Panic swept Pittsburgh in 1986 when a serial killer slips poisoned medication onto store shelves. Shoddy police work keeps the lone suspect out of jail. Then ten years later, the killings happen again. Detective Grady Downing, determined to see the killer behind bars, enlists the help of psychologist Jim Christensen to interview the suspect’s son. But the son has plenty of demons of his own, and Christensen must navigate the boy’s memories without causing him any more damage. As the clock winds down, Downing and Christensen realize that the killings may not be random. And that the investigation has put them directly in a maniac’s cross-hairs.
If the mystery drew me to this book, the characters kept me turning the pages. Christensen stole the show even though he and Downing shared about the same amount of time on the page. He’s not completely familiar with the risks of police work, and his reactions to the investigation–especially when he realizes the dangers–seem true to life. His worry over his daughters juxtaposed against his professional responsibility to the suspect’s son add a layer of consistent conflict that had me on edge.
Downing, on the other hand, didn’t achieve that same level of sympathy or conflict. He has a lot at stake in this serial killer investigation, and the danger he faces is very real. The difference between him and Christensen is that Downing seems to be in conflict with shadows and memories. The bad guy doesn’t appear to be as bad as Downing makes him out to be when they meet again. I just didn’t find him as compelling as Christensen.
The biggest problem that I had with this novel was that I felt like I was missing something. The death of Christensen’s wife and that Downing and Christensen had teamed up before made me believe that Time Release had to be part of a series. But after a check of the author’s website, I learned that this book is actually the first in the Memory Series. Perhaps the author will one day write about the beginning of Downing and Christensen’s working relationship.
I expected this book to delve into the forensics of the crime and for the case to be solved that way. However Time Release focused on “pounding the pavement” police work and the psychology of repressed memories instead. That’s just something to keep in mind for readers who prefer forensic thrillers.
This book would be good for anyone who enjoys a good mystery that doesn’t necessarily focus on the forensics of the investigation.
Rating: three of five stars
Time Release by Martin J. Smith is published by Diversion Books and is available as an eBook.
*I received an advanced copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.