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Play Dead by Richard Montanari
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English (7)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
An excellent police procedural involving sleight-of-hand magic and games. The setting is familiar to me, so that was fun. The killer is the son of a magician who lives in an old mansion where he maintains a passion for puzzles and murder. (All of the clues point to a puzzle maniac.) An expert in disguise, he preys on runaway girls whom he lures into the hidden passageways of the old house where he fails to understand why they don’t appreciate his ministrations before he kills (sacrifices, really) them as part of his Seven Wonders.

Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balazano are competent and what begins as the investigation of a cold case turns into a very hot one indeed. The gradual uncovering of geographical clues and fitting them together into a tangram was clever. The partners work well together even with their own demons, and it was refreshing to have partners of the opposite sex who didn’t feel it necessary to tangle in the sheets. Not that I have anything against that, it’s just hard to make it realistic and solve crimes at the same time.

It was also fun to recognize Philadelphia landmarks where I went to school. The first nine-tenths of the book were really quite good, but much like chess where the endgame is usually the most difficult, the denouement left me slightly unsatisfied and felt rushed. Everything is tied together too neatly and unnecessarily in the last few pages.

Nevertheless, I stayed up too late to finish this book.

Whether I give 3 or 4 stars to a book I like often depends more on what time of day it is, if I have papers to grade, if the sun is shining, the outside temperature, if I've just eaten, etc., so let's consider this 3.567498 stars which I will round up to four. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
This book is ok, I guess, but I wouldn't read it twice. ( )
  seldombites | Sep 12, 2012 |
Badlands. Richard Montanari. 2008. Philadelphia police detectives Kevin
Byrne and Jessica Balzano work together to catch a vile serial murderer. This novel is as exciting as the others in the series: The Skin Gods, The Rosary Girls, and The Violent Hour. They are short, suspenseful, and violent. It isn’t necessary to read the series in order, but it would make them more enjoyable ( )
  judithrs | Aug 19, 2010 |
Another great read, really enjoyed this one ( )
  madcow | Jul 8, 2009 |
If you’re going to write great cop fiction, you need two things: great cops and great villains. Richard Montanari has both in his Philadelphia police series and his latest installment, Badlands, delivers an exceptionally creepy villain. This particular killer leads detectives on a scavenger hunt around Philadelphia, leaving clues and bodies for them to find. A dead runaway in a dry, abandoned basement, inexplicably dead of drowning. An old refrigerator in a vacant lot with a grisly surprise. A strange name spelled out in Scrabble tiles at the scene of a suicide. A bible with curious markings. An ancient Chinese tangram puzzle. Video clues on a goth website. The killer’s own Masterpiece Theater.

For great cop fiction, you also need great cops. Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are great characters — gritty street cops with no romantic involvement (thank heavens) and complicated personal lives who make a really effective team. They have been through a lot together in previous books. They care about each other, but there is still some distance between them; if you’re going to work that closely, you need to be very cautious about each other’s personal space. They have their secrets, but there is a lot they share.

And on the topic of great cops, this series has one of my very favorite characters: Joshua Bontrager, Philadelphia’s only Amish homicide detective. It could really be played for laughs — and there were quite a few when he was first introduced — but after the initial amusement wore off, he earned the respect of his fellow detectives. He has real strengths that have come from his unusual background and he puts them to good use. He is an odd and refreshing presence in the Roundhouse.

Montanari’s villians are always big and dramatic, staging crimes that are more like events. We get a look at the crimes through the murderer’s eyes, learning the background story in flashbacks, woven in and around the detectives and their investigation. The tortured histories are revealed as the story builds to a final confrontation. It’s a format that has worked well in the three previous novels, The Rosary Girls, The Skin Gods, and Merciless.
  LisaLynne | Apr 16, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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For Darla Jean

Sorella mia, cuore mio
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In the darkness, in the deep violet folds of the night, he hears whispers: low, plaintive sounds that dart and shudder and scratch behind the wainscoting, the cornice, the parched and wormy wood lath. (Prologue)
The dead girl sat inside the glass display case, a pale and delicate curio placed on a shelf by a madman. (Chapter One)
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Badlands (US title) is the same book as Play Dead (UK title)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099538628, Paperback)

In each soul, a secret ...Philadelphia homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano's first assignment from the Cold Case files is the brutal murder of a young runaway. The lifeless body of Caitlin O'Riordan was found carefully posed in a glass display case in the desolate Philadelphia Badlands but, as Byrne and Balzano rapidly discover, she was just the first pawn in the killer's twisted game...A mysterious phone call leads them on a scavenger hunt for a second victim. This time a young girl has been dismembered, her body parts left in three boxes in the basement of a deserted house. More clues lead to other victims and, as the body count rises, it becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose, hell-bent on completing the 'performance' of a lifetime. As more runaways vanish, Byrne and Balzano come to realize that the homicidal mastermind plans to complete seven depraved tricks in his dark and dangerous magic act. With Balzano increasingly obsessed by a case that haunts her, and Byrne struggling with a loss of his own, the stakes are mounting. But this is one game they can't afford to lose...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:49 -0400)

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Philadelphia homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano's first assignment from the Cold Case files is the brutal murder of a young runaway.

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