Serial killers who begin their careers at five years old are rare. It is probably an item best left off a resume. Even though it was only dogs, cats, and fish that Nicola killed, there was bound to be disapproval. Not from mom. Nicola’s single parent was creative in the ways she beat and punished Nicola, so she couldn’t say she hadn’t received any education from mom. At age of ten Nicola graduated to a higher class of subjects by poisoning one of her classmates. At twelve she killed a homeless man for practice. At fourteen she killed a pedophile. It seemed only natural that she become a nurse. What a beginning!
Nicola was not malevolent in her killing; it is just that she felt better after a kill; a certain pressure disappeared, anxiety evaporated. Failing to make regular kills made Nicola feel bad. But Nicola had a plan. Through trial-and-error she had found that if she killed three people every six months her criminal metabolism hummed along at an equilibrium. Miss the goal and she would suffer painful consequences. Nursing was absolutely the best solution for her, especially senior citizen care. Patients were at risk anyway, deaths would be unsuspicious, and the homes offered her a drug supply. Nicola was not an addict but pharmaceutical procedures and rules dictated that the medications dispensed to patients had to be discarded after the patient died. Nicola discarded medicine to her home stash, to be shared with other patients Nicola selected for an early exit.
There was a chance that deaths in even a senior citizen home would be investigated. Too many deaths in one geographic area would eventually raise suspicions. No problem, Nicola simply moved every six months; nursing shortages guaranteed employment. Her minimalist lifestyle allowed for a build-up of a financial nest egg that financed her frequent address and job changes. Everything was going fine until she met Gary Marshall. He had come to the home where Nicola worked to see his father, Sam. Nicola felt a bond with Sam when she attended to him, but it was not a good one. When she looked in his eyes or touched him, she felt the presence of Evil. This was a problem; Nicola solved problems, she killed Sam. When Gary came to the home to thank Nicola for the excellent care, the two embraced and both felt the shock and presence of Evil. Gary ran away as if escaping; Nicola went home. Nicola’s nightmares began. She would wake up screaming from a nightmare in which she was watching the killing and sexual torture of a woman. The day following the nightmare, she would see a picture in the newspaper that matched the images she had seen in her dream. She could not identify the killer.
She had a nightmare about a second girl tortured and killed, news later published also matched the identity of the girl in her second dream. Realizing that she was seeing women tortured and killed in her dreams before the event, she decided to go to the police. This is the first weak point in the story. Why would a serial killer who had no intention to stop killing go to the police and try to expose the identity of a rival serial killer? Who in a rational state of mind would believe police would believe her? At this point we have to suspend logic and just go with a well told piece of fiction.
Then we examine the police role in the novel. The rest of the novel deals with police politics. Questions will be discussed that will be familiar to anyone who follows Law and Order, CSI, or Criminal Minds. Who is in charge of the investigation? Who is responsible for failure to come to a quick resolution of the crime through timely identification of the suspect? How far can the law be procedurally bent so police hero Matt can use evidence obtained not in a strictly legal way? How can Nicola convince Matt that her dreams are accurate predictions of future crimes?
There are cops like Matt who drink too much and have to work through the alcoholic blur. That is also true of Nicola, but as a serial killer she is not bound by rules of sobriety. Jane, an ambitious female cop detests Matt, leader of the designated task force (DTF) with a mission to find the male serial killer of the women who appeared in Nicola’s dreams. Because of a lack of leads, Matt spends most of his time cataloguing the weakness of team members; he feels their weaknesses will show him to be weak and lead to his dismissal.
There is a question about the existence of Evil as a vague sentient being that may be independent of Nicola. Evil might be the thing that gives Nicola anxiety and pressure, the things that compel Nicola to kill. The same Evil might compel the killer in Nicola’s dreams to kill. This question will not be answered in this novel. However, this novel is one in a series.
For such a dark topic, there is little violence and almost no sex. The mystery is nicely developed. The reader might guess the identity of the man in Nicola’s dreams before the end, but there are a couple of surprises to follow, so don’t close the book early.