Play Dead is the fourth in Byrne and Balzano Philadelphia crime novels. The deal is very much as it was before.
What’s the killer’s thing?
Someone is targeting (mostly) young runaways and using them to recreate magic tricks/illusions in real life. It is not pretty. And there are clues being fed to the police in a standard race against time scenario..
What’s the situation with Byrne?
He’s still in love with his ex-wife (there may be developments in that area hinted at here) and he may also have a connection with one of the victims.
What’s the situation with Balzano?
Back with her husband properly now, not hitting things quite so much, settling down into being an experienced member of the team.
Is there anything new here?
Not really, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What did I think of it?
I think I said in my review of the last volume in the series that it could have been the end of the trilogy and that it had hinted at potential changes for our two lead characters, but what was a little disconcerting (and a bit disappointing if I’m honest) is that those narrative threads are just dropped. Byrne’s lady friend has just fallen off the map entirely with no explanation, and Balzano’s thing is referenced very briefly nd only in passing. I wonder if the author was trying for something a little bit new because although the structure of the novels is still very similar (alternating between killer and the two main detectives POVs) we know exactly who the murderer is and what he’s up to and why right at the beginning, and a fourth perspective (that of a runaway who we assume is a potential victim) is introduced. Although the killer’s backstory adds real depth there are an awful lot of things and people stuffed into the book, and I wonder if that’s why the ongoing backstory for B&B is not so well-defined.
But still a high quality thriller, a bit more gothic than the others and for that reason alone hugely enjoyable.