This riveting new book by Katia Lief centers around “a twenty-seven-year-old mild-mannered loner named Martin Price,” a serial killer dubbed the Domino Killer, so called because at the scene of each of his crimes he leaves a message, spelled out in dominoes, if the police can figure out the clues. As the book begins, he has escaped from custody, leaving a last message that brings the police, in the form of detective first class Billy Staples, to the door of former Detective Karin Schaeffer. Karin, now 33 years old, has received a medical discharge from the police force, having suffered an unthinkable blow at Price’s hands: the murder of her husband and three-year-old daughter. “There had been others before that but it was my family’s murders that had put JPP [her own name for Price: Just Plain Psycho] away once and for all.” But now, apparently, not quite. Karin had first become involved in the hunt for the killer following the murder of five members of a family in Maplewood, New Jersey [her old beat before she quit the force and her old life, believing that she was to blame for her family’s deaths], and which had led to his obsession with her and her family.
This time the dominoes Price left behind contained her street address in Brooklyn, New York, where she’s lived for the last five months. The previous note he had left for her, nearly a year before, was written in her daughter’s blood: You Are Next. His m.o. has always been to wipe out all members of whatever family he has focused on, and now is apparently no exception. The effect on one of his potential victims is made palpable, as Karin describes her brother, Jon: “Nearly translucent skin revealing a lattice of fear, tension, and determination that had replaced the bones, muscles and cartilage out of which the average face was built. His was no average face, not anymore, not since every iota of his being had geared itself to the survival of his family.” Only adding, of course, to Karin’s sense of guilt.
Karin is ambivalent about seeking protection, almost welcoming the prospect of joining her beloved family in the next world; the reader will find it almost impossible to comprehend her unfathomable loss. [On her last day on the police force she had swallowed an entire bottle of pills.] In this intense rendering, the writing is imbued with an ever-present sense of danger and dread. The book is nearly impossible to put down, and is highly recommended.