugliness and breathe its smells. The novel is at once a police procedural, a character study of a demented psychopath, and a great suspense thriller.

Montanari embeds the plot and the investigation in an atmosphere of tangram puzzles, traditional magic, and stunning illusions. There is misdirection, a poignant back story, a master of disguise, a magician or two, and several other surprises as we follow the bodies leading to the killer's Seven Wonders. The police work of Byrne and Balzano that lead them ever closer to the killer is suspenseful and frustrating.

As usual, Montanari creates superb characters, not only in his heroes, but in his villains and even minor players. His dialogue is realistic and believable, his pacing fast and furious, and his plotting is deft and logical at all times. In Byrne and Balzano, Montanari has created two protagonists that are fully fleshed, likable, and that the reader can quickly care about. No one gets into the mind of his serial killer the way Montanari does and I strongly recommend his works to new readers who may be tempted.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cy B. Hilterman VINE VOICE on September 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The word that came to my mind after reading this book was "WOW!" Badlands is located in North Philadelphia in an area that is old, run down, bad, and does not have the nicest living there or hanging out near it. Police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are switched to the elite Special Investigations Unit of the city police force. Mostly young runaway girls are found brutally killed and every time the police think they have a new clue that will corner and capture this killer, something else is left for them leading them in another direction. These clues are, as they finally find out, clues from puzzles and/or magicians. The killer sends or phones messages but they always lead to another area or house in the Badlands. The police are always one step or more behind this horrific killer. Byrne and Balzano are kept very busy as are the police added to assist in this search.

The villain watches young women in various areas of the city, determines which ones would be the easiest for him to gain faith and trust. Eventually, the victims are unknowingly drugged and are taken one at a time to his hidden lair. He alters his appearance so a description was next to impossible for anyone that might have seem anything going on. The killer was smart but the police knew he would make a mistake some time but WHEN? Eve Galvez was a top-notch cop and very good friend of detective Balzano. When Eve disappeared the dragnet increased with more resources immediately thrown into the search. This now missing woman involved one of their own, and that message increases every cop's urgency.
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