Paul Devlin wants a life away from the madness of New York City, respite from a near-fatal confrontation with a killer. The serene mill town of Blake, Vt., offers him an escape.
The ex-homicide detective is settling in as a rural cop when the murders he fled start again: "A hand slides under the chest, seizing the heart, beating and beating and beating. Then the other, with the knife, probing for the veins and arteries and cutting them away. The hands retreat in a spray of blood; the knife falls away. The heart lays cupped in both blood-smeared hands, still beating and pulsing. 'Oh, God!' the voice shouts."
Each murder bears a signature—a withered red rose; Devlin must bring the growing body count to an end.
Heffernan (Ritual) builds the fear element chapter by chapter. Yet he never deviates from the dictates of the genre—Devlin has the required love interest; the locals are suspicious of a New York cop; the obvious guilty party turns out to be not so obvious.
All these reliable ingredients, properly mixed, make an enjoyable read. (Dutton, $18.95)