Gone for Good
reviewed by Lou Jacobs
A riveting police procedural that transitions to a taut psychological thriller when a dormant serial killer is goaded back to the killing fields. Featuring Chicago homicide detective, Annalisa Vega, who in fact was the teenage daughter of one of the investigating officers of the original case involving the Lovelorn Killer. Her teenage boyfriend, Colin, was the son of the seventh and last victim, Katie Duffy.
In the 1990s, the killer terrorized and paralyzed the city with a string of gruesome murders. All the victims were found facedown and bound in a ritualistic fashion: hands bound behind their back and yoked to their feet and neck in a complicated series of slip knots, with the end result a slow and progressive strangulation and asphyxiation while the killer watched the lights of their eyes wink out. To complete the humiliation, part of his signature was to send a “love letter” about the victim to the local newspaper.
The killer went underground for twenty-one years after the seventh victim, who happened to be the wife of a local police officer. Grace Harper had not answered her phone for several days, as reported by her best friend, and in fact had missed her last shift at the grocery store. This prompted a wellness check at the request of her friend. The investigating officers were met with a gruesome scene. Annalisa was called in to investigate, finding Grace murdered and bound in the same ritualistic fashion. In one of the adjacent rooms, Annalisa was surprised to see a wall of photos of seven dead women, all strangled by ropes in an identical fashion, bound up like a Christmas turkey. She immediately recognized one of the photos, that of Katie Duffy, her family friend and neighbor. Her immediate reaction: “He’s back!”
What follows is a grueling investigation, entailing extensive interviews, as well as forensic investigation which yielded nothing of value. As Annalisa delves deeply into the investigation, emotional and disturbing memories of the past are revealed.
Extensive field work revealed that Grace was an active member of an amateur sleuth club that tackled cold cases, that they felt were not adequately resolved, hoping they could uncover new leads. Grace was in fact very interested in the case of Lovelorn Killer, and continued to delve into the case and practically pestered the other members of the Grave Diggers to continue, as well, In the course of the investigation, all of the other members were interviewed. There was some dissension with a few of the members, and some said that she actually had some “new theories” pertaining to the case. At Grace’s urging, one of the local newspapers actually ran a new story about the murders.
To complicate things further, Annalisa’s new partner, Nick Carelli, was her ex-husband (and philanderer) and their acquaintance was renewed over the corpse of Grace Harper, which seemed a fitting metaphor. Chapters alternate between Annalisa’s insights while pursuing the investigation, with those of Grace Harper’s. These are in the form of sequential “Grace Notes” from her electronic journal on her laptop computer, that was naturally absent at the murder scene. It provides a complicated and intricate deductive process of reasoning and thoughts and insight considered by Grace. Which may or may not be true, but apparently prompted her death. Some are useful clues, while others prove to be red herrings. Annalisa starts to receive anonymous calls, which both taunt and tantalize, and suddenly she is the next target.
Schaffhausen crafts a compelling and twisted narrative that sequentially ratchets up the suspense with multiple unexpected reveals that creates a page-turner with an explosive and unexpected denouement. Both the characters of Annalisa, and the Killer, as well as multiple minor characters are well fleshed out, which adds to her gritty and concise prose. This first volume in this series, nicely complements her excellent previous four novels featuring Boston PD Detective Ellery Hathaway. Hopefully a second chapter in the life of Detective Vega will follow shortly.
Thanks to NetGalley and St Martin’s – Minotaur Press for supplying an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.