3 out of 4 stars
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Jokerman by David Magee is a crime thriller set in New York City. The body of a girl is discovered bearing the marks of a brutal murder. Police Lieutenant Art Gardiner fears this is not an isolated case, especially when the Medical Examiner confirms the murder's ritualistic nature. The situation starts escalating when the killer starts contacting newspapers to explain that he's punishing immoral girls.
When another girl's body is found bearing the same marks of the brutal ritual, Lieutenant Gardiner and his partner, Detective Gina Garcia, know that they're looking for a serial killer. Even in New York, such brutal murders are a big deal. The pressure on the police department grows very quickly, as even the city Mayor feels the need to voice his concerns for a possible killing spree. The killer contacts Lieutenant Gardiner personally to taunt him.
Lieutenant Art Gardiner is a veteran cop in his early 50s, the kind of cop who saw it all only to see something even worse when a foreign student is found dead. There are some descriptions of the mutilations inflicted on the victim that are enough for readers to understand the killer's brutality. David Magee doesn't go into more details than needed but it's clear from the beginning that this is a novel for adult readers.
My only complaint about the novel is that Art Gardiner is a bit of a cliché. He fancies his beautiful partner Gina Garcia but he's been mourning his wife's death for several years. Very soon in the story, it's clear that there's some tragic story behind the woman's death that still makes Art suffer and, as a consequence, makes him always cranky too. All of this makes his behavior and his personal story's developments quite predictable.
On the bright side, David Magee makes good use of Art Gardiner's inner demons during his investigation. This case quickly becomes personal for him when the killer starts taunting him and keeps killing girls. Introspection isn't the main feature of this novel, still, the author digs into both Art and the killer's minds showing how they deal with their problems. Art is attracted to his partner Gina Garcia, who is much younger than him, but still thinks about his dead wife. The killer claims he's on a moral crusade, and his psychological development shows his problems in dealing with women.
This is a novel in which you can feel the tension. The difficult investigation and the killer taunting Art Gardiner quickly get under his skin making him frustrated and therefore crankier than ever. Even if the action is limited by the fact that the story is above all about examining evidence and questioning persons of interest, there's an intensity connected to the urge of stopping the killer. The investigation offers a number of twists that can help in keeping the readers' attention.
This book needs some more proofreading, as there are many errors, especially punctuation errors. They didn't detract from my enjoyment but I have to take a star from my rating, as there are more than 10 of them. The story is suspenseful and engaging despite the predictability in some of Art Gardiner's behaviors. For these reasons, I rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars. Even not considering the inclusion of some sex and the common use of profanity, the nature of the murders, with a really brutal ritual, makes it suitable for adult readers who are not impressionable or triggered by extreme physical abuse. I recommend Jokerman to readers who like crime thrillers with an important psychological element.
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