THE COLD ROOM
4 1/2 stars
Flawlessly plotted, with well-defined characters and conflict, Ellison's latest is quite simply a gem. But some of its facets are dark and cold, so it's not for squeamish readers.
Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson is summoned to an unusual crime scene. Her fiancé, Dr. John Baldwin, sees a strikingly similarity to the wok of an Italian serial killer, Il Macellaio (the Butcher). A necrosadist who starves and strangles his victims before having sex with them, Il Macellaio has been active in Europe for years, and Baldwin's recently been working the case with a New Scotland Yard detective inspector. When a second body is found, the scene is different enough to make them wonder if one killer is responsible for all the deaths. Answering it takes Taylor and Baldwin to Europe, where they hope for success before another woman dies. -Catherine Witmer