Headcase by Marc Rosenberg
In the wake of an emotional breakdown, Detective Ash Aiken returns to the police force amidst scrutiny and outright condescension from his peers. By many, he’s perceived as a has-been, once promising but now scarred beyond remedy by the horrors of his profession. But no matter what anyone says, Aiken is the best man for the job when a vicious serial killer nicknamed “the Slasher” starts terrorizing the town. While following the murderer’s trail, Aiken hires a private investigator to find out where his wife and son have gone, hiding the ongoing investigation from his family and coworkers. Willi St. Juste, the PI, senses that something is off about this assignment and fishes out the truth in his own time. As the bodies begin to pile up, time slowly trickles out for Aiken; every minute the killer roams free is another opportunity for him to strike again.
Rosenberg has long worked in the television and film industries, and Headcase has much the same feel as those moody, hard-boiled detective thrillers from the 1950’s. Tense and atmospheric, Rosenberg’s setting and character description is so cinematic that the whole thing is elevated to an entirely new level. The author takes an interesting look at inner-city life, making insightful comments on society as the book progresses. Plus, there are some truly amazing characters here, like Lizzie Januss, a young girl trapped in a grown woman’s body whose sweet veneer hides dark desires. Not to mention the killer himself, a creepy loner with a penchant for jukeboxes. Rosenberg has a true gift for dialogue, and his characters’ drama effortlessly lifts off each page. Furthermore, Headcase is surprisingly well crafted, the hallmark of a good crime novel being that elements of the story introduced innocently early on will have an impact on its conclusion. Brimming with intrigue, this is a quirky thriller that demands – and deserves – readers’ full attention.
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