by Gregory Funaro
Kensington Publishing Corp.
The impaled bodies of two male victims are discovered in a cemetery with the cryptic message “I have returned” on their torsos. When the impaled body of a criminal defense attorney is subsequently found, the killer is given the nickname The Impaler, named for Vlad the Impaler, upon whom Bram Stroker’s Dracula was based. This is the first case for FBI agent Sam Markham since his promotion to Raleigh, North Carolina. Markham, still grieving his wife’s death, tries not to be distracted by the execution date of her killer looming in the near future. He immerses himself in the investigation, frustrated by the lack of DNA or trace evidence at each crime scene. He begins to suspect the serial killer’s reason for impaling his victims has nothing to do with Vlad Tepes but is connected to a stolen Babylonian seal and the god Nergal, guardian of the underworld. At first the victims seem to have nothing in common but Markham finds a connection and he and his team begin to close in on their killer whose kills are escalating and who always seems one step ahead of them. As Markham zeroes in, he’s unaware the Impaler is now focused on him.
Funaro came out swinging with The Sculptor and does not disappoint his readers with The Impaler. Although some scenes are gruesome, they are intrinsic to the plot and well-executed. The characterization of the serial killer is fascinating as the reader learns of past traumas he experienced that formed him into the deranged monster he is. One sympathizes with Markham and his ongoing bereavement of his wife’s violent death. The plot is complicated yet so well-written readers will not have trouble following along. Rarely does this reviewer read a book that captures the attention so thoroughly. Characterization, plot, and dialogue excel. Funaro proves himself worthy of status on the best-seller list with this intense, electrifying thriller which deserves more than 5 stars.