I was hooked on Retriever of Souls from the opening scene. I’d planned to read only two hours before dinner but got lost in the pages and didn’t move for the next four hours and thirty-nine minutes. Dinner was late that day.
Prostitutes are being murdered, beaten beyond recognition before they’re strangled, and discarded in garbage dumps and trash heaps around the city. All too often, it’s easier and less work to blame sex workers for their plight and little is done to investigate their deaths.
Such is not the case with Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling. He takes every case seriously, immersing himself in the details of the crime. Even more so when he believes the latest body found is connected to Frank Azzopardi, a former high school classmate and local gangster he could not make a case stick against, thanks in part to Azzopardi’s attorney, Matthew Roberts, another former classmate.
However, Paolo’s not one-hundred percent focused on the job. A family tragedy has left him separated from wife Lydia, who has a hard time being civil to her estranged husband.
Did I mention they were high school sweethearts?
The DI’s only joy comes from spending time with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Katie, but she’s in jeopardy of being expelled from her Catholic school, run by Father Gregory… another former classmate of Paolo’s.
These lives will converge as Sterling and his team piece together a bizarre story in their search for the elusive serial killer.
Science, and Medical Examiner Barbara Royston hand the team a major break that will still leave them scratching their heads and running in circles.
Trying to repair a friendship ruined by bad judgment, Sterling accepts an invitation to lunch with the Medical Examiner only to find out she wants him to have a talk with the pub owner who’s physically abusing his wife.
Why Paolo? Because he’s a cop… and pub owner Larry is yet another former classmate.
This made me chuckle and every time Paolo because upset or agitated, all I could think was, “Dude, you need to move.”
While I never believed Azzopardi was an innocent, Paolo’s fixation on the mobster doesn’t serve him well. His contempt for Roberts was even worse and led him to pull a one-eighty when he thought the attorney needed compassion.
Paolo is a good solid character. Hopelessly flawed in personal matters, he is a good cop who buries himself in his job when his personal life overwhelms him. Not the best option and could have detrimental repercussions.
Which brings me to Paolo’s wife, Lydia.
(Since this post will appear on Mother’s Day in the U.S. I’ll try to be nice.)
I didn’t like her. End of story.
Granted, she suffered a loss no mother should ever have to deal with, and Paolo does not deny losing himself in his job, but her betrayal was so much worse. But she lets herself off the hook by blaming her husband. And he allows it.
The DI is at odds with his Catholic upbringing but I believe a small part of him feels the need to pay penance for his sins.
Which doesn’t make him unlike the serial killer he’s looking for, except the killer is trying to save women (and himself) from committing more sins by sending them back to God.
Like any religious fanatic, he’s only doing what God tells him to do… kill.
Sounds crazy right? He isn’t. And DI Sterling takes great satisfaction is telling him so.
Good writing and great plot twists come together in this read and deliver a raw, graphic, and smart thriller. The science is explained without being condescending and the theme of religion comes across as a character in the story with no preachy doctrines or judgments.
Except for the killer’s.
This was my first read by this author, but not my last. I’ve already purchased book 2. There were just enough details given during Retriever of Souls to let you know where Children in Chains is heading. And I’m here for that!
Download this one today so you don’t fall behind!
Brought up believing that sex is the devil’s work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victim’s souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.
Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo’s personal and professional lives.