Author: George A. Bernstein
Title: "The Prom Dress Killer," 322 pages
As a serial killer lurks around southern Florida, stalking young women with red auburn curly hair and fair complexions, Detective Al Warner is baffled by the bizarre way they died and were left to be discovered. Each had been smothered, dying peacefully while apparently in a chloroform daze of some kind.
There were no signs of brutality or suffering, but leaving them in dark, filthy alleys of Miami like all the other trash there seemed contrary. As the Miami detective with a reputation of one who was quick to solve the strangest of odd murders, he feels the pressure building as bodies pile up in the morgue. This psycho was leaving no DNA, fingerprints or traces of anything except the scent of chloroform.
This is the focus of George A. Bernstein's "The Prom Dress Killer."
The more recent victims were dressed well in prom-style dresses, frilly and pretty but definitely more of the vintage era. Warner feels fortunate to have a close, intimate relationship with Dr. Eva Guttenberg, who had treated him after a bout with PTSD during the end of the Angel of Death investigation that affected him both physically and psychologically.
Now friends and lovers, he feels he can again rise to the challenge of work. Miamis is one or two more dead redheads away from citywide panic. This is the third serial killer in three years, and the first two didn't provide the slimmest clue to their identities until the very moment of their violent ends, both at his hands.
Across town, an attractive young Rochelle Weitz dances across the carpet of her tiny living room, clutching her newly arrived Licensed Real Estate Associate certificate. Her hair swirls around her head like a ruby crown as she dances. Though obtaining her literary degree, along with her side major in creative writing from the University of Miami had been a lifelong dream, it didn’t help much in the real world.
She's only able to secure a position in a deadend job at the North Miami News as a copy editor. Weitz plans to pursue her writing desire while making enough money selling real estate to be comfortable. She loves writing and thinks she's a decent short story writer. Her memories are filled with the classics her mother used to read to her as a child and who encouraged her to write.
On the south side of Miami, another person has memories of his mother, too, though not happy, cheerful ones. They were of his mother, nearly naked, sprawled on knees, with lustrous auburn hair cascading over her face. His father disciplined her, shouting that her immorality required constant punishment, while he crouched in the corner, shielding his eyes with chubby 8-year-old hands.
He, too, has taught other young women virtue on his search for his high school sweetheart, Camille, who had left him on the night of their first senior class prom. His search for Camille took him across several states and many years, with his memory of her face fading somewhat over time. Now he continues the search in Warner’s jurisdiction, thinking he can find her.
This riveting thriller had me on edge in every chapter, as the Prom Dress Killer comes upon Weitz as his final conquest.