In his new novel, "The Boys from Santa Cruz," Jonathan Nasaw weaves a very chilling and plausible tale about the development of a serial killer in the tradition of Hannibal Lecter.
The ironically named protagonist, Luke Sweet, is a kid who just can't catch a break. Orphaned and homeless and betrayed by his grandparents, he is locked up and kept docile by way of "chemical restraint." He plots his escape and weans himself off of the drugs by learning to imitate the movements and affect of the zombies that surround him. Wherever he turns, death follows in his wake, so he finally gives in to the inevitable and begins planning the murders that seem necessary for both survival and revenge.
The action is set in California. The fault lines that run through the hearts of some of the characters echo the unstable tectonic plates that lead to frequent seismic activity in and around Santa Cruz, home to Sweet's grandparents and another character whose importance grows as the story develops
The clues that explain the skein of violence are put together by FBI agent E.L. Pender. Sweet manages to stay one step ahead of the law throughout much of the book, until a surprising and fascinating plot twist shows everything in a new light.
Nasaw knows how to tell a taut and gripping cautionary tale.