Dave Zeltserman's new novel, A Killer's Essence, is getting terrific review attention this week. Here's a sampling of the critical praise:
"In a truly chilling scene in the first chapter of A Killer’s Essence two young children miraculously elude a murderous pedophile, an experience that leaves one marked for life with a sixth sense for evil. The book then jumps forward to when that child, Stan Green, has become a burned-out Manhattan homicide detective. All he has to show for his psychic talent is a divorce, a cheap suit, and a bitchy girlfriend. . . In riveting narrative, Zeltserman illustrates what happens to a wounded man whose psychic powers outstrip his ability to cope. Think you’d like the power to see inside the dark hearts of others? Think again. How would it feel if, on the way to the office, we saw demons on the sidewalk, harpies on the subway? This is strong stuff, and the author is expert at sharing Zach’s horror, as well Green’s empathic reaction to it. In the end discovering the killer’s identity isn’t half as compelling as the inner torment of two men who are “gifted” with psychic abilities. - Mystery Scene
"Dave Zeltserman has had to put himself in the shoes of any number of disreputable types in his estimable noir novels - hit men, out-of-control cops, old coots who think they’re saving the world by weeding a field. Now, in A Killer’s Essence,’ comes the ultimate in empathizing with the dark side. Zeltserman, who lives and dies with the Red Sox, creates a protagonist who - the horror - is a Yankees fan. But while it’s fun for formerly long-suffering Red Sox fans to relive the glory days, the 2004 playoffs are the sideshow. The main event is Green’s attempt to unravel three murders in which the bodies have been grotesquely mutilated. Few writers are Zeltserman’s equal in setting up the chessboard with obsessive perps and depressive cops. And it isn’t always easy in the world of noir fiction to tell the difference between the two.
A major arbiter in this tale should be Zachary Lynch, who witnessed one of the murders. The problem is that Lynch suffers from lesions in the brain from a previous trauma, and he sees nothing but horrific hallucinations when looking at certain people. Just Green’s luck. But if you’re thinking this development is too far-fetched, it turns out to be a superb, perhaps metaphysical metaphor for the evil and sadness in the world. The chapter in which Lynch details his affliction, and tells Green why he sees holes instead of eyes when he looks at the detective, is one of the finest pieces of writing Zeltserman has penned.
And that’s saying something because Zeltserman’s lean but muscular style, so evident in “Killer’’ and The Caretaker of Lorne Field, is just as sharply honed here. His ability to juggle Green’s story and Lynch’s, develop a riveting murder mystery, and even mix in some Brighton Beach ex-KGB sleazeballs, all in less than 250 pages, is a pretty neat page-turning trick. Perhaps this is all like complaining that the Red Sox were almost swept by the Yankees in 2004. Ultimately they were a memorable winner. So is A Killer’s Essence. - Boston Globe