SIRENS IN THE NIGHT: Serial murder in Philadelphia with a supernatural element
SIRENS IN THE NIGHT by Michael Bradley (Amberjack Publishing, 2015) Paperback ISBN #978-0-692-51719-2 322 pages
DISCLAIMER: I did not receive a promotional copy of this book in exchange for a written review. I purchased my copy. While I know Michael Bradley through our shared membership in a writers group, this review is completely unsolicited. I would have bought a copy of Sirens In The Night as a show of support, regardless of whether it was fiction in a genre that I enjoy, non-fiction, or memoir. While I don't know a lot about Michael Bradley outside of the writing group, I have learned that he takes a professional approach. So I expected Sirens In The Night to be a good story, engaging, and well-written. My expectations were exceeded.
SIRENS IN THE NIGHT explores a dark side of crime investigation, introduces intriguing characters with interesting back stories, gives a glimpse into Philadelphia history and culture, and exhibits the flow and pacing of a good detective novel, albeit one with a supernatural element.
There are a number of genres that SIRENS IN THE NIGHT could fit into - - contemporary mystery, detection thriller, horror, serial-killers, supernatural and urban fantasy. If forced to boil it down to a simpler genre description, “supernatural crime” seems to work best.
The story starts off at the murder scene on a Philadelphia construction site of a historic building renovation. An apparent triple murder has occurred, and the victims’ remains have a mummified appearance. Homicide detective Samantha Ballard suspects a hoax as she begins the investigation. The coroner’s autopsy reveals that the bodies are not unearthed remains, but recent deaths.
Ballard, and her new rookie partner Peter Thornton, begin their investigation in normal fashion with just a few clues to start them off. As more murders occur across the city with the mummified appearance on every victim, they begin to suspect that a serial killer with a supernatural signature is the perpetrator.
As things progress they begin to realize that the killer may be more than human. This creates yet another conflict for Ballard, who is trying to prove her worth in a competitive department. She doesn’t want to accept what the evidence is beginning to tell her as it would not be received well and could hurt her reputation. The story goes far beyond the standard police procedural and explores the realm of the unknown. Sometime after reading approximately one-third of the way through the story, the pacing and suspense build so much that it’s hard to put down and becomes a thrilling page-turner.
Author Bradley incorporates some characters from Greek mythology into the story, enhancing their dangerous nature by giving them other properties, including strength and immortality. All the characters in the book are sharply defined, believable in their imperfections, concerns and motives. Detective Samantha Ballard is the most intriguing and interesting character in the novel, and the amount of her background and history revealed during the novel would make a good subject for at least two prequels to this book. Her family has a history connected to police work; and her investigation of a past serial killer ended unsatisfactory.
Bradley also introduces a supporting character with plenty of internal conflicts. Jack Allyn is a radio disc jockey trying to regain his former status in the broadcasting industry. He becomes involved when a close friend becomes a murder victim. Jack crosses paths with Ballard and Thornton and jumps into the investigation with them, since he also believes in a supernatural killer and is one of the few persons they can confide in and compare notes.
Bradley flavors his novel by adding secondary details throughout, interesting notes that help lend a sense of realism and believability to the novel and help the reader visualize the scenery better. There is fascinating descriptions of Philadelphia architecture and city streets and landmarks. It will remind some readers of the style employed by Ian Rankin in describing the city of Edinburgh and Scotland in his detective novels, although Bradley does not venture into travelogue mode to the same degree that Rankin sometimes does.
Although some readers may quibble with the ending, things do come to a resolution. However, the short epilogue chapter seems unnecessary and feels like it was added on, perhaps at the prompting of the publisher. Unfortunately, it will seem predictable to any reader familiar with horror movie endings.