Good to the Last Kiss

Ronald Tierney. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8030-7

The Bay Strangler, a serial killer who breaks the necks of his female victims and adorns each with a tattoo, stymies crusty, opera-loving Vincente Gratelli, a San Francisco homicide inspector, in this middling crime novel from Tierney, best known for his Deets Shanahan PI series (Bullet Beach, etc.). When PI Julia Bateman is sexually assaulted and beaten at her country cabin, a "crudely carved rosebud" on her thigh leads Gratelli and his partner, Insp. Mickey McClellan, to suspect a link to the previous crimes, despite her assailant leaving her alive. As the murders become a local sensation, the two inspectors must also contend with their department's political response to the crisis. A digression as Bateman recuperates back home in Iowa slows things down a bit, but the author adds suspense by presenting the killer's perspective on events. The closing twist is likely to shock only genre newcomers. (Aug.)