cover image End Game

End Game

Dev Stryker. Forge, $22.95 (318pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85195-8

The two writers who first collaborated as the pseudonymous Stryker in Death right have won three Edgars between them, but their work here is far below award caliber. Clunky writing and a hokey plot drag down this tale of Inspector Paul Regal, head of an elite NYPD drug unit that seems to be running out of luck and/or reliable snitches. Just as one of his top cops is murdered in East Harlem, Paul finds himself drawn into the hunt for a serial killer who marks his victims' foreheads with the initials of chess moves. The murders continue, Regal's wife has an affair with billionaire developer Oliver Storm, the inspector himself falls in love with the dead officer's old girlfriend and frets about the commissioner's lack of trust; then the decidedly soap-opera plot wraps up with a bloody--but neat--finale. Both a crooked cop and the ``Monogram Killer'' are too easily spotted in a narrative that generally lacks surprises or tension. The only relief comes in an unintentionally funny description of Storm's Trump-like vulgarity: ``The deep purple plush wall hangings lent a dignified air . . . all the furnishings were low and tasteful.'' (Apr.)