Philadelphia police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are working a new beat: the Special Investigations Unit, aka the cold case squad. Ironic, given that it’s the height of a blazing hot August. But even these hardened homicide veterans are chilled to the bone as a dormant murder case stirs to life–leading Byrne and Balzano into the dark heart of their city, their souls, and a psyche of pure evil.

Months before, a teenage runaway’s body was found in the desolate, dangerous North Philly district dubbed the Badlands. Dead runaways were no novelty on these mean streets, but the Caitlin O’Riordan case was different. Her corpse was found in the basement of a rancid tenement apartment, the inexplicable cause of death: drowning. In the end, nothing was solved and the case was closed.

Now a confession to the bizarre murder on the police tipline sends Byrne and Balzano rushing to make an arrest. But instead of a killer, they discover a ghastly scene: a jar containing human remains–along with a cryptic clue leading to an unlikely witness. Laura Somerville lives far from the squalor of the Badlands, and seemingly light-years from any connection to a murdered runaway. But moments after discussing the case with this elegant lady, Byrne and Balzano make another grisly discovery, and find an enigmatic word spelled out in Scrabble tiles.

Across town, another victim’s shallow grave reveals deeper mysteries. Her secret diaries portray a woman haunted by a shocking past, and obsessed with finding a depraved killer.

Now, as the body count grows, a terrifying design literally takes shape. Pieces of a gruesome puzzle are being set into place by the cruel hands of a madman using the city as his game board. His playthings are the innocent, and his opponents–and pawns–are Byrne and Balzano, who must, before time runs out, decipher the truth about a shadowy house of horrors and its elusive master.

Internationally acclaimed author Richard Montanari works his black magic to spine-tingling perfection in Badlands, conjuring all the relentless suspense, dark twists of intrigue, and full-throttle action that make his brilliant, engrossing novels required reading for thriller fans.


From the Hardcover edition.
"The new Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne mystery is also, by far, the best is the series, a novel worthy of comparison with such elite procedural authors as Michael Connelly. Philadelphia homicide cops Balzano and Byrne are working a cold case, the disappearance of a young girl. Following some new evidence, the partners discover that a serial killer is stalking runaways, abducting and killing them in bizarre ways. This is a stunning novel, combining the best elements of the police procedural with the most unsettling aspects of the psycho serial-killer genre. The villain is not merely a psychopath but a fully realized human being, with a backstory that explains his obsessions. We feel a certain amount of compassion for him even as we’re seriously creeped out by his actions and what goes on inside his head. Along with such Connelly jewels as The Narrows (2004), this outstanding, truly memorable novel will remind readers of Ridley Pearson’s Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews series, especially The Pied Piper (1998), which also includes a riveting portrait of a deranged serial killer. Montanari seems poised to take his place on the top ranks of the mystery field." -BOOKLIST

PRAISE FOR RICHARD MONTANARI

Merciless

“Sensational.”
–Chicago Tribune

“Taut . . . chilling . . . the story is ingenious.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Skin Gods

“What makes The Skin Gods engrossing isn’t just the sustained suspense but the adept rendering of the characters.”
–Rocky Mountain News

“Perfect for anyone who enjoys a well-crafted thriller . . . Bestselling Montanari has another hit on his hands.”
–Booklist

The Rosary Girls

“Readers of this terrifying page-turner are in the hands of a master storyteller. Be prepared to stay up all night.”
–James Ellroy

“Gripping . . . You begin The Rosary Girls out of curiosity but finish it out of compulsion.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer


From the Hardcover edition.