Catch Me

A. J. Holt, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-19972-2
Former FBI agent and computer hacker Jay Fletcher, known as the vigilante Ladykiller in Holt's previous novel, Watch Me, returns in this slick, grisly page-turner to play cat-and-mouse with an escaped serial killer she helped incarcerate. Jay is trying to master glassblowing and become comfortable with a new identity as a member of the Witness Security Program when she is contacted electronically by brilliant and vicious Billy Bones, a young murderer in the mold of Jeffrey Dahmer. (In Holt's first novel, Jay happened upon the Internet meeting-place of serial killers and rid the world of four of them, including the notorious Ricky Stiles, mentor of her present quarry, before turning herself in.) Billy, who believes himself the offspring of Charles Manson and cult member Mary Jane Shorter, escaped while being transported to a brain research program at the National Institute of Mental Health; he drops tantalizing clues regarding his imminent killing sprees via Internet messages to Jay. Once an anthropologist at New York's Museum of Natural History, Billy leaves a Heliconius specimen at each crime scene in a nod to ""the butterfly effect"" (""the flapping wings of a butterfly in one part of the world could eventually result in a hurricane in some other place at a later time"")--an example of chaos theory, which drives Billy to produce what he calls a perfect death. As the mutilated bodies pile up, including those of children, both Billy and Jay reflect at interminable length on the killer's motivations, struggling to give a cerebral spin on what remains essentially butchery. ""People like me are a different species entirely,"" Billy blithely tells one victim. ""I kill people because it gives me a rush.... Because fear is just one big turn-on."" It is also a turn-on for many fans of this genre, at which Holt is adept. Jay--haunted by having been raped when she was young--is an appealing character, though Holt's insistent use of italics for her stream-of-consciousness is annoying. Though this up-to-the-minute thriller feels overly manipulated, in the end it provides an abundance of old-fashioned fright. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-312-26448-2
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-312-97130-4
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