P.J. Parrish: The Killing Song

While this isn’t in P.J. Parrish’s fine Louis Kincaid series, they (the sisters who make up P.J, Parrish) are pretty expert at whatever they turn their hands to, and this novel is no exception. It’s a serial killer novel with their own special twist. Their main character is a reporter, Matt Owens, who loses his sister to the killer early on in the book. The scenes of Matt’s search for his sister, and of his and his parent’s grief, is so movingly done that I was crying so hard (at the laundromat, no less) I had to put the book down for a bit. It’s this grief that sets this novel apart from any other serial killer novel. I guess what I really mean is that by having Matt’s sister be one of the victims, as a reader, you are fully invested in what happens, and totally behind Matt as he spares nothing in his search for his sister’s killer.

That said, this is a thriller of a ride, with a very clever killer at the center who uses songs and music as clues. Bodies turn up everywhere – Miami (Matt’s sister), London, Paris, Scotland – and the book takes you on a whirlwind tour of the globe, though the main focus is Paris. Matt manages to connect with first an old colleague, now living in Paris, and then with the cop in charge of one of the cases, Eve, though it’s an early case that haunts her, and in her own way, she’s as obsessed and focused as Matt.

The combination of standard police work, off the books police work, and Matt’s reporting skills take the pair farther and faster than they might have done either separately or working through official channels. The layering in of Matt’s life, Eve’s life, and the inter-cutting of scenes inside the mind of the killer make for an absolutely compelling read. As the novel utilizes and comes back to the Paris sewer system – they are the holding center for millions of bones placed there after city cemeteries got too full hundreds of years ago – the overlay of the story is very gothic and atmospheric. By the last third of the book I found it impossible to do anything but read. This is a great read, and perfect for an airplane or the beach or simply curling up on your sofa with at the end of a long day. I recommend using Google Images to look up photos of the sewer system – amazing and creepy.