Hardcover, 355 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017
Read: March 25 – 27, 2017
I’m really of two minds about this one — it was a pretty rock-solid thriller, full of suspense and all the other things you want in a book about a serial killer being hunted down over several states. On the other hand, it’s a lousy Stevens & Windermere novel — it could have literally been any other detectives/agents/maverick cops and the book would’ve played out the same way.
For years — women who no one will miss, women who are pretty much expected to leave town at any moment — have been the target of “the rider.” He’s a presence — some would say an Urban Legend — on the “High Line” (a railroad route in Montana, Idaho, Washington), and is responsible for the deaths of many: small town waitresses, prostitutes, runaways, train hoppers. Since these women weren’t noticed by many, were expected to be seeking opportunities out of the small towns they live in, and so on — no one raises a fuss over their disappearances (or the eventual discovery of their remains after the snow abates. A girl named Ash feels like she has to ignore the warnings about the High Line to make it somewhere in record time. She becomes one of “the riders”‘ victims — her friend decides to get a little vengeance and goes off to hunt “the ride” and make sure no one else forgets these women.
About the same time, Stevens and Windermere learn about Ash’s murder — and soon the begin to learn about others. So while Mathers stays home to handle the technical and research portions of the investigation, the agents hit the road to dig up some better clues. Which leads to uncovering many, many more deaths; a Herculean effort to save the friend’s life (hard to do while she’s running from the law); and a showdown with “the rider.”
What I liked: the suspense, the way that Laukkanen told the story (although I admit having a little trouble keeping names straight at the beginning) — bouncing between perspectives while ratcheting up the suspense. I’m not always the biggest fan of this maneuver, but Laukkanen nailed it. The world — the culture of train hopping — was fascinating, and I’m willing to bet really well researched and pretty based in reality. Overall, it’s not the best thriller I’ve read lately, but it was very satisfying.
What I didn’t like: as I said, it could’ve been the most generic pairing of a male/female FBI agents on the hunt for this killer. Until maybe the last 50 pages — but even then, it didn’t need to be Kirk Stevens or Carla Windermere, but it made it easier to handle the emotional beats for them to be the central characters. Also, while I absolutely bought the killer, his motivation, his twisted way of thinking — but when he was responding to questions, explaining himself? Ugh. He sounded like he was reading off of a list of sexual predator prejudices from Wikipedia. Honestly, you take out that one segment where he’s responding to questions about his motivation and the whole book is better.
I’m still planning on reading whatever Laukkanen puts out for the next 5< years, don’t misunderstand me. This one just didn’t work for me the way I’d hoped. Not a bad book — just a bad seines entry.