Thanks to spinal tumor surgery, Cincinnati Homicide Detective Will Borders now walks with a cane and lives alone with constant discomfort. He's lucky to be alive and lucky to have a job as public information officer for the department. When a star cop is brutally murdered, he's assigned to find her killer. The crime bears a chilling similarity to killings on the peaceful college campus nearby, where his friend, pain nurse Cheryl Beth Wilson, is now teaching nursing. Moreover, the two young victims were her students. Most homicides are routine; the suspects readily apparent. But here, there are no easy suspects, and even Borders' stepson is under suspicion.
This unlikely pair again teams up to pursue a sadistic predator before he kills someone else. Catching him will mean uncovering some of the darkest secrets in the Midwestern river metropolis where change is slow, tradition and history weigh as thick as the summer humidity, and danger can hide in the most respected places.
In Talton's excellent second Cincinnati Casebook mystery (after 2009's Pain Nurse), Cincinnati homicide detective Will Borders commits himself totally to solving the gory murder of a glamorous local policewoman, despite being all too conscious of his physical limitations after undergoing spinal surgery. Meanwhile, in nearby Oxford, Ohio, pain nurse Cheryl Beth Wilson, who treated Will in the previous book, begins investigating after two of her students are butchered and a third is briefly the main suspect. The crimes reunite Will and Cheryl Beth, but recognition of their loneliness and decency lets them become uncertain but brave lovers while the sadistic killer watches them and boasts about creating clever "deathscapes." The Ohio local color lends depth, and the threat of extreme violence compels, but the novel's chief interest is watching two mature, vulnerable people become real partners whose survival really matters.