Play Dead (2009)
Philadelphia police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are working a new beat: the Special Investigations Unit, AKA the cold case squad. Ironic, given it’s the height of a blazing hot August. But even these hardened homicide veterans are chilled to the bone as the dormant murder case of Caitlin O’Riordan stirs to shocking new life — leading Byrne and Balzano into the dark heart of their city, their souls, and a psyche of pure evil.
They’d seen it before: a teenaged runaway succumbing to the city’s mean streets, her body found in the desolate, dangerous North Philly district called the Badlands. What’s surprising is the corpse’s condition: peering out of a glass display case in a rancid, waterless apartment . . . and inexplicably dead by drowning.
When a man calls and confesses to the murder, the police rush in to arrest him. But instead of a killer, they find a ghastly scene — a jar containing human remains — along with a cryptic clue leading to an unlikely witness.
Laura Somerville lives far from the squalor of the Badlands, and seemingly light-years from any connection to a murdered runaway. But moments after discussing the case with this elegant, elderly woman, Byrne and Balzano make another grisly discovery, and find an enigmatic word spelled out in Scrabble® tiles.
Across town, another victim’s shallow grave reveals deeper mysteries. Her secret diaries portray a woman haunted by a shocking past, and obsessed with finding a wanton killer.
Now, as the body count grows, a terrifying design literally takes shape. Pieces of a gruesome puzzle are being fit in place by the cruel hands of a madman using the city as his game board; whose playthings are the innocent; and whose opponents — and pawns — are Byrne and Balzano. With time running out, they must decipher the truth about a mysterious house of horrors and its shadowy master: the man who makes the rules . . . and takes the lives.
"With The Rosary Girls, Richard Montanari proved that he is the undisputed master of the police procedural thriller, and [Play Dead] is no exception. Edgy and hardboiled, I cannot recommend it enough." - Mystery Guild (Editor's Choice)
Note: The U.S. Edition of this book is titled BADLANDS.