We hope you enjoy this book review by Cy Hilterman.

The word that came to my mind after reading this book was “WOW!” Badlands is located in North Philadelphia in an area that is old, run down, bad, and does not have the nicest living there or hanging out near it. Police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are switched to the elite Special Investigations Unit of the city police force. Mostly young runaway girls are found brutally killed and every time the police think they have a new clue that will corner and capture this killer, something else is left for them leading them in another direction. These clues are, as they finally find out, clues from puzzles and/or magicians. The killer sends or phones messages but they always lead to another area or house in the Badlands. The police are always one step or more behind this horrific killer. Byrne and Balzano are kept very busy as are the police added to assist in this search.

The villain watches young women in various areas of the city, determines which ones would be the easiest for him to gain faith and trust. Eventually, the victims are unknowingly drugged and are taken one at a time to his hidden lair. He alters his appearance so a description was next to impossible for anyone that might have seem anything going on. The killer was smart but the police knew he would make a mistake some time but WHEN? Eve Galvez was a top-notch cop and very good friend of detective Balzano. When Eve disappeared the dragnet increased with more resources immediately thrown into the search. This now missing woman involved one of their own, and that message increases every cop’s urgency.

As days went by, the discovery of another missing girl, or a body, or bodies with clues that the killer left to tell the police where he was and what he planned next, but the clues were deeply rooted in puzzle clues that were almost impossible to solve.

Mr. Ludo was a name he left for them. The name he was going by now was Joseph Edmund Swann. Swann, now thirty-eight, had a horrible life from a child growing up through his adult years and even now it was miserable mainly because of his mind being so messed up. His mind worked in strange, mysterious ways with thoughts drifting to all times of his life, his parents, and his task now of finding certain characteristics in a girl that he needed for his final puzzle solution. He would change his appearance almost every time he was in public view, making his true appearance different to anyone. Swann’s father, Karl Swann, had been a traveling magician, many times using his son, Joseph, in his acts, no matter how dangerous they were. This change in appearance also helped Swann get close to his victims making them think he was helping them.

As the police moved on with the case, they contacted some experts in the field of magic and illusions, some active, some that had written books, and some that were expert puzzle solvers. Several more police joined the team as they rushed from place to place trying to solve the clues before this killer had another victim.

Richard Montanari is great at describing people and places in words more descriptive and understandable than many authors. He keeps the reader’s mind actually in the area with the victims, the police, and Swann himself. I highly recommend this book to any suspense and mystery readers.



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