Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review. All opinions are my own.
A Deadly Scavenger Hunt
Freshly back from a semi-official business trip to the Caribbean Island of Curacao, Darger and Loshak are called immediately to New York. A minor celebrity has been the victim of a mail bomb and the bomber has also been found – victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound with a note left behind. What appears to be an open and shut case takes a dark turn when the final manifesto of the killer lays out a deadly scavenger hunt for the authorities. This initial bombing is only one in a potential series of attacks spaced out roughly every eight hours over the next day. The killer has hidden clues in addition to excerpts of his personal journal pages as hints to the next victims. As the team slowly begins to unravel the clues that lead them to the subsequent attacks, specific details of the case start getting leaked to the public. Now not only fighting the clock but also the curious attention seekers and a possibly unknown accomplice the duo along with the local authorities find themselves in a breakneck race against time to keep the bomber’s body count from rising.
Countdown to Midnight is the 8th in the Violet Darger series of books by author duo Tim McBain and LT Vargus. Taking place not too long after Trouble in Paradise, Darger and Loshak do not have a moment’s peace or rest as they track their most recent killer. But this case is a bit different as their perp is dead so with nobody to catch, the focus shifts to stopping the future planned attacks. With each new clue and each new reveal and information leak, the duo finds their work becoming more and more difficult. With the rantings of the deceased railing against “celebrity”, it is ironic that the spectacle that is being created clearly was designed to receive some of the limelight that the perp was so vehemently opposed to. And with Darger and Loshak on the case, celebrities in their own right with their prior cases with the FBI, and Violet’s interactions with serial killer Leonard Stump the irony is not lost on this reader. Once again the duo has delivered with a well-written, well-researched narrative that will have you not wanting to stop reading. I have read more than my share of police procedurals, crime novels, serial killer books, whatever you want to call them and to date I do not believe that I have encountered a premise quite like the one used in Countdown to Midnight. Once again McBain and Vargus have delivered a story that is not only suspenseful, but will most likely have you scratching your head at best and screaming at your chosen reading media at worst when the ultimate twist is revealed.
For those who may be unfamiliar with this series never fear as the overall storyline is presented in a way that, while part of a larger series, any of the installments can be picked up and read at any point without losing any of the overall character structure or feeling as if you’ve come into something mid-stream. For anyone who likes crime novels, serial killers in general, and solving obscure riddles to advance the plot, Countdown To Midnight is a highly recommended read.