Still Life With Devils

In the city of San Francisco, it’s mid-October, darkness comes early, and a killer who strangles pregnant women is just claiming victim number six.

Homicide chief Cassy Chant is running the manhunt for the serial killer the cops call Captain Nemo. The team, including Cassy’s right-hand man Detective Inspector Jim Delgado, have been hunting Nemo for nearly ten weeks. Nemo’s getting more brazen with every death, the cops are exhausted, the public is scared, the press and City Hall are getting shrill. To add to Cassy’s worries, half his department is down with the flu.

The seventh murder, done in broad daylight, has a witness. Homicide’s staff artist is out with the flu, and Cassy asks his sister Leo, a well-known painter, to do the Identikit sketches from the old man’s description.

Leo Chant has a unique, and secret, talent: the ability to walk into her own paintings. As she sketches, she realizes that, though she can’t remember why or when, she’s drawn this face before.

The first break in the case comes when the Chinatown witness remembers a single fact that may point them in the right direction: the killer’s warped fascination with feng shui, the Chinese art of geomancy.

When Nemo attacks a friend of Leo’s, she decides to use her secret talent to identify the killer. But painting Nemo’s world and walking into it could be more dangerous than Leo realizes, because Nemo may not be what what he seems. And the confrontation, explosive and dangerous, may mean this painting is a trap Leo can’t walk back out of.

Grabien (New-Slain Knight) turns to supernatural crime with an artistic twist in this eerie thriller. Leo Chant and her brother, SFPD Lt. Cassius Chant, join forces to identify Captain Nemo, a psycho who kills pregnant women and then arranges their corpses according to feng shui principles. After Nemo claims a seventh victim in broad daylight, an elderly Chinese eyewitness helps Leo provide the police with a sketch, but the almost demonic features give Leo a shock. Has she seen them before? Digging through old sketchbooks with Mara, her preternaturally wise teenage niece, leads Leo to a dangerous attempt to catch Nemo by entering the “shadowlands of painted reality” through Leo’s painting of the killer. Leo’s blend of art and magic is a novel and intriguing method for closing cases and will leave readers hoping that a sequel is in the works. (Dec.)

Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2007

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