Marks has the procedural down pat, right down to interdepartmental tensions, the laconic detective’s differences with his ex-wife, and much snappy "cop speak": When Jericho points out that public beheadings still occur in some countries, his partner comes back with "That's entertainment." Marks also deftly addresses law enforcement racism, which helps make even some unlikable characters fully dimensional. His cool understatement makes the killings even more chilling than if they’d been graphic. Occasionally, he slips: A sex scene is gratuitously vulgar, and a description of a female character's looks as "cosmetic surgery miscalculations" falls flat. But those are exceptions in a disciplined novel that rarely falters.
While taut, Rip Saw doesn't neglect characterization. Jericho awkwardly balances fatherhood duty, and his relationship with his partner Vangie comes across as smooth and natural. Unlike Jericho, Vangie is in a happy marriage, and Marks writes warm and believable exchanges between her and her wife, Ingrid. Even the culprit has a complex backstory that elevates their humanity. Reader investment in these characters makes the masterfully plotted denouement all the more tense. With plot turns that surprise and a continual series of cliffhangers, readers will be breathless—and eager for the next installment.
Takeaway: Appealing sleuths, snappy dialog, and a tense plot that moves at light speed make this mystery a must for fans of the classic police procedural.
Great for fans of: Joseph Wambaugh, Ed McBain
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A-
SOMEONE IS BEHEADING EAST HAMPTON POLICE OFFICERS. IS IT A TERRORIST OR A HOMICIDAL MANIAC?