For over a decade now, FBI agent E.L. Pender has been hunting down leads on a serial killer whose kill count keeps rising and all attempts to capture him have proven futile. To make matters worse, no bodies have been found, just a long string of disappearances. The only thing in common that these women have is their strawberry blonde hair. Peddler and his fellow agents dub the serial killer “Casey”, a reference to the song “And the Band Played On” written by Charles B. Ward and John F. Palmer, since both the character in the song (Casey) and the killer have the same thing in common – their love of strawberry blonds.
Now, I’ve heard this song played a few times and it always seemed like such a cheery tune, but when Peddler sings the chorus during the first meeting of the FBI task force assigned to the “Casey” case, well, the lyrics take on a much more sinister meaning:
Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde,
And the band played on.
He’d glide cross the floor with the girl he adored,
And the band played on.
But his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded,
The poor girl would shake with alarm.
That chill that just ran down your spine from reading those lyrics will stay with you through out the entirety of this book and will even be magnified tenfold in some instances. Aside from an amazing ability to both intrigue and terrify the reader at the same time, Nasaw does a masterful job of juggling multiple points of views, a feat not many authors can lay claim to.
When the story opens up, we find that “Casey” has been captured by local police, although they have no idea who they really caught, and Pender is on his way to interogate him while he’s in custody. At this point we are also introduced to two other characters who will become pivotal to the story. Dr. Irene Cogan, a psychologist specializing in disassociate identity disorders who is hired by the court to determine whether “Casey”, or Max as it were, is fit to stand trial. The second woman who is introduced, well, I don’t want to spoil anything for you there. The point is, within the first five chapters the readers have already had their chance to be inside the heads of the main characters without the flow of the story being disrupted even once.
As the story progresses, the perspective often changes in order to not only give the reader a different angle from which to view the proceedings, but to also add depth and emotion to the new characters who are introduced. The hope, fear, and anger that each victim feels before meeting their end is magnified through this method. On top of this, the readers are granted yet another perspective of the main characters. It’s one thing to watch them through an omniscient point of view and quite another to see them masterfully drawn out from a myriad of first person point of views, all of which are tinged with the emotion of the current happenings. That doesn’t even take into account the multiple identities that make up Nasaw’s antagonist, all of which were remarkably written characters that felt like fully fleshed out pieces that fit together to make a whole.
The Girls He Adored is an exhilirating and terrifying novel all in one that had me hooked from start to finish. I honestly couldn’t put this book down, and when I finally did, my mind kept wandering back to it, trying to analyze everything I had read and look at it from a different angle. Nasaw’s antagonist, Max, is a truly frightening individual who could, without a doubt, give Hannibal Lector a few lessons in terror. He’s resourceful, cunning, highly intelligent, psychotic, and charming all at the same time!
Normally I like to drop a few tantalizing tidbits from the novel into the review, but in this case I have to say that any spoilers I could give would truly ruin the experience of following Peddler on his quest to apprehend Max before Cogan can become his next victim.
Joana’s Rating: (4 out of 5 stars)