Fresh Meat: Without Warning by David Rosenfelt

Without Warning by David Rosenfelt is a Maine thriller about a small town's murderous mysteries, uncovered after a hurricane unearths a time capsule (available March 25, 2014).

Author David Rosenfelt is no stranger to novel writing, having authored multiple books, including the Andy Carpenter series. This was the first time I had read Mr. Rosenfelt, so I came to the page with curious and fresh eyes. What I found was a fun, sometimes nail-biting, true who-done-it experience.

In the vein of the television shows Magnum P.I. and Kolchak (minus the paranormal aspects), it was like reading a beloved crime show. The first person narrative served well to get into each character’s head. Early in the reading it was a little confusing until I figured out who was talking, but as the story advanced, this ceased to be a problem.

Jake Robbins is the police chief of Wilton, Maine with a colored past. His armed services’ duties left him a war hero, and his marriage was abruptly ended by his wife’s murder after her confessed affair with his friend.

Katie Sanford was Jake’s old flame in high school, but now she’s a widow—you see, her husband, Roger, was having the affair with Jake’s wife. It’s a love square, not a triangle, I guess. After a bad storm and subsequent flood, the town’s beloved time capsule needs to be unearthed forty-five years early to make sure it has not been damaged by the water. A routine check of its contents reveals an extra set of predictions that contain a morbid set of cryptic messages that predict a string of murders in the sleepy little town that has already been set into play, unknowingly.

This story has it all—romantic tension, high stakes and mystery. Jake and Katie, having had a relationship previously, and both now widowers and having the extra connection of their spouses’ cheating on them with each other, were now working side by side to try and figure out who is doing the killing. Katie owns the local newspaper, so her ties to Jake are giving her the pieces of her career. But when the plot thickens, and she becomes a target for the killer, she’s in over her head. We watch their relationship go from friendly to friendlier as the pages turn, demonstrating their lingering romantic tension early on:

…there was something about being with Katie that was different. Maybe it was just that she was an ex-girlfriend; we had shared things, we had made love. Whatever the connection was, Katie was never lost in any room I was in with her. I always knew exactly where she was.

There are plenty of deaths, none too grisly or distasteful. Some left an indelible impression, like Jake’s military buddy, Bill:

He had time to register in his mind what it was; he had seen many of them halfway around the world. None had been painted to look like a newspaper, but then again none had been designed to specifically target him. This one might as well have had his name on it.

Bill had time to realize all this, but not enough time to react. The explosion blew him apart, badly damaged the front of the house, and blew out windows at least a block away.

It knocked Gale to the floor, and it was a few moments before she started to scream.

There’s a delicious twist once the capsule is opened and a set of predictions lie in front of them. They will race to stop the ones that haven’t occurred, while they put the pieces together in this ever-deepening deadly web. I loved the idea of the scary, mysterious and ominous time capsule that has been tampered with, along with the bonus unidentified skeleton that was discovered lying on top of it. It definitely amplified the mystery and intrigue successfully. As the story progressed, and just when you thought you might have an idea of who the killer was, a new character or theory from Jake was introduced. Having so many predictions gave the story some meat to chew on, hooking the readers and leading us on one helluva ride. Not knowing who the killer was, or finding out that your guess was wrong, kept the tensions high and at times made for some nail-biting moments.

This is a race against time, a race against an unknown serial killer leaving cryptic clues to his next killing just around the corner, and a race against an unknown leak in the police department, all teamed with a budding new romance between Jake and Katie. There’s also a twist at the end that will leave you open-mouthed. This one is an all around good time.

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Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter at @akeller9.

Read all posts by Amber Keller for Criminal Element.

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