The Last Good Place by Robin Burcell
Sgt. Al Krug and his younger, college-educated partner Casey Kellog are investigating a string of strangulation killings when another victim is found at the Presidio…but a surprising, violent incident at the crime scene makes them wonder if everything is what it seems. The two miss-matched cops, with sharply conflicting approaches to detective work, are under intense pressure to get results. It’s a race-against-the-clock investigation that propels them into the deadly intersection of politics, real estate, media and vice… the fertile, fog-shrouded killing field of a ruthless murderer.
This novel is the fourth in the Krug and Kellog series and my first read of the author. I was drawn to the plot surrounding a high-profile serial killer case such as the landmark strangler. I also enjoy American hard-boiled detective fiction novels and this one did not disappoint. Although I wasn’t keen on all the themes within the novel, that was more due to my personal taste, rather than the writing of the novel.
The novel opens with San Francisco resident Marcie Valentine heading out for her morning run. She takes the same route every morning with her best friend Trudy Salvatori. Only this morning not only is Trudy late, but Marcie is planning her downfall.
A Deadly downfall indeed.
Later that morning at Presidio promenade a dead body is discovered, strangled. Is this the work of the landmark killer? Who is the victim Marcie or Trudy?
Enter local cops Sgt Casey and Sgt Al. These cops are opposites in their personalities. But that only enhances the story telling. Casey is a young idealist, he believes in sticking to the rules by the individual letter. His partner Al on the other hand, is a seasoned cop. A widower in his 50s and old skool in his values. They’re on the case of a murdered witness in a drug dealing case. When they are summoned to the homicide at golden gate bridge. With something to prove to himself and his fellow cops, Casey is eager to take the case.
The landmark strangler has struck four times in the last four months. Leaving the bodies at famous San Francisco landmarks. The most recent corpse is not only at the golden gate bridge but the cops can see a clear view of Alcatraz from the scene. Is this this high-profile killer they so desperately seek? Or is this a mere coincidence. Al is cautious to jump to conclusions, without all the clues and evidence. But Casey is just too damn keen.
At the scene the cops are informed that it is park ranger territory, meaning it falls under their jurisdiction. But Casey refuses to let go of the case. They eventually agree to work alongside park rangers Becca Windsor and Glenn Powers. It isn’t long before the scene becomes chaotic, with witnesses and suspect on site. Casey and Al find themselves staring at the dead body of their alleged perpetrator.
The investigation uncovers various secrets and lies in the victim’s personal life. The tension amongst the neighbours is plain to see. There is various spin off themes, that leave you questioning if the victim was the intended target after all. Is someone else now at risk from the landmark killer?
Casey continues to be mocked by his fellow cops. But gets a sense of smug satisfaction when he is handed the murder book for the landmark killer.
Can Casey solve the case or is he just an over confident rookie?
The media pressure and obsession with the case also plays a part. Local journalist Jenn Barstow has her own personal agenda in gaining access to reporting the case. She is not afraid to go to great lengths to find a way into cop’s lives.
The media demand that the FBI be brought in, which leaves Casey desperately trying to align the clues and solve the case.
‘Dead hookers don’t sell papers. Murdered white women do’
When the victim is found to have ties to a local politician, the media think nothing of politicalising the entire case. Which only serves to make the case tougher for the cops to solve. As people begin to fret about their own reputations, they become tight lipped. Casey and Al must find the killer!
The novel has a fantastic ending, which I think will shock some readers. For me personally, I wasn’t overly engrossed in the theme of politics within the novel. This is not the authors fault at all. Under the current political climate, everyday life has fast become politicalised. Therefore, I enjoy my novels to be a form of escapism. It is also worthwhile noting, that the novel was published in November 2015 and it is not current politics that is the focus.
I found the characters believable and the plot very layered.
A fantastic piece of American noir set in San Francisco. 4*
***Kindle Ebook available for just £2.99 in the UK***