Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Brian O’Sullivan has been developing his own unique voice in the vast genre of thrillers and murder mysteries, with his latest effort being The Bay Area Butcher. In it, we once again follow Quint Adler (from Revenge at Sea) as he finds himself pitted against a diabolical enemy in a serial killer who keeps escalating his actions, acting seemingly at random, all while taunting the entire world through his letters.
Table of contents
Brian O’Sullivan Besieges the Bay Area
With serial killers being a relatively recent and mostly inexplicable phenomenon, it shouldn’t come as a surprise they’ve caught the public’s attention to the degree they have. All the truly infamous ones have, for better or for worse, been immortalized through the infamy of their actions, and in The Bay Area Butcher by Brian O’Sullivan, someone is very much trying to join their ranks.
Before proceeding any further, I should mention this is the second book in the Quint Adler series, with the first one being Revenge at Sea. I highly recommend you have a look at it as well, but if you don’t feel like at the moment rest assured it’s not necessary to enjoy this novel. However, some allusions to the events of the first book may spoil at thing or two should you decide to go back.
In any case, the story opens with brief segment from the serial killer’s perspective, setting the stage for his great streak of evil heavily informed by his predecessor’s crimes. After this taste of what’s to come, we’re introduced to Quint Adler once again, now a bit of a freeloader specializing in giving interviews about the events of his previous adventure.
As he’s trying to rebuild his relationship with Cara, a bit of news sends Quint on yet another, possibly much deadlier adventure. The serial killer has mailed to the police the first from his series of taunting letters, giving the police many clues as well as mentioning Quint by name and in less than appreciative terms.
Thus, against his will, the famous former journalist and dabbler in private investigation finds himself drawn into a game of cat-and-mouse against a foe who seems to be ten steps ahead of anyone at any given moment. Each crime is more despicable than the last one, and along with Cara’s help, he must fight against the clock to make sense of all the clues and the stop the madman before he disappears.
Assembling the Morbid Puzzle of The Bay Area Butcher
If there was one reproach I could make to the majority of thriller novels out there, it would be the lack of materials they give the reader to think about. Most of them simply seek to string the reader along from one arbitrary piece of information to the next, without ever giving them the chance to conduct a bit of their own investigative work.
Taking this into account, The Bay Area Butcher fell into my good graces almost from the very start, giving me a handful of clues to work with on my own throughout the entire thing. We know pretty much everything our protagonists know at any given moment, and even a bit more considering we’re privy to the chapters where the killer in question speaks to us.
For those of you who enjoy trying to solve the mystery before the protagonists, let me assure you this is very much possible by the halfway point, if of course you’re not afraid of setting the book aside for a bit in order to rack your brains. What’s more, the answer isn’t spoon-fed nor does it jump out at the eyes; it requires some real detective work on your part, something sorely missing in this genre.
In addition, watching Quint and Cara as they try to make sense of any clues and evidence they have is also captivating in and of itself, especially the moments where they find the hidden thread in a seemingly dead end.
Many authors have trouble when it comes to investigative abilities of their characters, but I have to say Brian O’Sullivan did an excellent job at making the protagonists as well as the police seem capable and intelligent, but to a believable degree. More than anything they feel like regular humans who have simply been immersed in this for a very long time.
The Race Against Time
If I could divide the book into two parts, I would say the first two-thirds are dedicated to finding the killer’s identity, while the last third is all about the chase after him in hopes of stopping a crime which he promised would be horrific. Though the latter part obviously doesn’t have the same air of mystery as the former, it compensates by presenting a very thorough and detailed manhunt.
Brian O’Sullivan has obviously done his research into police-work and investigative methods, meticulously tracing both the steps the killer is taking to stay ahead of his pursuers, as well as the steps these pursuers are taking to close the gap. The closer we get to the end, the more we’re treated to back-and-forths in terms of perspective, making the chase feel rather exciting.
Speaking of the excitement factor, I found O’Sullivan did a good job at slowly increasing it as the story went on, bringing the killer closer and closer to our circle of characters. There are a few good twists in there, but one which I won’t spoil definitely stood out and felt like it stripped our characters of their plot armour, something much more difficult to achieve than it appears.
At the same time, amidst all the excitement our heroes are going through, we’re also treated to little passages of characterization here and there, mainly through dialogue. Whether it’s between Quint and Cara or other characters, the author has done a good job at making everyone feel not only distinct, but like they truly belong in the world they inhabit.
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The ending, which I obviously won’t spoil, is in my opinion worthy of the best thrillers, bringing a long and tiring chase to an epic and memorable conclusion which hopefully sets the stage for more appearances from Quint Adler in the future.
The Final Verdict
The Bay Area Butcher by Brian O’Sullivan is an excellent serial killer thriller which takes you on the ride right alongside the protagonists and offers you an equal chance to crack the case. From the initial mystery, to the manhunt, and everything in-between, the author maintains a consistently high level of quality and excitement.
If you’re looking for a top-notch serial killer mystery which, in addition to being a page-turner also respects your intelligence, then I strongly suggest you give this book a read.
Brian O’Sullivan is an American author from the San Francisco Bay Area who spent nearly a decade after graduation playing poker professionally against some of the best in the world. Following his exploits in the card game, he began writing screenplays and eventually turned to writing novels.
Most notably, he has expedited the publication of his book The Puppeteer due to his hatred for the toxic political climate pervading the country, a novel which earned him numerous accolades.