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Midnight Rambler, James Swain

1 rating: 5.0
mystery, thriller

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Author: James Swain
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Published: August 26, 2008
1 review about Midnight Rambler, James Swain

"In the land of the blind the one-eyed man will be king."

  • Jan 19, 2009
  • by
Ex-cop Jack Carpenter's damaged reputation is on the line, but even worse, his conscience won't let him give up on the case that ruined his career and cost him his marriage. Although a number of women have fallen victim to murderer-pedophile Simon Skell, only one count comes before the court, along with the corroborating testimony of a young woman held captive and tortured by the wily predator. When the body that got Skell convicted shows up in a relative's back yard, indicating another may be the killer, Skell is on the verge of being released. If that happens, he will come after Carpenter and the lone witness against him, a stripper in Ft. Lauderdale. Jack scrambles to put together a viable case and keep Skell where he belongs, a nearly impossible task considering the damage done to the witness's testimony and Jack's already tattered reputation. Piece by piece, Jack assembles an intricate case that goes beyond the usual pedophile profile.

Ever since he left the force, Carpenter has dedicated himself to finding missing children, a commitment he unfailingly pursues. While dedicated to stopping Skell, Jack takes time out to help desperate couples, offering a chilling view of the world of child exploitation. All too often, Jack must face the parents with the worst possible news, so it is a relief when he successfully completes a few rescues while dealing with Skell's uncanny manipulation of public opinion, Skell's wife and lawyer holding frequent press conferences, setting the stage for Jack's ultimate denouement. A little worse for wear, living alone with hopes of reuniting with his wife of twenty years, Carpenter is a sympathetic protagonist, the underdog mercilessly taunted by the past and the very public exposure of his mistakes. In spite of what his fellow cops believe, Jack is not a corrupt opportunist who takes advantage of helpless women, nor has he betrayed his conscience in self-interest.

Swain masterfully assembles his cast: the intrepid Jack Carpenter, his faithful dog by his side; the distrusting Ft. Lauderdale cops; the more-supportive FBI; a self-serving shock jock; a serial killer with a genius IQ and a thirst for vengeance; and a motley crew of low-life's and crooks who dwell in the shadows, child exploitation a lucrative business. Worse, they feed off the innocence of victims, a perverted brotherhood. Carpenter smashes Skell's carefully constructed house of cards, one by one, doggedly following the disparate clues to a stunning conclusion. As the action builds, the cast is propelled through a maze of back alleys and false identities, the monster at the core proving impossible to catch.

Too much is at stake, not the least of which is the only witness to Skell's sick obsession, the landscape littered with the disappeared. Revealing the ugly underbelly of a particularly heinous crime, Midnight Rambler is compelling, Jack Carpenter a man to watch, a lone wolf in pursuit of justice. From Jack's local haunts in Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando and Disney's Magic Kingdom, no action is wasted, the violence never gratuitous, law enforcement balanced with the amoral mindset of sociopathic predators, Carpenter caught in the middle of a paradigm that favors the rights of the criminal, but just crazy enough not to care. Luan Gaines.
Midnight Rambler

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