cover image Killing the Blues

Killing the Blues

Paul Johnson. St. Martin's Press, $0 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-312-01054-6

Ex-'60s radical Casey is quietly rotting away in the Catskills, ruminating on his deteriorating relationship with Agnes, a hip family therapist and her yuppie entourage. Then he stumbles upon a headless, handless, footless, flayed and gutted corpse. The police are powerless to solve the crime, mainly because there's no way to identify the body. But evidence suggests to Casey that the killer is Roger Klugel, himself a cop, and that Klugel's wife, who disappeared some time ago, is the victim. But there's no proof. In addition, Klugel, whom Casey considers a crack-brained storm-trooper type, is a local hero. Ultimately, Casey and sidekick Gary (a '60s rock musician who also is quietly going to seed in the mountains) find a way to see justice done with the help of another local cop, who has been cashiered and has revolted against the authorities. This unusual thriller, a first novel, is a formidable debut. Johnson not only is good at suspense: his depiction of the diaspora into the boonies of urban baby boomerssome reformed, so to speak, as yuppies and others still unregenerate rebelsis nicely observed. (November 24)