After I read Don't Cry by Beverly Barton I scanned the shelves one day for her other books. She had several and I landed on The Dying Game (c2007). Once again, Barton had caught me quickly and there was no way I could walk away without finding out who this serial killer was.
He goes after former beauty queens and "picks them before they can wither." He assigns them points by hair color and he kills them in a way which associates them with the talent they displayed in the pageants. He always leaves a long-stemmed rose on the body.
Lindsay McAllister was a rookie detective when she was called to the scene of one such murder in Chattanooga four years ago. She saw how that death devastated Judd Walker, the husband of the victim, and how her death started Judd on a long descent into his own personal hell. Judd hires Powell Investigators to find his wife's killer and Lindsay goes to work for Powell in order to pursue the case full time.
When the killer strikes again, Lindsay is assigned to tell Judd and ask for his help in finding the perp. Things do not go well because Judd has fallen further and is nearly a lost cause.
The body count continues to rise and the time between killings narrows as everyone realizes that the game is coming to an end. The book ends with redemption for Judd and Lindsay placing herself within grasp of the killer.
This serial killer is disposed of but Griff Powell and FBI agent, Nicole Baxter, do not think that he acted alone. The Murder Game picks up when Griff and Nic each receive a call from the second killer telling them the game is still on, however the rules have changed. The killer leaves each of them cryptic clues to his next victim forcing them to play his game if they want to have any chance to help the new victims.
Because this game is so close to what Griff suffered in the past, he finds himself reliving his darkest days. When the killer strikes close to home by kidnapping Nic, Griff is nearly brought down.
What I found interesting about The Murder Game was that after the heroine saves herself, the book isn't finished. In an interesting plot twist, the killer once again gets away and he is arrogant enough to continue the game. He once again sends clues to Griff and Nic and, once again, they must play his game.
Barton is a master at keeping her characters defined and on task. Her plots are twisty, suspenseful and off-beat. A good read, a satisfying wrap-up.
Other Barton novels connected to Griffin Powell &/or the Powell Agency
Killing Her Softly (c2005)
Close Enough To Kill (c2006)
The Dying Game (c2007)
The Murder Game (c2008)
Cold Hearted (c2008)
Silent Killer (c2009)
Dead By Midnight (c2009)