cover image HEAD GAMES


Eileen Dreyer, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-26578-6

Things have never been easy for Molly Burke: the trauma nurse and part-time death investigator who previously appeared in Dreyer's Bad Medicine suffered through a loveless childhood and post-traumatic stress from a tour as a nurse in Vietnam. She married twice, but despite four pregnancies she has no living children. At Grace Hospital, "the primary gun and knife club in St. Louis," she often must treat children who have sustained suspicious injuries; though she always spots the child abuse hidden in these cases, she's frequently helpless to save the child. Her dog is her best friend, while her human associates include the handsome and smarmy lawyer who filed a lawsuit that cost Molly a job; a sweet but slightly needy elderly neighbor; and a coterie of colleagues who often voice their affection for Molly through insults. Then there's Molly's 16-year-old rich-kid nephew, whom she hasn't seen for years. He moves in with her after dropping by to steal some priceless works of art from the Burke family estate, where the disinherited Molly is "allowed to live... on sufferance." Against this dreary backdrop, Molly begins receiving threatening notes and special deliveries of human body parts, such as a thigh bone inscribed in gold. The reader learns that these creepy gifts are likely totems of a serial killer's affection, and now Molly must figure out who he is. Dreyer makes her heroine put up with far too much, but Molly perseveres in a chilling chase to find the killer before he strikes again. Four-city author tour. (Mar.)