Book Review: On Edge by Barbara Fister

On Edge
Barbara Fister
Random House/Dell, 2002
ISBN 0440237513

Suffering from a gunshot wound, Chicago cop Konstantin Slovo is running from his family, his friends and all the tragedy in his life. His partner was killed in the same shooting and the department is investigating the incident, apparently believing Slovo shot his partner in “friendly fire”.

Heading east, Slovo ends up in a small coastal town in Maine for no particular reason other than to see the sun rise over the water. Parked near the beach, he misses the sunrise when he falls asleep and is awakened by a trio of local cops. Unfortunately for Slovo, his bloody backseat immediately arouses their suspicions and his testy attitude doesn’t help matters any. It seems that Slovo has wandered into a town that has a child missing, the third in recent months, and the police force is floundering with no leads in a situation far outside their experience.

After checking Slovo’s story, the police chief releases him in the care of a patrol officer who is to return him to his car. On the way, they stop at a site about to be searched and the child’s body is found shortly after.  Wanting to get as far away from this as he can, Slovo stops in at a cafe on his way to his car and collapses with a raging fever from his infected wound. At the hospital, the doctor tells him he’ll have to stay in town for a while.

Taking a house as a temporary rental, Slovo settles in to rest but soon finds himself much more involved in the case than he wants to be. A few of the town’s residents are solicitous and friendly but, with emotions running high—inflamed further by the memories of a massive child-molesting investigation twenty years earlier—many more are suspicious of him. Still, with his background as a big-city officer, he’s a natural consultant for the local force and the state and federal investigators. His bitterness and injury notwithstanding, Slovo soon becomes immersed in finding the next missing child before it’s too late.

On Edge is an apt title, considering not only Slovo’s state of mind but also the town’s fear and hostility. Child molestation, abduction and murder suspense novels are always difficult to read because of the emotions felt by the reader but author Barbara Fister handles these subjects well with no sensationalism except that to be expected in a serial murder case. The descriptions of the bodies, while somewhat gruesome, are brief and are unfortunately realistic. Fister‘s ability to tell a tough story well is admirable and is a promising introduction to her work.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, 2002.  Slightly revised 2010.
Review first published on murderexpress.net in 2002.

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