Not since Blake Crouch's chilling Desert Places has a debut mystery caused such a stir in the halls of BookPage as Brian Freeman's Immoral. Set in Duluth, Minnesota, Immoral traces the path of a serial killer, a deviant with a taste for teenage girls. The most recent victim is Rachel Deese, by most accounts a rather arrogant and amoral young woman. There is no body on hand, but all indications are that she has met with foul play like young Kerry McGrath, who was killed some 14 months before. Lieutenant Jonathan Stride, a recent widower, is assigned to the case, along with his Chinese-American partner, Sergeant Maggie Bei. Stride is the world-weary veteran of the pair; Bei, for her part, is the wisecracking sidekick. The plot is cleverly crafted, with villains crawling out of the woodwork at every turn. Even the most recent victim is more than a little twisted; rarely has a crime novel casualty been more deserving of her fate. Though a suspect is arrested, his trial resolves little, and raises yet more questions. Fast-forward three years: Stride is now remarried, not entirely happily; petite Maggie Bei has married a retired Olympic swimmer. The scene switches to Las Vegas, and two more lead characters are introduced. Also, there is some compelling evidence that Rachel may not be dead after all. Or is she? Immoral is a slick and savvy offering and the best debut mystery in quite some time.

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