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In this book it's to track down a killer they are calling Lamont Cranston, a kidnapper and killer of young boys. Only his profile doesn't seem to be working. Why? Because this is no typical killer. So while Becker struggles with his past and why he can't wrap his head around this case, another boy's life is in the balance.
This book, like Wiltse's others, has great pacing and keeps you wanting to urge the characters on. A wonderful ending as well.
Well worth the time to read, just be prepared to want more!
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John Becker is asked to have a bit of a look into some recent disappearances of some young men in the local area to see whether they are related. Becker, who is trying to enjoy his retirement, very reluctantly agrees and has soon linked the missing men through a common, yet obscure similarity. From here the chase is on to identify and track down a man who we know as Dyce. We learn a lot about Dyce quite early on, and follow along as he finds himself a girlfriend. This was probably the only part of the book that I had a problem with as the girlfriend is cast as a real desperate, so much so that she completely ignores some pretty weird things about her new boyfriend. And when I say pretty weird, I'm talking right out there, baby.
This is quite a typical psychological thriller with the usual extreme - dare I say it - psychotic behaviour by the killer accompanied by the odd flashback to his childhood to explain his present day actions. Becker's character is established, casting him as reliable in his instincts, but difficult to work with, particularly when fool superiors are involved. It's the sort of first book of a series that promises further development of a character who already has issues.
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The tension between Becker, Karen, and Pegeen becomes palpable; Pegeen is an attractive FBI agent who goes from being rather surly about babysitting a Becker on edge, a Becker lured into an investigation of serial murders that leave the bones of young women rotting in underground caves, to feeling a strong attraction for Becker the vulnerable, broken man. Becker's lover, Karen, is quick to pick up on the tension between Becker and Pegeen, and it also becomes something Becker's chief nemesis, a jealous, credit-grabbing superior in the FBI, can use against him.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to independent woman, Aural, on the run from an abusive boyfriend she tried to incinerate, who finds refuge with a travelling Reverend who performs seeming miracles of the laying-on-hands variety. Aural is smart and savvy, and quickly establishes herself as an indispensable centerpiece of the slick Reverend's act. She also discovers that the Reverend, despite having one lover already, would like to lay his hands in Aural in a non-healing capacity--but Aural knows how to work people to her benefit, and proves quite adept at juggling all aspects of her new, somewhat precarious, situation. It's all good, until the Reverend realizes she overshadows him at the healer's pulpit, and decides maybe it's time he get Aural's singed ex-boyfriend to come by and corral her. Strangely enough, all these events are simply pushing Aural towards the true danger, the disturbed killer Becker hunts who has wormed his way out of prison, and who likes to take victims down into the depths of the earth, down to his own brand of burning fire...
This becomes a race-against-time novel, where before that, some of the surprise twists reminded me of a better book: Just Cause, by Jon Katzenbach. I do like the fact that Into The Fire's plot kept evolving--and that all the characters efficiently share the spotlight--but there is not a lot here that is actually new or groundbreaking. The love triangles, the trickery wrapped around who is the true fiend, the finale of the hunt, down in a pitch-black tunnel system, all insert this exciting tale into a long line of like tales.
If you read thrillers, you will likely enjoy Into The Fire, and you will no doubt recognize all the familiar trappings. It is the character interaction throughout--Becker and Pegeen, Becker and Karen, Becker and Swann, Aural versus her torturer--that keeps the fire lit. I'm tempted to call this a four-star read, but I think of other four-star reads, and I must stop short.
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Falls City has more than its share of bad guys, horrid secrets and interesting characters. What I loved about his writing was that his characters drove the action. You understand or suspect their motives. Every so often Billy stumbles across another body and the portrait of small town America shifts again.
This is a very well written and well constructed story. Take the time and get acquanted with David Wiltse's other books. I know I will.
The Heartland of America, with it's silos and pick-up trucks is a far cry from the sophisticated flavor we tend to associate with Wiltse's works. It is the perfect setting, however, for Billy Tree, who seems to be existing throughout this story as a man with one foot in each world.
The simplicity of life in Falls City Nebraska paints a jarring contrast to the complexity of the internal war Billy Tree is fighting. When he is called upon to aid the Sheriff in a murder investigation, Billy is forced to face demons he has been fighting to suppress. Readers of Wiltse, who will find this a familiar theme, will not be disappointed in the ease with which the author reintroduces this trait in the form of a new character. If you liked John Becker, you will love Billy Tree. And for those who are wondering if Wiltse has maintained his talent for that torridly sexual encounter his protagonist is capable of bringing to the fore, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!".
Heartland is a book written with the intensity and intelligence we have come to associate with David Wiltse. The plot is tight, the characters are vivid, the protagonist will win you over, and you will not put the book down until the last page. I read all night. Don't put this one off!!