Now & Then, an Expertly Paced Serial Killer Thriller by Justin M. Kiska

The Bottom Line: This expertly paced tale of a resurgent serial killer and his seasoned adversary delivers multiple shockers that fans won’t soon forget.

First-time novelist Justin M. Kiska puts a delicious spin on the “one last job” trope as small town police chief Ben Winters is thrust into a career-defining nightmare just before retirement. Forty years earlier, then-rookie detective Ben and his partner, Tommy, had entered the apartment belonging to high school English teacher Joseph Miles, intending to arrest him on suspicion of committing three murders. They found Miles hanging from an exposed beam.

There was plenty of reason to believe a serial killer had opted to end his own life before the police could take him into custody. Evidence tied him to the homicides, and his death seemed to put an end to the string of homicides. But on the eve of retirement, Tommy utters a prophetic sentence that rocks Ben’s world: “I came across some old papers that got me thinking.”

Kiska then delivers a shocking twist that propels the plot to a new level. Has the killer in fact been on the loose all these years? Among the suspects is reporter Roger Benedict, who always seemed to have inside information. He even invented the now infamous moniker, “Spring Strangler.”

Now & Then is an expertly paced police procedural that builds to a crescendo by alternating between the 1980s timeline and the present. While Kiska takes his time establishing this Maryland town-turned-metropolis and the relationships between its key inhabitants, the payoff is well worth the wait. Kiska delivers multiple surprises well into the third act in what is a very promising debut.

 

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