Sunday, January 15, 2017
Chico writer Marie Sutro evokes the gritty reality of police investigations in a stunning debut novel of violence, eroticism, and suspense that holds the reader in its grip until the very end. In "Dark Associations" ($9.99 in paperback from Viper Press; also for Amazon Kindle) a serial killer, a psychopath obsessed with medieval torture methods, horribly mutilates a succession of young women whose bodies each bear the brand of the ancient Norse thorn symbol.
The novel's central figure is Kate Barnes, a Special Victims Unit detective with the San Francisco Police Department, a thirty-something beauty racked by her seeming complicity in the death of her younger sister when they were kids.
She is paired with Detective Tyler Harding from Boston. He had failed to catch that city's "Tower Torturer" who killed seven young women. Harding and Barnes realize the murders have begun again, this time in San Francisco. And the new victims are all somehow connected to Kate.
Stymied, the department captain calls in FBI superstar profiler, Special Agent Ben Fraye, with whom Harding had worked in Boston in the fruitless effort to track down the "unknown subject."
Detective Barnes had not dealt with a psychopathic killer before, so Special Agent Fraye explains to her that the UNSUB "sees something in you--something he feels he can relate to." Such killers "cannot relate to others in terms of compassion and empathy" but, "oddly enough, while you can't figure them out, at least one of them seems to understand aspects of you--and you're the one accusing them of being emotionally handicapped."
Complicating matters is the growing attraction between Barnes and Fraye, Harding's own past with Kate, and a killer taking lives just because he wants to. The characters are deeply drawn and the complex plot provides surprises at every turn. The grisly details are there, but so also is a pulse-pounding story that keeps the pages turning.
Marie Sutro (mariesutro.com) will be signing copies of her book at Barnes and Noble in Chico this Saturday from 2:00-4:00 p.m. The author has also scheduled an interview with Nancy Wiegman, who hosts Nancy's Bookshelf on mynspr.org; readers can subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes at apple.co/2igUfQz.