The Book of Joel tells us “your old men will dream dreams”. This is certainly the case with Lance Underphal, a crime photographer, except that his dreams are nightmares that precede murders. In this instance, he sees a series of murders that are somehow center themselves in the ruins of the Real Estate industry in Phoenix. Drawn into the case by Detective Frank Salmon, he photographs the crime scene and triggers even more visions of the murderer as a Tarantula Hawk wasp paralyzing her prey. Though the detective is skeptical, he has an open mind and allows Lance access to the crime scene. Together, with the assistance of a private detective who served with Salmon in the Navy, they uncover a series of murders with the same weapon, Botox, and hunt their killer across the foreclosed houses of suburban Phoenix.
FLIGHT OF THE TARANTULA HAWK is a well-written thriller where not every clue is a tangible piece of evidence. The plot is somewhat different in that Det. Salmon follows leads and uncovers clues in the conventional way while Lance guides his inquiry. Although he cannot determine the killer’s identity, Lance believes that the killer is using a paralyzing agent and is probably female. He bases this on his nightmare visions. Det. Salmon, however, independently determines that Botox is the murder weapon; he is unsure of the killer’s gender and has a suspect, a male suspect that he likes for the crimes. With the investigation at a standstill, the family of one of the victims hires a private investigator who happens to be a trusted friend of the detective and is able to use legal investigative methods that are unavailable to the police. The three distinct investigative methods converge and the killer is found. Unlike other plots involving psychics, the killer is discovered by routine police work – following leads, working the forensic findings and surveillance. The action is brisk but there are intervals where the desert night landscape is described to the point that it becomes a character.
Although based in part in a world of spirits and visions, the psychic part of the plot is believable, especially the effect that the visions have on Lance. At the novel’s conclusion, old men may still dream dreams but the case is closed by old-fashioned police work.
FLIGHT OF THE TARANTULA HAWK is a brisk, intelligent thriller where the action can turn on a dime as new suspects and situations occur.
Reviewed by Ed Bennett for IndieReader