The Nocturnal Devil, A Serial Killer Thriller

Miguel Angel Hernandez’ entertaining police procedural series has a third installment: The Nocturnal Devil.  Homicide detective Griffin Knight recovering from injuries sustained at the conclusion of the last novel (A Colossal Injustice), gets called in for a new case.

With the disappearance of two women in the metropolis of New York City, Detective Griffin sets forth on an investigative journey, unraveling a plethora of ominous probabilities, all in a race against time to uncover the truth behind their vanishing, and prevent any further additions to the already mounting roster of victims.

Battered but unbowed, Knight’s back in his old stomping ground of New York. Though largely untroubled by the angst typical of fictional crime-fighters, even Knight isn’t immune to the odd bout of survivors’ guilt or rage. He’s also built in tribute to his literary forebears: Hernandez’ writing influenced once again by classic crime characters like Perry Mason, or Philip Marlowe.

He finds solace in the arms of the beautiful and capable Samira, while investigating the disappearance of two women from the same neighborhood, who otherwise seem to have little in common.

Knight’s aided by white-hat hacker, Skylar (whose covert work veers often into rather grey territory), in tracking down a kidnapper and sadist with a taste for subjugation with a dash of vampirism.

There’s a glimmer of hope for crime fans weary of misogynistic dead-girl tropes and baroque serial killers: the women targeted here are chosen for their mental or physical strength, but not as mere punishment for their agency or gender. Hernandez’ kidnapper seeks instead to absorb the womens’ vitality, making their power his own.

Hernandez’ favored head-hopping, point-of-view switching style and early reveal of the kidnapper allows for expanding all his characters including the killer and the victims. In particular, Skylar gets some development here and we learn more about Knight’s past, laying the groundwork for a fertile new direction.

Meanwhile, Nocturnal Devil keeps the longer plot arc set up in the previous two novels at a low simmer. Aside from an assassination attempt, Seattle’s organized crime queen Sapphire and her polycule of sexy villains remain stage left, perhaps in readiness for a reckoning during future Knight stories.

In sum The Nocturnal Devil is a harrowing and suspenseful read, hooking readers from the get-go. Well-crafted characters and crackling tension make this book a worthy addition to the libraries of mystery-thriller fans.

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