“Santa letters lead the Double Cross Killer to the kids.” Jaq pounded her feet on the truck floor. Her whole face brightened. “He’s a wacked-out Robin Hood with a red hat and white beard.”
“Instead of green tights. Good move for Santa.” David laughed out loud. Jaq wasn’t quite ready to join him.
Realizing this perhaps, David’s attitude sobered. “Motive?”
“Save the kids. A kid like Suzanne asks Santa for help, not toys, books, or clothes. Gives Santa details – enough to know why elp is needed and how to find them. Double Cross Killer finds them, scopes them out, and kills whomever the kid claims causes the harm.”
Jaq was practically bouncing in her seat. “And the bastard leaves a calling card. A reverse message for the victim’s victim.”
“Like whipping the victim’s back and cuffing his hands,” David said. “Those children knew exactly what daddy was doing to momma.”
“Exactly. The kids might’ve understood the message all along.”
–Triple Cross Killer by Rosemarie Aquilina
Triple Cross Killer by Rosemarie Aquilina
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. In no way did this affect my review or my rating of the novel.
Triple Cross Killer is a thriller novel about a serial killer named Nick Archer and the team of investigators who are trying to catch him before he kills again. Christmas is coming, and like every year, children write to Santa Clause asking for the things they want for Christmas. However, this year, Nick Archer has access to the letters, and when children ask Santa for help with their abuse, Nick tracks down the abusers of Detroit and Sarasota and murders them, then displays the bodies in a message to the children that they have been “saved”. Not far behind him are the investigators of Detroit – Jaq and David – and the investigators of Sarasota – Rabbit and Abel. In the meantime, Nick is developing a relationship with a beautiful young woman named Rita, who is still recovering from a deep betrayal after her last engagement. Little does he know that his new girlfriend Rita is best friends with Jaq, the police officer who is pursuing him. Separately, the investigative teams and Rita have little to go on, but if they can work together they just might catch Nick before he can cross yet another name off his list.
Thrillers are not necessarily known for their detailed character development, but Triple Cross Killer surprised me on this front: I absolutely loved the characterization. Nick Archer in particular, as the villain, intrigued me: from the very start of the novel, we know that he is the killer, allowing us to see all aspects of him as he interacts with his family, his developing relationship with Rita, and then of course his victims. While I certainly cannot claim to like Nick, I did find him intriguing – he demands perfection from everyone around him, but still shows himself capable of gentleness, if not real kindness. The relationship between Nick and Rita was incredibly well done – Rita of course resists his blatant attempts at control, but like in most abusive relationships, the blatant abuse is not the problem. Instead, Nick begins to wear her down slowly, with “mostly reasonable” requests that he make all the decisions for her, pinning her into a corner where she has lost autonomy slowly rather than all at once. Rita too was well developed – she is independent and well-educated, but still vulnerable to Nick’s attention. She is a woman who is very capable but has lost confidence in herself, so Nick’s interest in her is flattering, and she finds herself willing to compromise independence for a little emotional security. I loved the author’s willingness to show Rita as a realistic victim: she is not powerless, just vulnerable, and while we as readers can tell her what she does wrong, we still understand why she did it.
Sarasota was perhaps a little underdeveloped as a setting – Nick spent less time there and Rita did not seem to have any real epiphanies in Sarasota so the author did not have as much to work with, but I do wish there had been a little more action or even sight-seeing. However, the fantastic details in Detroit more than made up for what was missing in Sarasota. I have never been to Detroit but I feel like I really understand the culture now, and there were pieces of local history that were seamlessly woven into the narrative. Jaq and Rita’s yoga sessions were interesting and I loved the contrast of Nick’s family home to Rita’s apartment. All the action in Detroit felt solidly built upon a real location.
Pacing is an incredibly important part of a thriller, and the pacing in Triple Cross Killer was perfect. The murders were detailed but still fast-paced, and the character development and progression of relationships in between the murders provided a good balance to the murderers’ heightened emotions. This variation in pacing is what allowed the characters to present themselves and the backstory without taking away the excitement inherent in a thriller.
In all, I would give Triple Cross Killer a 9 out of 10. While not everyone enjoys thrillers, most will enjoy this one: a fast-paced plot and fantastic character development keep you on the edge of your seat.