Author: Laurie Stevens

Publisher: FYD Media, LLC

ISBN: 978-0-9970068-0-3

With its shocking and scintillating twists, award-winning author Laurie Stevens' The Mask Of Midnight (A Gabriel McRay Novel ) jump starts when the lead character, Detective Gabriel McRay is embroiled in the trial of an alleged serial killer, Victor Archwood, who was given the name the Malibu Canyon Murderer.

Archwood was accused of hacking to death seven people in a series of horrifically brutal, vigilante-style killings in the Santa Monica Mountains to fulfill his warped fantasy. It was a fantasy where he imagined he was able “to capture the souls of people by cutting holes into their chakras, which is known in East Indian practice as the spiritual power points along the body.”

We learn early in the yarn that McRay carries with him a great deal of baggage. He had been put on probation for using excessive force and was compelled to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after suffering from aggression, headaches, nightmares and memory lapses. The latter, called fugue states, would place him in a different location when he awoke and he would have no idea how he got there. And this all materialized while investigating the murders.

McRay also suffers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder due to his experiencing trauma in his life, which he had blocked out. As he recounts to his sister Janet, whom he hadn't seen in years and who had no idea of the state of his mental health, there were notes left on the Malibu Canyon's victims' bodies that were addressed to him.

Apparently, McRay knew Archwood, but yet couldn't remember him. It was someone from his past, a part of his memory that he had repressed. He knew that if he could recall the trauma, he would remember him and solve the case.

Eventually, he did remember and discloses to his sister that he had been molested by a neighbor when he was a child. His parents had turned a blind eye rationalizing that it compensated the neighbor for all of the movies that he took him to.

You are probably now asking, what does all of this have to do with Archwood?

As a teenager McRay babysat Archwood, and he realizes that Archwood's astute defence attorney is going to make him look bad on the witness stand because of his being the lead investigator in the case.

We also discover that  Archwood was  abused by his grandfather which he had divulged to McRay many years ago. When McRay found out about Archwood's molestation, it had brought up his own issues with abuse, and consequently, he had physically lashed out at Archwood. And to make matters even worse, Archwood's mother told him that it was McRay and not his grandfather who had sexually abused him. As far as McRay knew, Archwood still believes that he is a child abuser.

Also thrown in is a love story between McRay and Dr. Ming Li, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner. Initially, their relationship began as a professional workplace one that eventually had turned personal. Incidentally, Li's almost also became one of Archwood's victims only to be saved by McRay.

Although it would appear that it would be “a slam dunk” concerning the outcome of Archwood's trial, you can never be sure what will happen when a jury has to decide the guilt or innocence of someone.

From the end of the trial onward the story becomes a gripping tale of frightening vengeance of a haunted deranged mind whose workings Stevens splendidly captures in all of its complexity. We also have portraits of two very different individuals who are forced to fight their demons in distinct ways. On the one hand, there is the sheer venom which Archwood views McRay and the victims he has murdered and on the other hand we have someone who faces his psychological demons and manages to constructively deal with them.

And flowing around the dizzying journey are the supporting characters who are well-realized with pitch perfect dialogue who provide a great deal of depth to the yarn.

One caveat, although the novel may not be everyone's cup of tea particularly if you have a nervous or squeamish disposition, I have to admit that it is a novel that not only you can't put down but one you don't put down with its haunting twists that arouse in many instances feelings of shock and disgust.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Laurie Stevens