I have read the 60th book for the book challenge. It was Stone Maidens: A Thriller by Lloyd Devereux Richards.
Christine Prusik is a Chief Forensic Scientist in Chicago for the FBI. She is an anthropologist. She is working on a case that has come in that has left her deeply disturbed, for personal reasons. The body of a young woman has been discover on the shores of Lake Michigan; her left side has been slit open and the organs removed. She was strangled and in her throat they found a stone. Christine has had experience with a cannibal tribe in Paupau New Guinea which slits open their victims and leaves carved stones in the cavities. In fact she was speaking at the opening of the exhibit of this tribe at the Museum of Natural History and had a panic attack and could not finish her speech.
Soon after this young woman’s body was found, another young woman’s body is found in rural Indiana. She too had been slit open on the left side with the organs removed and this time, a carved stone was placed in her throat. Carved stones and a feathered mask were stolen from the Museum of Natural History’s exhibit and a feather from this mask was found at the scene of this new murder victim’s body. Christine goes to the rural Indiana location and meet the sheriff, Joe McFarron. She immediately is attracted to him, but she tries to maintain a professional relationship.
A young 14-year-old girl goes missing in Joe McFarron’s jurisdiction. She was walking home from a friend’s home. A young boy saw a strange truck and a man loading something into the truck. He was wearing overalls that had paint spatters on them and so did what he was loading into the truck. The boy can provide a good description of the man and the truck. He helps with a sketch and with an identification of the truck. The sheriff finds blood near to the location where the boy saw the truck and takes samples. Three weeks later they find the young girl’s body. Then a young man attacks a woman in a home improvement parking lot. He is brought in for questioning when he resembles the sketch that the boy has assisted in making. The boy picks him out of a line up, but only when he sees the man’s reflection. The man’s finger’s prints don’t exactly match, nor does his DNA exactly match. He has been having “visions” where he has been having voices of someone talking to him.
Christine starts exploring the possibilities that this man, David Claremont, has a twin. She finds out that he was adopted when he was eleven months old. She goes to the adoption agency and finds that his mother did indeed have another son, his twin, whom she kept. She was a single mother, a Norwegian immigrant. The twin’s name was Donald Holmquist. Christine and Joe McFarron track him down in Chicago and find out where he is living, in an abandoned building. They find the organs of the murdered girls in canning jars on the roof of the building. There is evidence that he is a bed-wetter. The feathered mask is there as well as the carved stones. They call the FBI to come to take charge of the evidence and they make arrangements for David Claremont to be released and they head back to Indiana where they think Donald will try to make contact with David.
Christine is scheduled to talk to some Brownie Scouts. She is taking a taxi from the airport to the Echo Lake State Park to talk to the Brownies. The taxi breaks down. Christine starts to walk. She has forgotten her gun. There are no cars on the road. Her feet hurt. Then a car appears. She accepts the ride. Too late she realizes it is Donald Holmquist, who has hijacked the doctor’s car, killed the doctor, kidnapped his brother, and now kidnapped her. She tries to keep talking to him but at one point he taxes her and when she is unconscious, he cuts her side and places a charm stone in the wound. She turns on her phone in her purse and manages to tell Joe McFarron where they are headed and he runs Holmquist off the road. Joe had picked up David from where Holmquist had dropped him off and now David has been thrown clear of the wreck. Christine takes Joe’s gun (Joe has been injured in the wreck) and shoots Holmquist. Holmquist gets away but Christine knows she has injures him severely. He is found the next day dead in the thorn bushes. Also found dead in the thorn bushes is David.
Christine tells Joe the story of her time in Paupau New Guinea. She explains about her anxiety and panic attacks. Joe tells her that he doesn’t want to lose her. Suddenly she is burning up with fever and Joe takes her to the hospital. Christine has a serious infection from the wound in her side. They find the charm stone. She didn’t know it was there. She realizes Holmquist put it there when he tased her. She eventually gets better. Christine and Joe decide that they will keep seeing each other.
This was a very suspenseful book. It was really a thriller. Christine keeps having flashbacks to her time in Paupau New Guinea and the case gives her much anxiety and panic attacks from having to work with colleagues who go behind her back. She knows she is on the right track but her boss won’t give her the time of day. Joe is the only one who really listens to her. Holmquist is a real psychopath. He is one sick cookie. His brother David is a sad victim, as his twin, a victim of twin bonding. I’m not sure how accurate this really is of twins separated so long ago, but it’s an interesting premise. Also interesting is the Epilogue where the father of the twins is located and the accusations are made that he murdered two young girls many years ago near some coal mines. Is the tendency to murder inherited? Good question. David did not inherit it, but he was certainly conflicted. All in all, this was a very good book.