Mysteries end with surprising twist
“Eight-Five… Still Alive”
A book demands a sequel when that sequel focuses on a different set of characters.
That’s what happens in “Eight-Five” and “Eight-Five… Still Alive” by Bruce, Wis., writer Arian Knops. In this duology, Knops traces the crimes of serial killer Avarde Kolt, alias Michael Barrett, who is relentlessly pursued by Minneapolis homicide investigator Dan Costello.
“Eight-Five” focuses on Costello as he begins to unravel the mystery of a serial killer who attaches cattle tags with the numbers 85 to the ears of his victims. The killer also sends taunting clues to Costello who makes it his life’s mission to find the killer.
Costello enlists the help of police throughout the country, including Bill Thorp, Rusk County, Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy. Barrett, however, who serves as a county supervisor, outmaneuvers his pursuers, leaving them with much suspicion but no proof.
What compels Barrett in his homicidal spree becomes clearer at the end of the first and the beginning of the second novel.
Abused by a cold and heartless father, taunted in high school and early in his Navy career, Barrett undergoes a transformation from enlisted man to Navy pilot, surviving harrowing incidents in Vietnam to pursue his victims through a lifetime of cold-blooded murders.
However, we start to see a hidden humanity within Barrett, who has claimed the lives of over a hundred victims, when he finds his beloved cat Sparky dead in a laundry basket.
“His wonderful pal Sparky was dead. Michael felt tears creep into his eyes. He had never really cried when a human died, but the loss of the cat was touching the soul he doubted he had.”
Barrett starts to change when he decides not to kill Greg Gregory, a target he finds in Wann, Okla. Gregory welcomes Barrett into his home with a warmth Barrett had never felt in his own home when growing up. When Barrett reunites with Rhonda Warshski, a girl he had known in his youth, he is again transformed as he regains the lost humanity of his youth.
Knops convincingly tells his story from the point of view of law enforcement. Even more convincing is how he explores the mind of serial killer Barrett. Just as we think we see where his story is going, Knops veers into unknown directions that are vivid and convincing.
These are great mysteries and a great read.
(Michael Tidemann writes from Estherville, Iowa. His author page is amazon.com/author/michaeltidemann.)