David Wiltse's A PRAYER FOR THE DYING is the best serial-killer thriller since Thomas Harris's RED DRAGON. In it, Wiltse introduces us to a brilliantly conceived lead character, FBI agent John Becker. Becker has the rare gift of pure empathy and projection, enabling him to invade his quarry's subconscience and sift through his motives and dreams. Like DRAGON'S Will Graham, Becker is ashamed at his ability and views himself as a freak, yet, when pulled deeply enough into the hunt, he greedily feeds on his ravenous bloodlust, becoming as deranged and psychologically unstable as his prey.
The madman Roger Dyce, who calmly drains his victims of blood to the point of death, is complex and fascinating in his endeavors, and Wiltse expertly catalogues his behavioral levels, so Dyce's reasonings become lucidly clear to the reader. The prose and dialogue are very inspired here, lending considerable grace to the central premise, momentum to the narrative, and texture and nuance to the characters. This is a wonderful piece of fiction that goes to the head of the class.