Maniacal, by C. M. Sutter [Review]

“A solid start to a new series, with some typical growing pains from a new novelist”

Maniacal, from 2016, is the first book in C.M. Sutter’s Jade Monroe crime series. Sutter has gone on to write many more very successful novels over four different series. This one is offered free as an entry into the Jade Monroe universe. It’s well-written and follows a standard police procedural story arc from an initial murder to the investigation’s conclusion. The psychotic serial killer narrative includes many familiar tropes and the author drops plenty of clues to allow a knowledgeable reader to make a very good guess at who the killer is, making the ultimate reveal less of a surprise. As a first novel in the genre, it’s a good effort but suffers from many typical growing pains that could have been fixed or improved, and which are no doubt missing from later works. Still, this is an interesting story with a female cop protagonist that holds interest can be easily knocked out in the course of a cross-country plane ride.

The killer here is both a careful planner (although sometimes it’s not clear how he was able to do the planning so well) and also driven by “voices in his head” that urge him toward his murders. The meticulous attention to not getting caught early on falls into disarray in the later stages and ultimately lead to his downfall in a manner that is a bit head-scratching given the earlier care taken to avoid detection. There are some leaps of logic in the investigation and long stretches where nothing much is happening that could have been tightened up (or filled with a more interesting subplot). The climax happens very quickly, and the post-climax explanatory denouement wraps things up a bit too neatly and stereotypically. But these are all symptoms of a new novelist working through the process. (And yes, it should be bullpen and whiteboard, not bull pen and white board, but these are nits.)

I enjoyed reading Maniacal and I’m sure that the later books and additional series from Ms. Sutter will be even better.

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