The past comes back to haunt retired Vermont state police detective Frank Rath in Eric Rickstad’s latest novel, The Names of Dead Girls.
Sixteen years ago, a man named Ned Preacher committed unthinkable acts against Frank’s sister, Laura, and her husband. After brutally raping Laura, Preacher murdered the married couple. In the heartbreaking aftermath, Frank adopted his niece, Rachel, who was suddenly an orphan, and raised her as his own.
In the present day, Frank is horrified to learn that Preacher gamed the system to earn himself an early release from prison. After pleading guilty to lesser charges and claiming to find religion, the killer is set free thanks to good behavior behind bars, though he has zero intention of continuing that “good behavior” now that he’s back to roaming the streets in northern Vermont.
Following his release, it doesn’t take long for Preacher to contact Rath and start making threats towards Rachel, who is now a college student. The cruel reality forces Rath to have a talk with Rachel, informing her that, biologically speaking, he’s actually her uncle. She takes the news as well as one might expect, but the story soon takes a dark turn.
While shopping with her boyfriend, Rachel feels Preacher’s eyes on her. It’s a sensation she cannot explain or put into words, but she knows the eyes of a killer are tracking her. As her body sends her brain warning signals, Rath, meanwhile, begins using his skills as a former detective to track Preacher, enlisting help from the police to make sure Rachel remains safe. The story twists again, though, when the police inform Rath that Dana Clark, the only known survivor of another sadistic murderer known as the Connecticut River Valley Killer, has been reported missing.
The revelation that Dana Clark has gone missing seems to potentially back up an old theory of Rath’s, who previously suspected Preacher of being the Connecticut River Valley Killer. But proving his theory promises to be harder than expected–especially while Rath is worried about Rachel and her safety.
Rickstad’s story starts off promising, and certain scenes, especially when Rachel can feel eyes on her, are downright riveting. The twists and turns are, at times, predictable, and there’s a whole lot of buildup for an ending that feels simpler than readers might expect. That said, the plot is quick and the dialogue is tight, which makes the reading experience fun and entertaining.
Though it’s actually the second book in a series, following 2014’s The Silent Girls, readers can jump in here without missing a beat. The Names of Dead Girls is a solid crime thriller that starts fast and never lets up.
Author: Eric Rickstad
Series: Canaan Crime #2
Pages: 448 (Paperback)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 5.5/10