| || In the Heat of Summer (1982)|
The first novel by Carl Hiaasen's ace Miami Herald crime-reporter colleague John Katzenbach stars a reporter who stumbles onto the story of his life in Miami's mean season, July. (It was adapted as the Kurt Russell/Mariel Hemingway film The Mean Season.) Katzenbach's tale blazes with local color, and his depiction of the newspaper life is accurate, entertaining, and animated by an interesting dilemma: What does a newshound do when he becomes part of the story he's covering?
That's what happens to Malcolm Anderson of The Miami Journal. One day in 1975, fate hands him Page One material: a beautiful teenager found with the back of her head removed by a .45 bullet. Katzenbach takes us through the reporter's paces: eliciting quotes from the victim's family and friends (the girls at school wonder who'll replace the deceased on the cheerleading squad); getting great "art" for the photographer; negotiating the story's space, timing, and emphases with the city editor. But this is no ordinary killing. The only thing worse than a dead teen is a dead teen with a note in her pocket reading, "Number One." Worse yet, Malcolm gets a call at his desk from the "Numbers Killer," who taunts him with an elliptical account of his tormented childhood and violent Vietnam experiences. As Malcolm desperately tries to deduce the killer's motives and prevent the next murder, he wrestles with the terrible question of his own complicity. The bad guy here is just OK, but the reporter is a very good character, and the novel well merits its Edgar Award nomination. --Tim Appelo --
| || First Born: The Death of Arnold Zeleznik, Age Nine (1984)|
The Death of Arnold Zeleznilk, Age Nine: Murder, Madness and What Came After." On December 20, 1974, Carter and Elizabeth Zeleznik and their two sons, Arnold and Bobby, toppled into a nightmare. Carter took nine year old Arnold into the corridor of their Miami hotel, realized he'd forgotten to leave the key with his wife, and ducked back into the room. He was gone for ninety seconds.
| || The Traveler (1987)|
As a jaded detective at the Miami Police Department, Mercedes Barren isn't phased by much. That is, until a late-night phone call awakens her from one nightmare and catapults her into another: her niece has been murdered. Within days, Detective Barren has a surly Islamic fundamentalist in custody cutting a plea bargain--for a series of murders. As much as she would like to believe he murdered her niece, instinct tells her otherwise. Enter Douglas Jeffers, a disgruntled photojournalist who's seen one too many killers, courtrooms, and shredded cadavers. His mission? To commit a series of "copy cat" murders with a twist: he's forcing a young English major to document his journey. Barren catches on, Jeffers's brother (a psychiatrist who specializes in sexual offenders, of course) gets involved, and the motley cast races to a hypertension-inducing finish. Not recommended for those with delicate sensibilities, The Traveler casually throws out descriptions of mutilated organs and vicious assaults with the bored ease of a maître d'. Although it has a tendency to veer into melodrama, the caffeinated cadence and memorable one-liners make for a respectable beach read: "Killers were the Kleenex of the drug industry; they were used a few times and then discarded unceremoniously." --Rebekah Warren
| || Just Cause (1992)|
From Publishers Weekly
The criminal mind, racial bias, journalistic ego and the flawed fabric of the American criminal justice system are potent raw materials for psychological suspense master Katzenbach ( The Travelers ) in this riveting, provocative story. Matthew Cowart is lonely since his divorce and bored with writing editorials for the Miami newspaper where he was once an ace crime reporter. Then he receives a letter from a black inmate of Florida's death row, Robert Earl Ferguson, who claims he is innocent of the crime for which he has been convicted, the raping and slashing of a young white girl. On Ferguson's promise to reveal the identity of the real killer, Cowart spearheads a crusade that frees Ferguson and names another inmate, Blair Sullivan, as the murderer. Cowart wins a Pulitzer for his efforts, but his celebration is short-lived. Sullivan gives the reporter a pre-execution confession, and Cowart discovers that he has been duped. Black homicide detective Tanny Brown convinces Cowart to team up against the killer who has outmaneuvered them both. The horror of psychopathic murder and the limitations of the legal system become clear as the pair jousts with the killer on his own turf. Despite some extraneous subplots, the story generally proceeds at a breakneck pace, enhanced by ear-perfect dialogue and complex characterization. Film rights to Warner; major ad/promo.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
| || The Shadow Man (1995)|
From Publishers Weekly
Katzenbach (Just Cause) has some good Holocaust and WWII vignettes and pretty good cop-talk here, but the book is burdened by flat characterization, a slow pace, an odd, unsatisfying ending and a serious need for editing. Retired Miami PD detective Simon Winter is about to kill himself (for no visibly compelling reason) when his fearful neighbor, Mrs. Millstein, a Holocaust survivor, asks him for protection. She has just recognized the Shadow Man (Der Schattenmann), who'd turned her family in to the Nazis in Berlin 50 years earlier. The man was one of "the catchers," Jews who betrayed other Jews to save their own skins. Simon calms her with a promise to help her in the morning. That night, she's murdered in an apparent burglary, and a young black man is seen fleeing the crime scene. The young Miami Beach detective working the case nabs the suspect, who says an old white man is the real killer. Meanwhile, another Holocaust survivor apparently commits suicide, and yet another disappears. Simon and the younger cop finally team up to find the Shadow Man-a hunt that seems to take forever as the plot is bogged down by drawn-out padding and red herrings. There's silly blather (suspects are "the culmination of a set of facts, or a series of observations"), inept goofiness ("When one cracks the lid on Pandora's box, many questions slide out") and just plain sloppiness. Worse, despite Katzenbach's interesting premise, we never get to care about these two-dimensional people. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
| || State of Mind (1997)|
From Library Journal
In his new novel, Katzenbach (Just Cause, LJ 7/92) portrays the machinations of a self-styled omniscient murderer who is made more frightening by what is left unsaid than by what is said. In the not-too-distant future, Jeffrey Clayton, a psychologist and expert tracker of serial killers, learns about several vicious killings in the Western Territory, the only "safe zone" in the continental United States. Everyone elsewhere, including Jeffrey's sister, Susan, who writes word puzzles for a Florida newspaper, carries an arsenal of weapons. Years ago, the Claytons' mother had fled with her children when she recognized that her husband was a murderer. Now he is freely killing young women in the Western Territory while stalking and playing mind games with his daughter. Soon the entire family is assembled in the West to play out a deadly contest. Katzenbach is a master at creating believable people caught up in horrific situations. Librarians can recommend this title to anyone who wants a well-written suspense novel dealing with the serial killer but without most of the usual accompanying gore.?Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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