The Devil’s Teardrop

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It’s December 31, the last day of the old year. During the morning rush, dozens of commuters are slaughtered by a machine-gun wielding gunman in a crowded Washington, DC, metro station. Within the hour, a ransom note is delivered to the mayor’s office. The sender claims to be in control of a robotlike psychopathic killer he names “The Digger.” He threatens that the Digger is programmed for more mass killings at four, eight, and midnight unless a twenty million dollar payment is made immediately. Unfortunately, however, shortly after the arrival of the note, the man who delivered it turns up dead—killed in a traffic accident while crossing the street.

With only the crudely printed note as evidence, hard-charging FBI Special Agent Margaret Lucas turns for assistance to retired FBI forensic document examiner Parker Kincaid, widely acknowledged to be the foremost expert in the field. Kincaid’s skills are stretched to the limit in his race against the clock to identify the killer and determine where he will strike next. Kincaid is further handicapped because he must operate from behind the scenes, fearing his ex-wife will use his return to dangerous duty as evidence to take over custody of his two small children.

As the hours tick by, and the Digger strikes again and then again, it appears that, even from beyond the grave, the mastermind of this horrible plan is toying with the investigators. Each painfully unraveled clue to the Digger’s identity and next target proves to be a red herring; each new path of investigation is a false trail carefully prepared to mislead Kincaid and Lucas.

How the two investigators eventually stop the Digger’s deadly progress must be left unrevealed. It is enough to disclose that what appears to be the final confrontation in a crowd of two hundred thousand watching the midnight fireworks on the Mall is in fact not even the penultimate climax of The Devil’s Teardrop. A surprise remains—and then yet still another surprise—before this time-bomb of suspense ticks its last.