K. J. Erickson, Author, KJ Erickson, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-26699-8

A disappointing follow-up to a promising debut (2001's Third Person Singular), this second novel featuring Minneapolis Special Detective Marshall "Mars" Bahr stumbles in ways mystery fans do not easily forgive: a meandering plot, a too-obvious killer and a limp rendering of what should have been a riveting investigation. Bahr, the head of the elite First Response homicide unit, takes on a case that appears to be a cut-and-dried suicide, except for a 13-digit number written on the dead man's arm. Then other "suicides" begin showing up, all bearing the same number. Gradually, it becomes clear that someone is targeting descendants of a famed Minnesota Civil War regiment, and dozens of volunteer genealogists work furiously to track them down. The real source of tension here is this race against the clock, but it is curiously tame and leaves readers unsatisfied. More satisfying is the very appealing relationship between Bahr, a divorced father, and his young son. The only true source of warmth in the book, as it is in Bahr's life, their time together is a joy to witness. One utterly charming scene between father and son about the birds and the bees almost makes up for the many gratuitous scenes throughout that add nothing and go nowhere—but not quite. Erickson's obvious strengths make the flaws all the more apparent by contrast, and leave us longing for a more polished work next time. (Mar. 18)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-312-98324-6
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-7360-1
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70441-4
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