Elena Forbes’ Die with Me is a classic police procedural. A serial killer targets young, vulnerable women. He cultivates a relationship with them, then murders them and makes it look like suicides. The odd thing is that the killer didn’t appear to have raped the victims (at least one victim had died a virgin).
This is the first book in the DI Mark Tartaglia series, and unlike other mystery series I enjoy (e.g. Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser), nothing about Tartaglia really made him stand out to me from other literary detectives. He’s a fairly standard old school cop, skeptical about psychological profiling, and he has a complicated love life, with an ex-lover coroner, a new boss with whom his relationship goes from antagonistic to protective, and his partner DS Sam Donovan, with whom he has unacknowledged chemistry.
Despite it being “A Mark Tartaglia mystery”, Donovan seemed to take at least as much of a central role in the investigation. In complete honesty, I found her character to be more fleshed out, and left the book with the sense that I saw her detective work more than I saw Tartaglia. Donovan’s definitely a very likable character, and I look forward to reading more about her in future books.
Forbes chooses to focus on the investigation, and this is a good thing, because the investigation itself is pretty compelling. The killer targets really vulnerable girls, those who are ostracized in school or aren’t physically attractive, and minor details (e.g. he can’t stand the scent of Pear soap) hint at the source of his psychosis. The red herrings are fairly easy to spot, but the ultimate solution, I admit, surprised me.
Reading Die with Me is like watching an episode of Law & Order or CSI. It’s a fast-paced, entertaining, engrossing police procedural. It’s a lot of fun to read, and I for one found myself racing through the pages to see what new clues Donovan and Tartaglia have uncovered and who the killer will ultimately turn out to be.