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Precious Blood    by Jonathan Hayes order for
Precious Blood
by Jonathan Hayes
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Precious Blood, Jonathan Hayes gives us a gripping and gory chiller, reminiscent of Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series - Hayes' hero is equally flawed and vulnerable, though more mobile. The author, who is a senior medical examiner for the City of New York and worked in that role tirelessly after 9/11, gives his protagonist Edward Jenner a similar background. However, the stress of recovery work made Jenner fall apart, leading to his being fired by deputy chief medical examiner Steve Whittaker, a 'political animal' who had long held a grudge against him.

The novel begins with the terrible, gruesome murder of a young woman, Andrea, whose roommate Ana has disappeared. Edward Jenner, now working as a forensic pathologist, is hired by the victim's parents (his best friend is Ana's uncle) to watch the autopsy and report back to them on results. He also studies the crime scene and - both there and in examination of the victim (done without Whittaker's knowledge) - finds key details that Whittaker had missed. Anxiety that Ana was a second victim disappears when she shows up at Jenner's apartment. She was afraid to go to the police because the perp masqueraded as a cop. She's in a terrible state and continues to fall apart - just as Jenner did in 2001.

The terrified Ana barely escaped the killer but is still in a state of shock over her friend's horrible death and her own survival. She insists on staying in Jenner's apartment, watched over in his absences by his Japanese neighbor Jun and his girlfriend Kimi. Edward Jenner, who has earned the respect of the lead officers in the investigation, secretly works with them, having been warned off in no uncertain terms by Whittaker. Of course the killer does not stop at one. Jenner not only tracks down prior related killings, but makes progress in deciphering Coptic words burned onto each victim's skin, and uncovers a link between the victims and a fertility clinic. And he and Ana, both hurting badly, become lovers.

Hayes does an excellent job of sharing the killer's mindset with the reader - and giving him a credible, though horrific, background. And the madman is following his own leads - leads that will take him back to Ana, his final target. But, fragile as she is, she's not a passive victim. Hayes gives us a grand finale in which the good guys - without official backup - must fight hard to survive a very powerful and highly motivated serial killer. The author also leaves his protagonist in a pretty untenable position at the end of the novel, making me hope that there will be further exploits in the works for Dr. Edward Jenner.

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