About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Signature Kill by David Levien

17. - 814.) Signature Kill by David Levien – Frank Behr, former Indianapolis police officer and now a private detective, has no pending cases. He is depressed. He has a 6 month old son, Trevor, from a relationship with Susan that continues fitfully but not with them residing together. He has not yet completed recovery from a badly damaged clavicle caused by a shotgun blast.

Driving through the city he sees a billboard for a missing young woman, Kendra Gibbons. Her family is offering a reward of $100,000. With no other work Behr visits her mother and decides to pursue the case. She gives him abit of information but it looks to be a quixotic quest. There are no real leads.

He has little money but decides to proceed even though he must finance the investigation on his own.

At the same time an unnamed man is stalking a young woman he calls Cinnamon because of her hair. Levien opens his description of the man with:

     It's happening again ....

     The words come from a place deep within hi. He feels
     that stuff down there, bubbling and stirring, as the thing
     inside him that is other looks to push up and outward. He 
     has to take it for a ride.

     It's happening again and before long the red curtain will
     come down once more .... Soon.
As Gibbons was working as a prostitute Behr looks for some co-workers. At one of the interviews he is challenged by a pimp. Behr, a powerful man at 6’6” and 240 pounds, wins the fight and establishes his presence.

While he is looking at slender leads Cinnamon is kidnapped. The unnamed man is a serial killer with an obsession for blonde women.

Through the book Levien moves back and forth between Behr and the serial killer.  He delves into the minds of both men.

Behr is a relentless investigator.

The killer is evil, clever and vicious.

It is not a book for readers put off by gory descriptions of torture and death. All are credible given the mind of the killer. They are among the most graphic I have ever read.

Behr is not a desperately dysfunctional sleuth. He relates well to his son and does spend time taking care of him. Behr and Susan have a good relationship though somewhat apart.

The killer has as twisted a mind as any character I have read. He is in the midst of a long term marriage and has a good job. At the same time his mind is preoccupied with capturing, killing and dismembering blonde women.

Through solid work Behr comes to realize there is a serial killer in Indianapolis.

With the aid of an expert, Lisa Mistretta, he comes to see the killer as a signature killer. I had not seen that phrase before this work. Behr defines a signature killer:

     "Yeah. Well, a signature killer, more accurately, engaged
     in serial predation. A serial killer is two or more, by any
     means. But we use the term 'signature' because even
     though the MO can change from crime to crime, due to
     the specific and random circumstances of each act, the
     key element of the crime that gives the killer the
     satisfaction is the same even when the little details
     present slightly differently. There can also be an
     evolution with these guys - a slowly changing style. But
     that signature element stays the same. That's what you
     intuited in these cases."
Behr is obsessive in his own way. He is utterly consumed by the search. In a frightening passage he leaves his son alone in his car to pursue a lead. It is an irresponsible, even dangerous act, that is convincing given Behr's nature.

I will not forget the killer. He is a monster. His actions and mind are believable. He functions all too well in the world. No one suspects he is a killer.

Levien has written well about a serial killer and the investigator hunting him. Readers who like to read about serial killers will find it a strong book. While this post is my analysis of the book my next post will be my reaction to the book.


  1. I'm glad you thought the book was well-written, Bill. And it's refreshing to meet a sleuth who'd functional. I will confess that the serial/signature kill motif doesn't appeal to me. I suppose it's because there are so many books out there with the same motif. I'm not a one for lot of stomach-churning violence either. To be frank, I'm not sure this is for me. But I am glad that the characters are solid and you found good things about it.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Levien is a skilled writer and storyteller. My next post will probably help you decide for sure about reading the book.

  2. Not an author I have come across, and though I generally go for the less-violent strand of books, I like the setup of this one. I will be interested to read your next post.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. The author is skilled.

  3. I will probably avoid this book because of the topic and the graphic depiction of violence. I especially do not like it when the books get into the mind of the serial killer. Thanks for covering this and including comments on the level of violence in the book.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I do not mind an author trying to fathom the psyche of a serial killer. If a crime fiction writer is going to write about a serial killer I think they should attempt to explain the actions of the serial killer they have created.