FBI Special Agent Smoky Barrett is one of those uniquely gifted and probably twisted individuals who have the ability to peer into the turbulent black minds of psychopathic serial killers. On the basis of a minimum of clues, scattered forensic evidence, behaviour patterns and bewilderingly brilliant intuitive foresight, they prepare profiles and stalk the stalkers - the killers that are the very essence of human evil.
A sixteen year old girl, the sole survivor at the blood-drenched scene of a gruesome triple homicide, is holding a gun to her head and seems bent on suicide. She insists she will talk only to Special Agent Barrett and reveals that someone she calls "The Stranger" has killed her entire family and that he has killed everyone she ever loved. No one has ever believed Sarah's tale of the existence of "The Stranger" and even Barrett is finding it a tough story to handle. The evidence slowly but surely mounts and Barrett comes to understand that she is on the trail of a killer who is a living nightmare. But she also realizes that Sarah and The Stranger can also teach her a great deal about her relationships with her own adopted daughter, also traumatized by a close brush with violence!
"The Face of Death" is a long novel and it isn't easy to read. The plot is complex; the procedural trail is twisted and difficult to follow; and the violence is bloody and graphic to a fault. But Cody McFadyen's writing is positively hypnotic. He has personified evil in a fashion that I haven't shivered to since I first read a Hannibal Lecter novel. His descriptions of family love, friendship, loyalty and teamwork are compelling and their juxtaposition with the graphic tales of violence make his story all the more frightening and heart-wrenching. McFadyen has achieved the near impossible feat of writing a blood-soaked thriller that is capable of provoking tears and putting an emotion laden lump into the throat of the most hardened readers.
Five stars for the hypnotic writing and the near impossibility of putting this amazing thriller down. One star off for the rather Byzantine complexity of the plot (which would never have caused me to set the book aside under any circumstances ... his writing is THAT good!). That leaves "The Face of Death" as a highly recommended four star thriller.