Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch (Exhibit A Books, May 28th 2013)-In 1967, when Staff Sergeant Bob Ferrell investigates the brutal death of a Saigon prostitute’s young son, he’s led directly to 20 year old Lance Corporal Vernon Emil Slocum, a violent bruiser who’s racked up a ton of medals during combat, but whose fellow soldiers have noticed behavior that defies the norm, and the definition of “normal” in Vietnam was already stretched to the limit. An obvious limp was the big identifier and after injuring the officers assigned to bring him to Ferrell, he’s finally subdued. Ferrell only has to look into Slocum’s eyes to know he’s dealing with evil and he assumes he’ll be brought to trial for the murder of the young boy. That’s not to be, however. Ferrell is unceremoniously told his investigation is over, and he won’t see Slocum for another 20 years.
In 1987, Iowa rookie cop Kevin Kearns happens upon a scene in a schoolyard and intervenes. A large man is brazenly attempting to kidnap a young girl in front of the rest of her class, and her teacher. Unfortunately, the man proves too much for Kearns, and the suspect manages to shoot the teacher, who tried to help, and gets away with the girl. Later, the little girl is found hanging from a tree at a rest stop with her throat cut. Unfortunately, the public, and the sheriff, who is up for reelection, needs a scapegoat, and that scapegoat is now Kevin Kearns.
Bob Ferrell is now a retired San Francisco cop living on his own, drinking and smoking too much, and wondering how everything seemed to have gotten away from him. His daughter is in college and they don’t talk much, and he’s gone through two wives. While looking at the paper, he notices the headline of the Iowa incident, and when he reads the details of how the little girl was killed, there’s no doubt in his mind that this killer is the same one he encountered in Saigon 20 years ago. After getting a line on Slocum’s whereabouts since 1967, Ferrell loads up and drives to Iowa to make a proposal to Kevin Kearns, one that could alter his future forever.
Wounded Prey is former San Francisco detective Sean Lynch’s first novel, and boy is it a doozy. Bob Farrell is a man out to settle a 20 year score, and he uses his police skills to fine effect as he cons his way into Kevin Kearns life and pretty much abducts him to convince him to hunt down Slocum. Kearns’s police career has barely started, but it seems sure to end soon, and the guilt he feels over the little girl’s death at Slocum’s hands is eating him from the inside. He has absolutely nothing to lose and no family to think of as he considers Ferrell’s proposal. Revenge and retribution are a heady combo, and they both drive the two men as they hunt down one of the most fearsome killers the state of Iowa has ever seen. The narrative switches back and forth from Ferrell and Kearns, and Slocum, and the scenes with Slocum are chilling; a portrait of a man that has sunk so far into depravity there is not hope for his return. He is an intrinsic part of the dark now, and he has no intentions of letting Ferrell and Kearns catch up now.
Wounded Prey heads into some pretty dark territory, and although it’s never gratuitous, the subject matter is deeply disturbing, but for me, that just made me want to see Slocum taken down even more. Slocum is a beast and a true monster, and strangely enough, Farrell and Kearns are just the men to take him down. With the FBI on their tail, they follow the body trail, hoping to catch their man before more children die. If you love a good thriller, you’ll blaze through this one, and personally, I can’t wait for the next Farrell and Kearns novel! What a great debut!