Agent Sayer Altair is finding her feet again after a major loss, and things are getting back to a new, if shaky, normal when she’s called in on a case that makes no sense at all. A teenage girl has been killed, and her body left posed on a Washington, D.C., monument, along with several figurines and a message in blood. When Sayer’s team learns the girl was kidnapped with a busload of classmates on a STEM field trip, it becomes a race against the clock to figure out the mind of this killer and find the other missing kids. Ellison Cooper’s Cut to the Bone is never content with one twist; this book is a high-speed, high-stakes labyrinth of reverses and double crosses.
While reading, you can almost feel Cooper’s delight in the traps she lays. From the outside, Sayer and her colleagues are trying to locate the killer and decipher his reasoning; inside the bus that was hijacked and hidden, the surviving girls use teamwork and tech skills to try and save themselves. But nothing is simple in this story, from the ancient Egyptian rituals being reenacted in the killings to the anonymous person who is following Sayer and intervening at critical points in the case. Sayer is also getting calls from a person who’s the subject of a psychopathy study, and who knows too much about Sayer’s life and work (a subplot that may prove a bit melodramatic for some readers). And the resolution is all-out chaos, a scramble of revelations that make it hard to tell who is truly dead or alive.
Occasional moments of rest, when we learn about the neuroscience behind psychopathic behavior and how it differs from psychosis, are as gripping as the field work and chases, if not more so. The whip-crack pacing and constant sense of being pulled toward multiple leads make for compulsive, blow-through-your-bedtime reading, and if you think it doesn’t end with a bang and a half, think again. Cut to the Bone is a wild ride, creepy while still being a lot of fun.