Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pg. 99: Cody Mcfadyen's "The Face of Death"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Cody Mcfadyen's The Face of Death.

About the book, from the author's website:
“I want to talk to Smoky Barrett or I’ll kill myself.”

The girl is sixteen, at the scene of a grisly triple homicide, and has a gun to her head. She claims “The Stranger” killed her adoptive family, that he’s been following her all her life, killing everyone she ever loved, and that no one believes her.

No one has. Until now.

Special Agent Smoky Barrett is head of the violent crimes unit in Los Angeles, the part of the FBI reserved for tracking down the worst of the worst. Her team has been handpicked from among the nation’s elite law enforcement specialists and they are as obsessed and relentless as the psychos they hunt; they’ll have to be to deal with this case.

For another vicious double homicide reveals a killer embarked on a dark crusade of trauma and death: an “artist” who’s molding sixteen-year-old Sarah into the perfect victim -- and the ultimate weapon. But Smoky Barrett has another, more personal reason for catching The Stranger -- an adopted daughter and a new life that are worth protecting at any cost.

This time Smoky is going to have to put it all on the line. Because The Stranger is all too real, all too close, and all too relentless. And when he finally shows his face, if she’s not ready to confront her worst fear, Smoky won’t have time to do anything but die.
Among the early reviews of The Face of Death:
McFadyen's outstanding sequel to his debut, Shadow Man (2006), provides a chilling reminder: "However bad things may become, evil men only triumph in the most important ways when we let them." FBI Special Agent Smoky Barrett is barely back in fighting form six months after killing the man who murdered her family and best friend before she must deal with another threat. "The Stranger," a serial killer seeking revenge for a miscarriage of justice, has targeted 16-year-old Sarah Langstrom, who asks for Smoky's help after the Stranger kills Sarah's latest foster family. The Stranger's murder spree actually began on Sarah's sixth birthday with her biological parents and dog. Smoky's crackerjack L.A. Violent Crimes Unit whirls into action to catch a monster who inflicts pain on Sarah by systematically killing anyone she loves. Smoky's fierce first person narrative and Sarah's eerie diary excerpts, supplemented by a great cast, lift this scary thriller far above the usual serial-killer norm.
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

A scarred FBI agent faces her own past as well as a strange teen’s demons as she tracks a bloodthirsty serial killer. Smoky Barrett has her hands full. Not only is she grieving her own brutal rape and the murder of her husband and daughter, she’s raising silent Bonnie, the ten-year-old daughter of a friend who was also the killer’s victim. When her boss offers her a chance to leave the field and teach, she is tempted. She wants to give both Bonnie and herself a chance at recovery. But she’s still on the job when the call comes in. A teenage girl, covered in blood and holding a gun to her head, asks for Smoky. Smoky talks young Sarah into relinquishing the gun, and removes her from the home where her family has been slaughtered. But not before promising to read the girl’s diary, which details a mysterious man she calls “The Stranger.” Has there really been a stalker bringing tragedy to Sarah’s life? When other bodies start stacking up, Smoky has no choice but to continue with the case, despite the cost to her own recovery, her adopted daughter and her coterie of loyal friends. In this follow-up to Shadow Man (2006), the author never strays far from standard serial-killer formula. Smoky may no longer be beautiful, but she’s a classically spunky heroine, as well as an ace with a gun. Her elusive prey is a chilling monster who leaves messages (“THIS PLACE = JUSTICE”) in his victims’ blood and is smart enough to confuse the FBI’s profilers. All the expected thrills in a readable package.
--Kirkus Reviews

McFadyen builds on the strengths of his debut novel, Shadow Man (2006), which introduced the scarred FBI agent Smoky Barrett, who is still recovering from the slaughter of her husband and daughter at the hands of a serial killer. Now she’s reached a turning point: she is ready to put away her family’s clothes and possessions, to come to terms with the fact that they’re gone. But her recovery is interrupted by a new case: a teenage girl who claims that her adopted family was murdered by a man who calls himself “The Stranger.” Smoky, who herself has a young adopted daughter (the only survivor from a more recent case), pushes herself to her emotional and physical limits to catch the killer and to protect her new family. McFadyen writes like a veteran, and Smoky proves that she’s a strong enough protagonist to support a series.
--David Pitt, Booklist
Read more about The Face of Death -- including an excerpt -- at Mcfadyen's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Face of Death.

--Marshal Zeringue