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Review: Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner

Boston police detective D.D. Warren returns to the scene of a murder late at night, long after her crew has gone home. At the top of the stairs on her way home she senses a presence behind her and, pulling her gun, turns to face what could be a threat. It is. It is a shadowy figure who pushes her down the stairs, leaving her with a mild concussion and a painful avulsion fracture in her left shoulder.
Seeking professional help for her painful shoulder, she consults Dr. Adeline Glen, a pyschiatrist who, although she herself suffers from a rare genetic disorder that prevents her from feeling pain, specializes in pain management. She introduces the detective to the Family Systems Model, in which the patient is asked to give her pain a name and to talk to it. There are three other elements in the model and naming the pain (Melvin, in this case) and talking to him establishes a system for keeping all four elements under better control.
An understanding of the model, by itself, is worth the price of the book. But there’s more. There’s Shana Day, a psychotic killer who was jailed for life at age 14 for killing Donnie Johnson and then cutting off his ear. Shana is Adeline’s older sister. They are the children of Harry Day, a serial killer who, 40 years ago, sliced thin strips of skin off his victims and kept them in jars filled with formaldehyde.
Then there’s the Rose Killer, who suddenly appears and begins replicating Harry Day’s crimes. Unlike Harry, he doesn’t bury his victim under the floorboards, but leaves them carfully posed on their beds with a rose and a bottle of champagne beside them. Like Harry, he carefully cuts strips of skin from them.
The big question facing Detective Warren and her crew is the timing. Why would somebody start a copycat killing spree 40 years after Harry slit his wrists in the bathtub while the cops were pounding on the door? And who is the copycat? And is Shana somehow involved, even though she’s in jail? Is she sending secret messages to a cohort on the outside?
This is an excellent novel. It explores the nature versus nurture question in some detail while never losing momentum. Recommended.

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