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. "