3 out of 4 stars
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Flirting with The Moon is a crime thriller by Andrew McDermott. Los Angeles detective Joe Dean is hunting The Moon, a serial killer who has struck on the first night of each new moon for the past eleven months. Desperate to catch the killer, Joe offers a one-week holiday in Vegas to any cop who gets the job done. Dean is an alcoholic, married to his job, whose wife leaves him, taking their son with her. On the twelfth night of the new moon, he sends his partner Sanchez to pick up Mexican takeaway. She doesn't return. When Joe arrives back at the precinct, he finds a Mexican takeaway box, delivered with something warm inside it. He has to take a long drink of Jack Daniels before he can bring himself to look in the box...
Twenty-five years later, now working as a private investigator, Joe stumbles across a book called "Flirting with The Moon" in a library he is staking out for a client. The dedication inside says: "For my old friend Joe." Published in Sydney, Australia, it leads Joe to a small coastal town in Far North Queensland. After so many years, is The Moon in Candle Stick Bay?
The opening scene with the takeaway box delivered to the police station was chilling. McDermott built the tension beautifully, from the moment Joe's partner disappeared to the point where he was drinking alcohol at his desk, staring at the unopened box. The author cut the scene here, only revealing the contents of the box later. This was an excellent example of psychological terror. Also, having a serial killer write a book describing their own crimes was a plot device I had not seen used before, a clever idea which really hooked me into the story.
McDermott's description of the beauty of Queensland and its beaches was strong. One example as Joe flew north toward Candle Stick Bay told of how "the ocean glistened and shone to my right, rippling like molten glass." The dialogue was good, incorporating much Australian slang. As an Aussie myself, it was good to see some accuracy in the portrayal of our laid-back attitude and certain phrases and customs. McDermott's writing was fitting for crime fiction, snappy and easy to read. The author was born in England but had lived for 30 years on the Gold Coast in Queensland, which explains his solid knowledge of the local people and landscape.
The main negative about Flirting with The Moon was its editing; it contained many minor errors, including a few misspelled words. There were also examples of missing punctuation mid-sentence, such as: "I don't think it was a burglary nothing was taken or disturbed." This should have had either a semicolon or hyphen after "burglary" or simply a new sentence. The only other minor issue was my sense of disbelief about how many of the characters in the tiny coastal town of Candle Stick Bay had lived in Los Angeles at some point around the time of the murders. This seemed a little too convenient for my liking but was obviously used to offer a decent list of suspects and help keep the killer's identity a mystery.
Due to the need for an edit, I rate Flirting with The Moon 3 out of 4 stars. With its errors fixed, it would be a definite 4 stars. It was a solid mystery with a ton of red herrings and kept me guessing right up until the killer's identity was finally known. I would highly recommend it to fans of crime thrillers, particularly those interested in serial killers. Those put off by infrequent violence and gore may wish to bypass this one.
Flirting with The Moon
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