MASTER OF LIES (a/k/a BLACK ANGEL) has what may be the most sadistic opening chapter of any Graham Masterton novel I've read so far. (The House That Jack Built has the second most sadistic opening chapter, but doesn't come close to this one.) I'm not sure if we had to be methodically exposed to the torture of an entire family, but Masterton is an author who does not shy away from brutality, even if it includes the murder of children and pets -- things that will make a large segment of readers turn away.
Masterton's writing is usually full of gore and graphic sex, so, if you can't handle it, he's not your author. MASTER OF LIES tells a compelling story, it is fast-paced, and will not bore you. You feel compelled to keep reading to find out what happens next. My criticisms are my usual ones about Masterton's writing: lack of character development and an ending that goes haywire.
In this one, a brutal serial killer is loose in San Francisco. He likes to do his killing in a weird insect mask, taunt his victims, and mutilate them (and make them mutilate themselves) in strange ways. Our protagonist is an Italian-American detective, assigned to the case against his will because the detective already handling the case is not making enough headway to satisfy the politicians and the public.
Why do I mention that he's Italian-American? Because Masterton drills it into our heads page after page, with multiple references to his Italian background, including making sure we know how much he likes pasta, and lots and lots of Italian phrases. It's exhausting after a while. Overkill on the ethnic references does not constitute character development. (Recently, I started reading one of Masterton's "historical sagas", Solitaire, but didn't continue; one of the things that turned me off about that one early on was the drilling of Yiddish into my head because some of the characters introduced early on were Jewish.)
Rather than all the Italian stuff, it would have been better to give us more insight into the protagonist's childhood and relationship with his father, especially since these turn out to be significant to the plot.
Anyway, the protagonist realizes that there's more going on than just torture and murder. There's a connection to the supernatural, which he explores, and things definitely get interesting, with people shrinking and turning vicious, images appearing in people's palms, a seance gone bad -- lots of great stuff.
But the ending gets a bit out of control. I'm not going to reveal too much, but -- to protect the innocent, here's a . . .
********* SPOILER ALERT ****************
There's just too many people involved in what turns out to be a vast conspiracy. It got kind of absurd. That's as much as I will reveal.