Maybe you’ve heard this expression before, “I can sleep when I’m dead.” That would be the mantra of the characters in Shane Gericke’s 2010 novel, Torn Apart, the third in the Detective Emily Thompson series. Gericke, who is from Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, situates Thompson with the Naperville Police Department, and the resulting chaos from drug cartels, psychopaths, serial killers, and wayward police officers. Seriously, I feel like Emily, her boyfriend, the boyfriend’s best friend, Emily’s best friend, and the bad guys in the novel never sleep. Gericke starts the novel at midnight, and the events unfold through to the evening of that day. Or to put it another way, this story is basically a season of 24 come to life. Which is fine by me, I binged the heck out of 24, and I largely finished Gericke’s novel in two sittings.
Naperville, Illinois isn’t the only setting of the book, so is Wisconsin, the Black River State Forest specifically, which is about four hours northwest of Naperville. These locations, and their stories, converge over the course of the book. Gericke’s book took about 80-ish pages to really get revving for me, but there were a lot of set pieces with their respective characters that needed to be put in place.
Emily is being taunted by a third serial killer, having already finished off two prior serial killers who targeted her. And so far, that’s a minor plot in the book. Her boyfriend and fellow cop, Marty, is going on a his annual hunting trip with Branch, also a fellow cop, in the Black River State Forest. Her best friend, Amy, who is the commander of the SWAT team, is dealing with her oldest daughter being terrified that her mother will die on the job. Emily and Amy start off the book trying to track down basic liquor store robbers.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to four zodiac killers, with Gemini being the lead psycho. They’ve brutally raped and killed a hitchhiking teen. They act as both drug mules for the Mexican drug cartel funneling drugs into Naperville, and as sex traffickers, planning to pick up a young girl to take to a sex offender also in Naperville. Along the way, they run into the coolest freaking sheriff in Wisconsin, Spencer Abbott. He comes upon the foursome when they’re dumping the teen’s body in the river. As one might expect, it turns into a firefight, with Abbott outmanned and outgunned. I figured he was dead. As I was reading, I literally kept saying, “Oh, you’re dead.” Instead, he swan dives off the bridge into the river to save his life, and what ends up saving his life is the teen’s corpse floating along with him. Riddled with bullets, freezing from the river, and disoriented, Abbott manages to survive and not leave behind the dead teen. I was rooting for him the entire way! And it was so cute, being a small town, a neighbor hears the commotion, loves Abbott, and tries to come to his rescue. The neighbor, though, is a WWII veteran in his 80s, with his 80-year-old wife driving him to the scene of the commotion. He is shot to death, and she kills herself instead of living without him. I would read an entire book of their zany escapades as an old married couple and him still ballsy enough to fight the Nazis, albeit in this case, common psychopathic criminals.
That situation with Abbott sets off a chain of events: one of his deputies blows up in her car trying to come to his rescue because there’s also a terrible storm going on; Abbott is discovered by Marty and Branch while they are hunting, but before they can help him, they are accosted by two random thieves, one of whom shoots Branch in his already replaced hip (Marty manages to kill both of them and drags Branch, Abbott, and the corpse out of the woods); Gemini, hellbent on still “retrieving” an underage girl for the pedophile, so happens to try to kidnap Amy’s two daughters in full view of Amy and Emily, resulting in a massive, action-packed chase where Emily kills some of the zodiacs, but the youngest daughter is taken (resulting in a silly miscommunication between Amy and Emily where Amy thinks Emily should have taken the shot against Gemini, but Emily didn’t because that risked the daughter’s life); a medical helicopter trying to transport Abbott to the Mayo Clinic crashes, killing everyone on board except for our boy, Abbott; Amy and the SWAT team take down the pedophile and rescue her daughter; and in a bid for revenge, Gemini kills Emily’s police chief, who was driving Emily’s car to protect her from the serial killer, and then Emily kills Gemini by running him over in a minivan.
Oh, and interspersed through that action-packed middle and middle-end of the book, we get the point-of-view of a beautiful deer, who was shot for target practice by the zodiac psychos, but survived. The deer provided a warm bed for Abbott, and then was later rescued by Marty and a veterinarian. The end of the book is the deer and Emily basically acknowledging each other. Corny, but I’m a cornball.
But yeah! Like I said, it’s action-packed and bananas, but entertaining all the same. I’m not big on cops going rogue from the laws and acting all macho, or making prison rape jokes, or some of the silliness (the aforementioned miscommunication between Emily and Amy, and another one later where Emily wonders why the local drug kingpin also targeted the police chief, forgetting that he was in her car), but I can’t deny that it’s entertaining, same as a season of 24.
Swirling around that madness is Hawk, also a cop and friends with Emily and the rest of them, who has a daughter suffering from a deadly disease, and if he doesn’t cough up the $3 million (then it’s upped to $4 million) to pay for an experimental stem cell cure in Los Angeles, she’ll die. Once that plot point was revealed, I knew Hawk was doing something shady to acquire the money, and he was. He basically was working with Gemini and the drug kingpin to fool them all into giving him the drugs to then sell back to the drug kingpin to get his $4 million. He even pretended to be the serial killer to buy himself time. Amy figures it out, and instead of going to prison, Hawk kills himself. Which I didn’t think made much sense. He did all of that to ensure his daughter could afford to be cured, but didn’t stay alive long enough to see that she would be (we later learn, she does get cured)?
Meanwhile, there’s that pesky matter of the disgusting serial killer, who likes to butcher humans like animals. He sends Emily bones in the mail, taunting her. After all of the above is taken care of, though, we return to the serial killer business and the identity of the serial killer, which happens to be … yet another dirty cop, albeit in this case, less justifiable in his dirtiness than Hawk was: Marty’s best friend, Shavon, who also gave Marty and Emily jerky purported to be elk, but which was actually human. Yuck. Marty and Amy are able to save Emily, and Emily survives not only the ordeal with Shavon, but a tree branch struck by lightning falling on her head. Because, of course. Again, bananas! But fun.
If you need fun, escapist fiction with a somewhat different setting (a peripheral big city mixed with the small town vibes of Wisconsin), and heroes you’re going to root for especially because the villains are just that bad, then I recommend giving Gericke’s book a shot. The reason it initially appealed to me is because Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and Tess Gerritsen, all authors I admire, gave praising blurbs. I don’t think Emily Thompson is as awesome as Jack Reacher, and I don’t think Gericke’s plotting is as smartly and cleverly written as Deaver’s, but I still enjoyed the book and wouldn’t mind reading more Emily Thompson books.