From Publishers Weekly
An award-winning former investigative journalist, Nykanen (Hush) falters in his second novel, a gruesome chiller that's an amalgamation of Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Ashley Stassler is a world-famous sculptor who abducts and kills entire families (cue the Red Dragon) in order to make the ultimate "art" from their dying flesh (remember Buffalo Bill?), and his ego is even bigger than his reputation ("I expect I'll not only be forgiven but I'll be more sought after than ever before. There'll be rock bands named Stassler, and my sculpture will sell for several times its original price"). Nykanen's spin on these Thomas Harris tropes gives the killer his own first-person POV and one of his latest victims a particularly disturbing case of Stockholm syndrome ("I clamp my hand over her mouth.... And then-I don't believe it-she slips her tongue against my fingers. What a wench.... I love her"). In a lackluster subplot, a junior art professor named Lauren Reed learns that her most promising student has gone missing during an internship at Stassler's Utah ranch. The connection is a hunky reporter named Ry Chambers, who interviews Lauren as well as Stassler. Nykanen loads up his tale with plenty of voyeuristic sadism on Stassler's end, while the predictable trysting between Lauren and Ry is all gushy romance ("her mouth opened as readily as leaves in the desert to an early morning mist"). Fans of Harris and other dark thriller writers may eat this one up, but no amount of good details or spine-tingling descriptions can replace original plotting and characters.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In less talented hands, it might have been easy to dismiss this thriller as derivative. But the author, whose first novel, Hush
(1998), was gripping and very scary, rises above his somewhat familiar material. Like Hush
, this one is told from various points of view: Lauren, the sculpting instructor; Kerry, the student selected to intern with a world-famous sculptor; and the sculptor himself, Ashley Stassler, whose brilliant depictions of families caught in moments of extreme agony are created in the most frightening way imaginable. Stassler is by far the more compelling of the lead characters, a noted artist who kidnaps families and turns them into works of art, and we are always a little disappointed when the narrative shifts away from him. A certain plot twist is a bit too similar to one in the Hannibal Lecter series, and Stassler's fate is thoroughly predictable. Even with these missteps, however, the novel is deeply unsettling and exciting--a testament to the author's skill as a storyteller. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved