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Killing Red / Henry Perez

Pinnacle / June 2009
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

Alex Chapa’s reporting career took off the day that Annie Sykes, a missing ten-year-old girl, escaped from her captor, Kenny Lee Grubb. The girl led police back to his home where they made a shocking discovery. Grubb wasn’t your run of the mill crook. He turned out to be one of the most prolific serial killers the world had ever seen.

Nearly twenty years later, Grubb is less than a week away from being executed for his crimes. Chapa is assigned to do a death row interview. Since he broke the story, it only seemed fitting to give him the opportunity to follow the story full circle and perhaps finally gain closure on the Sykes case.

Grubb has other plans for Chapa where this interview is concerned:

“If I tell you the truth, will you print it?”

“We always print the truth,” Chapa said picking up the only pen that was still sitting on the table.”

“The hell you do. If you did, all of those sleepwalkers out there would take up arms and fortify their homes.”

“Would they?”

“You bet they would. Because the truth is, my work continues. Right now, just beyond these walls.”

Grubb reveals that another killer is on the loose. Someone is out there paying tribute, recreating Grubb’s greatest hits. Before Grubb dies, his disciple will deliver the greatest gift of all—the death of the girl who got away, Annie Sykes, the one Grubb called “Red.”

Once Chapa verifies Grubb’s claims, he must find Annie and prevent Grubb’s accomplice from carrying out his plan. It won’t be easy. Cops and reporters don’t always see stories from the same angle. Over the years, Chapa’s relationship with local law enforcement has become strained. While he does have one good friend on the force, Chapa is in danger of ruining that friendship by withholding evidence in order to keep Grubb’s bombshell from being scooped by a rival reporter. On top of everything else, Chapa’s been warned that if the piece on Grubb isn’t top notch, it may be his last.

Killing Red is Henry Perez’s debut novel. It stands out from similar novels in the genre for a couple of reasons. First, Alex Chapa is authentic. Perez took great care in giving readers a character with real feelings. Chapa regrets not having a better relationship with his own daughter. He knows that he’s sacrificed family for the sake of his career whether he intended to or not. Saving Annie isn’t just about stopping a crime from happening; it’s about Chapa redeeming himself for failing as a father. Second, Chapa’s insights on the newspaper industry, what a reporter’s job entails, and the future of a seemingly dying medium can be traced back to Perez’s own experiences as a journalist. Chapa has a passion for the news that wouldn’t be as pronounced if he’d been written by someone who didn’t have Perez’s background.

Many times, authors choose to alternate between the cop and the serial killer in this sub genre. Having a reporter as the main POV character gives readers a fresh perspective on a plot that some would argue is overused. Much of this reviewer’s enjoyment came from Chapa’s reactions to the events as they happened. The more you read a particular genre, the harder it is to be surprised. Perez scores points for writing a fast-paced, exciting story, with a couple of bonus points for the red herrings.

If you enjoy Killing Red, consider checking out Floaters, a novella in which Perez and Chapa team up with J.A. Konrath and his series character, Lt. Jack Daniels, to figure out why dead bodies keep turning up in the Chicago River. Floaters is currently available in the print anthology Missing: A Mysterious Gathering of Tales, edited by Amy Alessio (Echelon Press) or as a standalone novella for the Amazon Kindle.

Purchase Killing Red by Henry Perez.

Posted on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:24AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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