Dahmer's Not Dead

Elizabeth Steffen, Author, Edward Lee, Author I D I Publications $40 (288p) ISBN 978-1-881475-93-4

The prison bludgeoning death of convicted cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer in 1994 is the springboard for this intricate but wildly improbable police procedural. Mere days after Dahmer's burial, Columbus County, Wis., is terrorized by a new cannibal killer whose fingerprints, handwriting and phone voice all match those of the supposedly deceased Dahmer. The press and police are convinced that Dahmer has either faked his death or been resurrected. But Helen Cross, a captain of the Wisconsin State Police Violent Crimes Unit, detects nuances in the crimes that suggest that a copycat with a different m.o. has made a diabolical change in his model's methods. Lee and Steffen demonstrate the same facility for imagining spattery crime scenes that galvanized their previous collaboration, Portrait of the Psychopath as a Young Woman. They are less capable with living flesh and blood. Only Helen, a bundle of instincts and insecurities that intensify when her investigation implicates her lover, medical examiner Tom Drake, has a personality complex enough to match the contrivances of the plot. Her associates and adversaries come across as little more than ghouls or geeks who exist primarily to discuss cutting-edge forensic techniques in numbing clinical detail--none more so than the chortling villain, whose climactic revelations of how he pulled off his crimes read with all the passion of a modern criminology textbook. That's a shame, since the authors come close to making the threat expressed in their lurid tabloid title seem, at least briefly, an eerie possibility. (Oct.)
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