They came looking for pleasure. They found only pain.
A serial killer is targeting clients of local sex workers. The victims, all male, are either burned alive or beaten to death.
Suited for deep cover work because she is single, without family ties, Shannon is young enough to pass herself off as a working girl. More importantly, she is smart, energetic, and determined – her superiors know she’ll do whatever it takes to crack the case.
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But spending her nights on the streets as she hunts for the killer takes its toll. Shannon’s personal life is falling apart, her strong moral core is being tested as never before. She begins to feel as if the case is eating her alive.
And as it becomes clear that she herself is on the killer’s radar, Shannon realises she’s up against something truly terrifying – a monster who wants to see her forever marked with his sign of evil.
I love stories about serial killers. You only have to mention vicious murders, ritual sacrifice, multiple victims, psychopaths, and I’m like ‘woohoo, bring it on’. So long as it doesn’t involve children or animals. However, I have a bit of a thing about people being burnt to death (going back to something my ‘best friend’ told me when I was about eight years old) so I was in two minds but then I thought ‘what the heck’. Luckily for me the ‘burnings’ are not described in too much gory detail, but like the ‘stonings’ they are biblical in scale.
In this her third outing, Shannon Ames is still on probation with the FBI. Going undercover as a street hooker will fast-forward her career, but it’s a huge ask. Not one to be taken lightly – it will not only put her life at risk, but also her relationships, and test her ethics to the very core. The more she infiltrates the seedy side of prostitution, drugs and pimps (is there an unseedy side?) the more she discovers the vulnerability of the girls on the street. But they are not the murder victims in Sign of Evil – the ‘johns’ who solicit them are.
What I loved most about T.J. Brearton’s Rough Country (which I read and reviewed in November) was the religious references and we have it here again. This fascinates me as I said before. It makes me think. It makes me do research while I’m reading – stories and quotes from Milton’s Paradise Lost and also from the Old Testament – not many books do that.
I’m also slightly reminded of Hannibal Lecter talking to FBI rookie Clarice in Silence of the Lambs when she first meets him in the secure unit. Maybe it’s a bit of a nod, an homage to that great film.
‘A country girl. God-fearing. You yearn to do good,’ the killer says to Shannon at one point, ‘and you’re not easily corrupted.’ But are the lambs still screaming Shannon? Or do you wake up in a cold sweat, the nightmares never ending.
This is great stuff. Leaps and bounds ahead of the usual feast of police procedurals. I can’t wait for the next one.
About the Author
T.J. Brearton’s books have reached half a million readers around the world and have topped the Amazon charts in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. A graduate of the New York Film Academy in Manhattan, Brearton first worked in film before focusing on novels. His books are visually descriptive with sharp dialogue and underdog heroes. When not writing, Brearton does whatever his wife and three children tell him to do. They live happily in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Yes, there are bears in the Adirondacks. But it’s really quite beautiful when you’re not running for your life.
You can purchase Sign of Evil on Amazon.co.uk