The Bloodless Mask
(Inspector Lukas Ricther Book 2)
(Mystery / Crime)
By Cy Wyss
A headless body is found in San Francisco bay, starting a crime investigation into the murky depths of human trafficking and Spanish lore that only Inspector Lukas Ricther and his mystical eye can solve.
What hits you right away with this story is the gritty, terse writing. The author wastes no time on florid descriptions of character or scene, giving us only quick snapshots of where and who before jumping right into the action. However, in no way does this mean there aren’t some great lines.
“The brightening effect of blinding daylight was tempered by omnipresent wire mesh and vicious balcony spikes.”
“Itokawa had noticed he turtled around short people, dipping his head in silent acknowledgement of those not so physically fortunate.”
For a murder mystery, the vocabulary in this book was outstanding, slipping in SAT words with ease so well that most of the time even I didn’t notice them—the true mark of good writing.
As for structure, the author doesn’t deviate from being unique. While the main story revolves around the death of a twelve-year-old girl, the pin that holds it together is Inspector Richter. And as this piece is written in a third-person limited viewpoint—jumping only into the head of one character per scene—the most interesting thing was we never are allowed inside this unusal inspector with the magic eye. We are only given outside description from looker-ons, whether witnesses, partners, or the criminals themselves.
And clearly, he is the main point. This story wouldn’t be a story without Richter. He brings a distinct feeling unlike other stock detective characters you would expect. He is well educated, but not erudite to a fault. He is withdrawn, but in no way socially inept, many times joking around with his fellow cops. If it weren’t for him, I would’ve dropped this story in an instant. Though the other characters are well formed, he is the star.
Yet, this book was missing something. Clearly, it is short so by the end you are wishing there was more, especially after he so masterly runs down the bad guy. The part I think was the biggest letdown dealt with the Spanish myths the author delved into regarding how if a person wears the face of a dead person you become them. It would’ve been interesting to see this expanded upon instead up just offered up as an interesting tidbit from another culture. Already, Richter has a magic eye, so a little more oddity wouldn’t have hurt the story at all and was actually quite intriguing.
This book was a fun, quick read. Inspector Richter makes every scene he’s in different from a usual crime drama, never making it feel formulaic or done before. If you like mysteries with strong interactions between characters, this book is chock full of them. My only complaint, besides wanting it longer, is that I wish it took things a little further into the strange cult / mythos the author served up in the story. Wearing someone’s face to become them would make some interesting scenes. Nonetheless, have fun with it!
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