by James Swain
Jack Carpenter, ex-cop infamous for brutally beating a serial torture-killer (Simon Skell, the Midnight Rambler of the title), has become a private investigator who helps find missing children. When the body of one of Skell’s victim’s is uncovered, evidence points to another killer and Skell goes free. Immediately, Carpenter and Melinda Peters, whose evidence put him away, are in deadly peril.
Uh… I really could not believe how hilariously bad this book is. It’s just really, amazingly poorly written. I was amazed to find that Swain is not a young upcoming author, nor this his first book; he’s an award-winning, middle-aged fellow with seven previous books under his belt!
But where to begin about how ridiculously out of touch and cartoonishly silly this supposedly gritty, hard-boiled book is? That there is a wide circle of killers aiding Skell, one of whom is a successful businessman who picks his victims (young prostitutes) from fast food drive through cameras? Young and beautiful prostitutes, mind you, with cell phones and cars; no one would miss such people! That Carpenter is such a moron he, the experienced child abduction recovery expert, is flummoxed as to why the kidnapers would have spray paint on them (to color the kid’s shoes, obviously)? That every single case Carpenter is called to in this book relates somehow to Skell (what luck!)? That Skell, supposedly a smart, crafty killer, would immediately come for the witness and cop who put him in jail, after being released very publicly? That the villains race through public streets, shooting and fleeing the FBI, even as they are (hilariously at this point) still trying to frame Carpenter for Skell’s crimes? That Carpenter learns that a radio host who daily excoriates him is (of course) part of this prostitute kidnapping cartel, and learns this from a couple of random illegal workers who are putting up a billboard (the host’s past is clearly known by cops and newsmen, but Carpenter doesn’t know it about his most public enemy, although these blue collar aliens do, for some reason)? There's a thousand preposterous bits and major plot points like these. Swain is a Christian, and the book has an explicitly Christian undertone, so maybe he is incapable of writing a realistically gritty tale, I don't know. He’s certainly capable of writing an utterly moronic sentence like “she had the sympathy of one who had raised kids,” though (as if parents cannot be unsympathetic, or even evil!). Or this hilariously unaware howler of a passage: “‘What if you are killed?’ ‘Best not to think that way.’ ‘But what if you are?’ I hadn’t weighed that option,” the narrator (ex-cop, gritty private eye) muses. This is easily the worst book I’ve read in many years. I actually finished it just because it was so unintentionally hilarious.