The Killing Hands is the fourth book to feature FBI profiler Sophie Anderson. She’s called in to work up a profile of the killer of an unidentified body who appears to have had his throat ripped out. Even before he’s identified the body is linked to Asian organised crime in Los Angeles which requires Sophie to work with a myriad of gang-related government agencies who form a task force. Eventually Sophie identifies that the man, and possibly other victims as well, might have been killed using a specialist form of martial arts training and the task force focus their attention on the Yakuza both in LA, Japan and China.
One of the things that I like most about this series is that there’s always a change in Sophie’s work environment so it doesn’t ever feel stale. Here her work with gangs is a completely new arena for Sophie and, aside from Sophie’s parents and her potential love interest, all the characters are new and interesting to meet. Sophie herself continues to grow and is harnessing her unique psychic ability with greater skill in this book. If you’re like me and a little skeptical of ‘woo woo’ in your books don’t let that last sentence turn you off because it’s a relatively minor element of the plot and it really is handled very intelligently.
The plot of this one builds well towards the end though I have to admit I found some of the earlier parts a little hard going. Martin does meticulous research and incorporated this well into the book in terms of providing enough information on relatively obscure topics like martial arts moves and organised crime but it did lead to a little slower pace than usual at the beginning. It probably doesn’t help that I have a personal bias against books where organised crime features heavily (I simply can’t get terribly interested when criminals start killing each other but given the ratings of TV shows like Underbelly and The Sopranos I realise I’m in the minority). However there were enough other threads including protecting an undercover agent, the exposing of a dangerous leak from the task force and more emphasis than usual on Sophie’s private life to maintain my interest.
I enjoy this series as it does seem to occupy a fairly unique slot in the genre. It is a procedural of course but having Sophie move around so much allows new characters and completely different types of cases to be featured which keeps the books fresher than many series of this type. And Sophie herself is not your run-of-the-mill investigator either, being able to harness a special gift over and above her more traditional skills. The Killing Hands is another credible and engaging outing in the series and I’m looking forward to catching up with Sophie again soon.
My rating 4/5
Publisher: Pan MacMillan ; ISBN: 978-1-4050-3902-4 Length: 392 pages;