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Jan 2014. 400 p. Mysterious, hardcover, $27. (9780802122056). Mysterious, e-book, (9780802192844).

In the familiar cautionary tale about the little girl and the big bad wolf, the child wears a red hood. In Katzenbach’s skillful contemporary version, red hair attracts the predator, who targets not one but three vulnerable females, unknown to one another. Mr. Big Bad Wolf, a meticulous, confident, unprepossessing crime writer (who bases his books on crimes he commits), has been inactive for a number of years, but his new idea—killing all three women on the same day—is simply too thrilling to pass up. He’s convinced that his “project” will regenerate his moribund career and spice up his humdrum home life. After many weeks, he is finally ready to put his plan into action, and he’s virtually salivating at the prospect. Mr. BBW’s work notes clearly reveal his megalomania as well as how he very deliberately chose and stalked his prey. First there’s Karen, a lonely, middle-aged doctor, oldest of the three; then Sarah, a grief-stricken widow who has turned to alcohol and pills; finally, teenage Jordan, smart but directionless, whose parents are too wrapped up in their divorce to care about her. Wolf is convinced his brilliant, scrupulously detailed plan can’t fail. After all, who will miss these damaged women? Unfortunately, there’s something he never considered. It’s called group dynamics. Like Katzenbach’s What Comes Next (2012), this is a page-turner from the get-go and must reading for thriller fans.

— Stephanie Zvirin