cover image A Room for the Dead

A Room for the Dead

Noel Hynd. Zebra, $18.95 (353pp) ISBN 978-0-8217-4583-0

The chills come fast and hard in Hynd's latest, a riveting blend of ghost story and police procedural. New Hampshire state cop Frank O'Hara, approaching 50 and close to retirement, is given a case--a young woman is beheaded, her right hand cut off--that duplicates the M.O. of serial killer Gary Ledbetter. But Gary, a ``low-rent Lothario'' nabbed by O'Hara, was executed months ago in Florida, after political machinations moved the killer to a state with capital punishment. Since then, O'Hara's life has turned to ashes. He's taken seriously to booze, his wife has left him, his partner has committed suicide--and now, deep into another hated winter, something seems to be haunting his house: floors creak, doors slam, an empty rocking chair rocks. A tangle of right-wing state politics, skinhead thieves, a mysterious young woman and, increasingly, dialogues between O'Hara and what seems to be Gary's ghost lead the cop through past police corruption and malfeasance to a shattering conclusion. Throughout, the atmospherics are excellent and the local color first-rate: ``There's ten months of winter and two months of bad skiiing. The state animal is the skunk, the state bird is the black fly, the state citizen is the deadbeat, and the state sport is petty larceny.'' After several spy thrillers, Hynd switched to the occult with his previous novel, Ghosts . This spooky follow-up confirms that he's made the right choice. (June)