A teenage runaway’s body is found in the basement of a rancid tenement building in the desolate, dangerous North Philly district dubbed the Badlands. The inexplicable cause of death: drowning. Months later, this dormant homicide case stirs back to life. A confession to the bizarre murder sends Philadelphia police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano rushing to make an arrest. But what they find will chill these hardened veterans to the bone. As the body count grows, a terrifying design literally takes shape. Pieces of a gruesome puzzle are being set into place by a madman using the city as his game board. His playthings are the innocent, and his opponents–and pawns–are Byrne and Balzano, who must, before time runs out, decipher the truth about a shadowy house of horrors and its elusive master.
On a frigid December night, Karen sits at the edge of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, dressed in a flowing gown, like a visitor from the distant past. A beautiful and shining young woman, she gazes up at a bone-white winter moon like a fairy-tale princess frozen in time. At first glance, one might not even notice that she is dead, coated in a glistening patina of ice.
Homicide cops Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano take the lead on the case, uncovering a plethora of eerie clues–each more warped and spine-chilling than the last. Yet the identity of Karen’s pitiless killer remains a mystery. Then the next victim is found upriver at an abandoned waterworks, posed with an unlikely object in her clasped hands. Struggling to link the victims and make sense of the madman’s agenda, Byrne and Balzano follow his twisted trail, which stretches into a past of dark crimes forgotten by all but a few.
Now the past roars back into the present with a vengeance as the ingenious killer unleashes a torrent of rage upon the streets of Philadelphia. As Byrne and Balzano sift through suspects and clues, they unearth a shocking secret history: a legacy of malevolence and cold-blooded retribution dating back twenty years. And the farther they make their way up the body-strewn banks of the Schuylkill River, the closer they get to a villain from their worst nightmare, an evil as patient as it is merciless.
Lightning fast and razor sharp, this jolting thriller from acclaimed author Richard Montanari coils back in time to deliver a fiendish mystery, a shattering revelation, and one hell of a wild ride. Lock your doors and turn up the lights. Montanari’s terrifying bedtime story will keep you up all night.
With the breakneck pacing and intricate plotting of his most recent novel, The Rosary Girls, Richard Montanari established himself as one of the most exciting suspense writers working today. Now he proves himself a virtuoso with The Skin Gods, an explosive new thriller featuring Philadelphia homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano.
It is the steaming heart of summer in the City of Brotherly Love. Back on the force after taking a bullet during the arrest of a sadistic murderer, Detective Kevin Byrne warily returns to police headquarters. He cannot shake the memory of the Rosary Killer’s innocent victims–or his growing sense that the evil has not been vanquished. And when he and his partner, Detective Jessica Balzano, are called in on a bizarre case, Byrne’s gravest suspicions are confirmed.
A madman, dubbed The Actor by the homicide unit, is meticulously re-creating Hollywood’s most famous–and most gruesome–death scenes. The first murder is caught on film, spliced into a rented VHS edition of the Hitchcock black-and-white masterpiece Psycho. But in place of Janet Leigh is a real-life woman, and this time, the blood is red and the knife is real. Soon, more thrilling classics are turned into terrifying snuff films and placed on video store shelves for an unsuspecting public to find.
The key to this horrific puzzle could lie with any of The Skin Gods’ supporting cast: the A-list Hollywood director, the ruthless executive assistant, the convicted mass murderer–or perhaps someone else who has made a sinister art of gruesome violence.
Hot on the psychopath’s trail, Balzano and Byrne descend into the mouth of madness and beyond, deep into the depraved underworld of S&M clubs and the porn industry, where the worship of flesh leads to malevolent evil. Before the final credits roll, the investigators will discover that none of The Actor’s victims are as innocent as they appear to be, and that the clue the police need to prevent future murders might be found in Detective Byrne’s own dark past.
In his sleek, visceral novels Deviant Way, Kiss of Evil, and The Violet Hour, Richard Montanari slammed into the suspense field like a force of nature. Now Montanari has written an astounding novel that pits two besieged detectives against a fiercely intelligent serial killer.
Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her diary, another is pouring her heart out to a friend, and yet another is praying. And somewhere in this city is a man who wants these young women to make his macabre fantasy become reality. In a passion play of his own, he will take the girls–and a whole city–over the edge.
Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.
Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most.
Relentlessly paced and vividly told, The Rosary Girls is a smart, emotionally complex, fiercely gripping thriller from an author who takes chances, breaks new ground, and leaves readers haunted and moved long after the last page is turned.