The sanctity of a local Buffalo, NY church is forever compromised when the maimed corpse of Jimmy Ryan is discovered in the basement. Tied to a chair, eyelids cut off as if he were made to look at something, the sight of Ryan's body sends a shock through the town. Author Stephan Talty describes the southern part of Buffalo, the County, as having a "small-town feeling". Its best days behind it, the County is a place where news travels fast and nothing stays secret for long.
Enter Absolam "Abbie" Kearny. Despite growing up in the County, she has always been a kind of outsider. Adopted at a young age by John Kearny, a local police legend, she has now returned to follow in her father's infamous footsteps. Tasked with the Ryan case, she is quickly met with resistance from the local townspeople and police.
The County is mostly made up of Irish immigrants. As Abbie digs deeper into the murder, connections, both historical and personal, begin to reveal themselves. As further murders occur, Abbie struggles to stay ahead of the killer. The Buffalo police run an investigation parallel to hers, and Abbie soon finds herself a suspect in the case. As the tension rises Abbie is forced to question her sanity and family history, all culminating in a shocking twist that is sure to leave readers riveted.
With his debut work of fiction, Stephan Talty instantly places himself among the great modern thriller authors such as Dennis Lehane and Tana French. Like Lehane and French, Talty manages to maintain exceptional characters, setting and suspense without ever sacrificing the integrity of his writing. This novel could have easily become a standard thriller, but Talty daftly takes his time to build each character, allowing the suspense to stay at a constant boil. In Abbie, Talty has imagined a believable protagonist, whose flaws and vulnerability allows readers to connect with her emotions and desire to succeed. I was hooked on this novel from beginning to end. Fascinated by the serial killer who tells, "his autobiography through corpses", I was shocked at the final turn that the events took. This exceptional novel has everything thriller fans have come to expect and gives them more than they could ever have hoped for.