Book Review: "Dead Before Dark" by Wendy Corsi Staub

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Rating:  4 WaterTowers

Thirty five years ago the serial killer known as the  “Night Watchman” stopped killing.  The world breathed a sigh of relief.

Vic Shattuck studied serial killers with the FBI and had become quite the expert in that field.  He was chasing (and learning about) the Night Watchman when his pursuit came to an end.   Vic (and the world) wondered why the killing stopped.

Did the Night Watchman die?  Was he in jail?  Was he just done killing?

Fast forward 35 years.  

Vic is now retired from the FBI and is writing a book about the Night Watchman.

A man was released from prison after spending 35 years behind bars for killing his mother.

One day Vic watched a TV show that featured a psychic detective Lucinda Sloan and the family of a young woman (Tess Hastings and her parents Cam and Mike) who Lucinda saved with her psychic powers. On this show Lucinda explained that her powers come alive when she touches an object owned by the victim (unfortunately, by the time Lucinda gets involved the victim, most of the time, is dead).  She called it “psychometry”.

Someone else was watching this show, and decided to test Lucinda and psychometry.

Shortly thereafter, Lucinda was making coffee in her Philadelphia apartment when she spotted a ring at the bottom of her coffee pot.  How did that get there?  Lucinda picked the ring up and “sees” her friend’s (and ex-lover’s) wife “lying on a tile floor in a pool of blood, face frozen in terror”.

She calls her friend but he lies to her about talking to Carla (his wife) so she decides to go to their house on Long Beach Island to talk to Carla herself…maybe her vision is wrong.

It is not.  Once she steps in the house, she knows that Carla is dead and calls the police.

The killer now knows that psychometry works with Lucinda, and the game of cat and mouse begins.   The ultimate goal of this game is to kill Lucinda.

Every full moon, someone dies.  And every time a body is discovered a clue to the next killing is found on the body.  The Night Watchman has returned.

Eventually, a trusted inner circle of investigators including:

  • Lucinda
  • Randy Barakat a Long Beach Island detective and,  as we know, Lucinda’s ex-lover and Carla’s husband
  • Neal Bullard a Philadelphia detective and friend
  • Cam Hastings (who also is a gifted psychic, and, by the way, her sister was murdered many years ago, possibly by the Night Watchman)
  • Vic Shattuck retired FBI, now author, seeking the last chapter of his book on the Night Watchman

Work on the increasingly maddening clues in an attempt to find the  Night Watchman before he kills rather than after.

But the Night Watchman is very smart…and he loves the game.

“Dead Before Dark” is a great book.  Suspects are presented as the clues increase and the reader is kept guessing who the killer really is.

One thing is clear:  The Night Watchman is ruthless and meticulous.  He enjoys the cat and mouse game with the investigators, he has a thing for red lipstick, and kills his victims with joyous glee at sunset (just before dark).   Lucinda can “see” much of this in the faces of the victims, but, she cannot see his face.  Arrrghhh.

If you want to know what happens, I would highly recommend picking up “Dead Before Dark”.  Just make sure you watch your back when the moon is full because you never know if the Night Watchman might be stalking you….

“Dead Before Dark” was an ARC sent to me by Wendy Corsi Staub, and is the first book (but not the last) I have read by Wendy Corsi Staub.  Very exciting.

The book is due in stores April 28, 2009.  You have a few days.  🙂


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