cover image Beyond Recognition

Beyond Recognition

Ridley Pearson. Hyperion Books, $22.45 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-6240-5

A rag and a bone are literally all the Seattle PD has to work with after a violent fire consumes a home and its helpless female occupant, a divorced mother. When a second victim dies the same way, detective Lou Boldt (Chain of Evidence, etc.) and police psychologist Daphne Matthews (both Pearson regulars) begin the process of profiling a serial killer who uses rocket fuel to torch women because they resemble his mother. Elsewhere, a young boy named Ben, whose abusive stepfather has all but driven him into the street, has been befriended by a fraudulent ""psychic"" named Emily Richland, who hires Ben to scout her clients' vehicles while they're meeting with her. This task leads, in the novel's best scene, to Ben witnessing an exchange of cash for rocket fuel, a sighting that in turn eventually takes the police to their killer. Much of the plot teeters on the coincidental nature of all these connections, and on the unlikely bits of evidence used to corner the suspect (e.g., a ladder's impressions left on backyard grass). The intricate forensics that have driven so many of Pearson's novels are largely missing here, and secondary characters are sketched quickly and without depth. Even Boldt and Matthews have lost their shine, bickering a lot while insisting that they love one another, while Boldt's long-suffering wife, Liz, is discarded in cruel fashion. But no doubt the Boldt-Matthews team will be back, hopefully to solve cases less confusing and farfetched than this one. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Feb.)