Thomas Laird, Author . Carroll & Graf $24 (256p) ISBN 0-7867-0944-8

Ever since Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lector, fictional serial killers not only have to murder a lot of people, preferably leggy young women, but they have to do it as gruesomely as possible. In this well-paced first thriller by short story writer Laird, the killer is so emotionally and psychically warped that he rapes, mutilates and eviscerates his victims so that his masters can sell the organs on the international black market. That's pretty gruesome. Chicago police detective Lieut. Jimmy Parisi, a fiftyish widower who marries a young policewoman, Natalie Manion, during the novel, makes an engaging narrator. His investigative partner and mentor, the intellectual, enigmatic Doc Gibron, provides buddy interest. Interspersed are chapters narrated by the madman, whom the reader identifies early on, even as he remains elusive to the police. Parisi's cousin Billy Cheech, a Mafia soldier, reveals a mob connection, including a capo's kinky sister. Finally, Parisi and Natalie set themselves up as targets. As the killer stalks Natalie, Parisi speeds to save her in a damaged car that will only move in reverse—a new twist on the obligatory car chase. Laird has come up with a newsworthy dimension to the story in the illegal procuring and selling of human organs for vast sums, but Parisi and the killer are the only characters with enough depth to come to life, and too often the dialogue jarringly slips from the vernacular to the stiffly formal. The knife on the cover effectively alerts serial-killer fans that this is a book for them. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!