Philadelphia homicide cop Kevin Byrne, one of our primary characters in this series, revisits his past in this episode. He and his three friends, Jimmy Doyle, Ronan Kittredge, and Dave Carmody, were thirteen years old the summer of 1976 when America was preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday on July 4th of that year. They designated themselves as protectors for eleven-year-old Catriona Daugherty, who was terribly shy and withdrawn. She always carried a flower and wore a colorful ribbon in her hair. The boys caught Des Farren leering at her. They hurt him, threatened him, and left him. They didn’t know what to expect. The whole Farren family was bad news. But the Farren brothers never came for them. On July 4th, little Cartriona was found dead. By July 9th, a man was found dead, identified as Desmond Malcolm Farren.
In present day, Detective Byrne and Jessica Balzano are investigating several bizarre deaths that on the surface, the victims seem to have nothing in common. The deaths seem ritualistic in nature as some of the victim’s faces were removed and an odd five-letter word written in blood on a linen hanky. Several witnesses agree that they’d heard and saw a woman singing a strange melody nearby. The reader is given the identity of the killer early on. He refers to himself as “Billy the Wolf”. Due to a rare neurological disorder, he is unable to recognize faces. He carries a photo of his intended victim to help him identify them. He makes them dress in clothing matching the pictures. At the first victim’s home, a man answered the door. Billy saw, “Yellow robe. Blue pajamas. Stain.”
In case you’re wondering, this is a real disorder – very rare. It’s called Prosopagnosia (or facial blindness). I also loved the name of the place where they lived as boys and now where Byrne and Balzano are called to investigate. Devil’s Pocket, per Wikipedia, is a “… three-square-block neighborhood in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia.” This is the first book I’ve read by Richard Montanari, and while the premise, the characters, and the flow of the story are impressive, I just need to let readers know it has excessive violence and is rather graphic in nature. The story is told primarily in the present time, but occasionally relies on past events to allow us a deeper understanding. Rating: 4 out of 5.