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The Killing Hour    by Lisa Gardner order for
Killing Hour
by Lisa Gardner
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Rookie FBI agent Kimberly Quincy is halfway through the academy program when she finds a body on the training grounds. The dead girl looks remarkably like her older sister, who was brutally murdered six years before. The discovery leaves Kimberly battling still-raw and recurring emotional demons. She also wonders who would have the means, let alone the nerve, to dump a body in the middle of an FBI training ground -- an area that's under even more stringent security codes since 9/11. A military team soon takes over the investigation. As Kimberly waits on the sidelines to be questioned, she's taking mental notes and is fully determined to be a part of the investigation, since she found the body.

Special Agent Mac McCormack of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations has a long-standing personal interest in this unfolding case. The killer's MO is chillingly similar to that of a suspected serial murderer he dubbed the 'Eco-killer'. Over the space of ten years (usually during heat waves) the Eco-killer has kidnapped four pairs of girls. He kills one immediately, then deliberately leaves her body on public display as a blatant and taunting clue to the whereabouts of the other victim. Investigators must race the clock to locate the survivor before she dies in the remote and unforgiving location where her kidnapper has dumped her. So far only one girl has managed to survive this horrible ordeal. Taunting the police with dead girls and cryptic notes saying 'the clock is ticking' is no longer challenging enough for the Eco-killer - now he's started calling Mac with obscure and baffling clues, making the hunt that much more personal.

Mac sees Kimberly as a means to finally break a case that's become his obsession, and asks her to borrow some evidence. Kimberly agrees, but only if she gets to work the case alongside Mac. Soon the pair are on the hunt for missing victim Tina Krahn - without the blessing of their respective agencies. They pull in additional help from a collection of non-agency experts and from Kimberly's father, legendary FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner Rainie Conner. Will their race against time pay off or will the Eco-Killer once again succeed with his grisly and terrifying game of murder?

This is Lisa Gardner's sixth mainstream thriller. Once again she pulls out all the stops to deliver one heck of a gut-wrenching story. Meticulous and imaginative plotting, intense pacing, unexpected twists and turns and a rocket-ride conclusion prove that Gardner is one of the best suspense writers around. A thorough knowledge of her subject matter adds even more depth to her story. What tips the scales and makes this a totally unforgettable book are her characters - especially Kimberly, determined to follow her childhood dream of joining the FBI, but still crippled with guilt over the deaths of her mother and older sister. Gardner gets into the heart and soul of a young woman pushed to the limits of emotional endurance, yet one who rises above her own fears of failure and inadequacy to prove to herself that she's got what it takes. If there's one romantic thriller you must, must read this year it's The Killing Hour!

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