Sunday, May 02, 2010

Forgotten Books: Blood Marks by Bill Crider



Serial killer novels have to run a close second to vampire novels in popularity. And serial killer novels have been with us at least since the grandaddy break-out of The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders back in the early Seventies.

Tiresome as the sub-genre can be (though there are always good ones; the John Lutz books for Kensington are particularly notable) one of my favorites was first published in 1991.

Nine women are savagely murdered. They don't seem to have anything in common. Police psychologist Dan Romain teams up with a investigator named Howland to find the connection that will lead them to the killer.

Crider alternates chapters between the killer, the investigators and Casey Bruckner, a newly divorced mother who's moved to Houston seeking a teaching job. They live in an apartment complex that allows Crider to demonstrate his skills with creating people. If you've ever lived in one of these complexes you know the neurotic responses people have to being stacked on top of each other, especially people with dissimilar interests, tastes and values. One of whom just might be the killer. The ying and yang of sitting around the apartment swimming pool allows Crider to shine.

The police procedural aspects of the novel are believable throughout. No Zounds! discoveries. No faux tough guy talk. And a close examination of a type of killing that is almost too violent to contemplate for very long.

Bill Crider has had a long and successful career working primarily in mysteries but also excelling in horror and westerns. This is Crider at the very top of his form and making the serial killer form all his own. It's a book you'll remember for a long, long time.

And if you don't believe me listen to what Kirkus said at the time: "A striking addition to the serial- killer subgenre--gory, repugnant, and gripping to its last ugly reverberation. "

8 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for remembering, Ed!

Quite Contrary said...

The back story of the serial killer in Blood Marks was the saddest and most disturbing one I have ever read.....The horror of his upbringing was made all the more abhorrent by its realism. It broke my heart....

Mary Cannon

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Might be time to reread this.

Randy Johnson said...

This is one I caught up with last year. It was different from Bill's other books, but quite enjoyable. I still need to find some of his westerns though.

Jon L. Breen said...

When I reviewed this novel in EQMM back in 1991, I was already sick of serial killers, but I very much appreciated Bill's original approach to the sub-genre. It's not a typical Crider novel but one of his best. The following year's THE TEXAS CAPITOL MURDERS is another good one.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks to all who remembered. I would have continued with that sort of thing, but apparently the publishers weren't interested.

Paul D. Brazill said...

This sounds good. A fresh approach to familiat terrain.

Benjie said...

Much as I like all of Crider's writing, I still fall back to this one as the best of his best.