Imagine you’re a top-shelf “escort,” and some whack-job gets a hold of your day planner and starts offing your clientele, one by one. What do you do?
In Until Death, Sean Richardson, a Phoenix homicide detective, is tasked with investigating a series of murders that seem, at first, to be unrelated. But then Gina Gallagher, an off-the-charts-beautiful call girl, comes into the police station and drops a bombshell: the recent homicide victims were all her clients. And her day planner, which contains the names of all her clients, has gone missing. From there, Richardson works the clues, and they lead him on a goose chase involving the men in Gallagher’s life: a lawyer who turns out to have installed a secret camera in her apartment, an ex-boyfriend who takes pictures of her a la a peeping tom, and a host of other johns/well-heeled businessmen with money and motives to spare. Like in any good mystery, practically everyone has a motive, whether it be jealousy, revenge, or just general creepiness, and it takes a while–perhaps too long, in my opinion–for Richardson to sort through the motives and alibis and solve the case. However, in the end, he does, and the penultimate scene is dripping with tension and drama and well worth the wait.
For me, the women in this novel are what elevate Until Death above the many, many police procedurals lining the bookshelves. Gina Gallagher, a high-end escort/personal trainer, is anything but a stereotypical call girl. She is pragmatic and a calculating business woman, but at the same time she has a heart and a brain. Nancy Ballard, the grieving wife of the first homicide victim, is also interesting. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but Thane does an excellent job of shifting the narration between Sean Richardson, the lead homicide detective on the case, and Ballard, who plays a significant role in the case’s conclusion. From a reader’s standpoint, I think that Thane captured the voice of an angry, grieving, and vengeful widow very well, and he does so without slowing down the pace of the narrative, which is paramount in a police procedural. While Gallagher and Ballard were certainly well-drawn, I most say I found Maggie McClinton, Richardson’s partner, to be the most compelling character in the entire book. She is foul-mouthed, tough, and capable, and I am hoping to see much more of her in future novels.
Bottom line, this is a solid, highly-readable book, and I look forward to the next in the series. In the meantime, I will go back and read No Place to Die, the first in the series.