by C.E. Lawrence
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Reviewed by: Ed Bennett
In the interest of objectivity I must admit that I am a sucker for good crime novels that take place in New York City. I am also a stickler for details, especially when the action takes place in familiar neighborhoods. C. E. Lawrence’s latest book, Silent Slaughter, is such a book. It is a mystery set in New York that has a genuineness in the story line that can only come from a native New Yorker with a real love for idiosyncrasies of this great city.
Silent Slaughter is about the pursuit and capture of a serial killer who is abducting young women. At an impasse, the NY Police Department turns to a consultant, Lee Campbell, who profiles miscreants and works with detectives to solve the crime. This particular killer leaves taunting notes for the police and, in particular, for Campbell. With dogged detective work and a few lucky breaks, the criminal is brought to justice and the streets of New York are safe again.
Admittedly, this seems to be the generic formula for a detective story but Lawrence’s narrative skills have a uniqueness that keeps even the most jaded reader (or reviewer) interested. The attention to detail is amazing. Part of the action takes place in the Woodlawn neighborhood in the Bronx, a neighborhood that I knew quite well. Her description of the houses, the streets, the churches are accurate and she even gives us the proper subway stop to get there. As Campbell studies the clues, he finds himself overtaken with the higher mathematics of Fibonacci number sequences as well as the usual forensic examinations. It is rare that a writer can cover such a broad range and not come up with even the smallest error. The story line moves to climax with the anxiety of detectives racing against time yet with a lucidity that keeps the pages turning. Even minor turns in the plot are well crafted and each character is rendered as a three dimensional person rather than a window manikin.
Lawrence has taken a cue from Alfred Hitchcock in the way she builds suspense. Hitchcock once said that to build suspense, the audience must be aware of the danger. If, for example, a bomb has been placed in a school, show the bomb, its whereabouts and even the bomber placing the bomb. Lawrence’s killer is known from the outset of the story. Slowly, Campbell and the team of detectives uncover his identity and, eventually, his killing field. Like Hitchcock, the suspense is palpable and it is difficult to put this book down.
Silent Slaughter is one of several books featuring Lee Campbell. I recommend reading Silent Slaughter if you are a follower of good detective stories. This is the second Lee Campbell story that I’ve read and both of them have the same superlative writing and attention to detail. I’m looking forward to reading the series.
C. E. Lawrence is the pen name for a poet that has appeared in Quill and Parchment, Carole Bugge. The success of her Lee Campbell novels has led to the re-release of other novels that she has written under her real name. From all that I’ve seen of her writing, I would venture that her earlier works are as good as this series.
Part of the pleasure of reading Silent Slaughter was in seeing the birth of a character as strong as Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware or James Patterson’s famed detective, Alex Cross. That this feat was done by a talented alumna of these pages makes it doubly so.