To Live and Die in Philadelphia

Here at the Heights Library system, we’re nearly all fans of local author Richard Montanari — even those of us too timid to read his thrillers enjoy talking to him. And those of us who do read the Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano? We can’t get enough blood, guts and severely twisted killers.

The Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano series is immensely popular in Europe and, for some strange reason, not as popular in the states. As a fan of Mr. Montanari’s writing, I may be biased but I feel this is a criminal shame.

To make matters worse, while publication of the series continues in Europe unabated, we in the states have missed out on the last couple of novels. Next month Europe will get yet another installment in the series — this time with a new publisher — while we here in the States must wait until November.

Confused?

Well, let me clear up the confusion.

First the series title: The Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano Series is also known as The Philadelphia Series.

Kevin Byrne is a veteran detective on the edge. Jessica Balzano is a new detective to homicide division. Two proud Philly cops, forced to work together, must learn to trust each other in the face of the serial killers racing up high bodies counts in the mean streets of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Series

Interested in one or more of these books? Click the mouse on the book cover to read more about it and order it from your local CLEVNET library.

The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari book cover

The Rosary Girls: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #1)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Hardcover
Type: Novel
Page Count: 400pp.
Pub. Date: February 2005
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

 

The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari book cover

The Rosary Girls: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #1)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Paperback
Type: Novel
Page Count: 432pp.
Pub. Date: February 2005
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

 

This title is also available as an ebook from the CLEVNET e-Media Collection.

Publisher’s Summary:
In his sleek, visceral novels Deviant Way, Kiss of Evil, and The Violet Hour, Richard Montanari slammed into the suspense field like a force of nature. Now Montanari has written an astounding novel that pits two besieged detectives against a fiercely intelligent serial killer.

Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her diary, another is pouring her heart out to a friend, and yet another is praying. And somewhere in this city is a man who wants these young women to make his macabre fantasy become reality. In a passion play of his own, he will take the girls — and a whole city — over the edge.

Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.

Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams — and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most.

Relentlessly paced and vividly told, The Rosary Girls is a smart, emotionally complex, fiercely gripping thriller from an author who takes chances, breaks new ground, and leaves readers haunted and moved long after the last page is turned.

The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari book cover

The Skin Gods: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #2)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Hardcover
Type: Novel
Page Count: 416pp.
Pub. Date: March 2006
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

 

The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari book cover

The Skin Gods: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #2)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Paperback
Type: Novel
Page Count: 416pp.
Pub. Date: July 2007
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

 

This title is also available as an ebook and audio book from the CLEVNET e-Media Collection.

Publisher’s Summary:
With the breakneck pacing and intricate plotting of his most recent novel, The Rosary Girls, Richard Montanari established himself as one of the most exciting suspense writers working today. Now he proves himself a virtuoso with The Skin Gods, an explosive new thriller featuring Philadelphia homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano.

It is the steaming heart of summer in the City of Brotherly Love. Back on the force after taking a bullet during the arrest of a sadistic murderer, Detective Kevin Byrne warily returns to police headquarters. He cannot shake the memory of the Rosary Killer’s innocent victims — or his growing sense that the evil has not been vanquished. And when he and his partner, Detective Jessica Balzano, are called in on a bizarre case, Byrne’s gravest suspicions are confirmed.

A madman, dubbed The Actor by the homicide unit, is meticulously re-creating Hollywood’s most famous — and most gruesome — death scenes. The first murder is caught on film, spliced into a rented VHS edition of the Hitchcock black-and-white masterpiece Psycho. But in place of Janet Leigh is a real-life woman, and this time, the blood is red and the knife is real. Soon, more thrilling classics are turned into terrifying snuff films and placed on video store shelves for an unsuspecting public to find.

The key to this horrific puzzle could lie with any of The Skin Gods‘ supporting cast: the A-list Hollywood director, the ruthless executive assistant, the convicted mass murderer — or perhaps someone else who has made a sinister art of gruesome violence.

Hot on the psychopath’s trail, Balzano and Byrne descend into the mouth of madness and beyond, deep into the depraved underworld of S&M clubs and the porn industry, where the worship of flesh leads to malevolent evil. Before the final credits roll, the investigators will discover that none of The Actor’s victims are as innocent as they appear to be, and that the clue the police need to prevent future murders might be found in Detective Byrne’s own dark past.

Merciless by Richard Montanari book cover

Merciless: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #3)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Hardcover
Type: Novel
Page Count: 416pp.
Pub. Date: July 2007
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
UK Title: Broken Angels
Original Pub: April 5, 2007 (Hardcover — William Heinemann, UK)

 

Merciless by Richard Montanari book cover

Merciless: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #3)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Paperback
Type: Novel
Page Count: 416pp.
Pub. Date: July 2008
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

 

This title is also available as an ebook and audio book from the CLEVNET e-Media Collection.

Publisher’s Summary:
On a frigid December night, Karen sits at the edge of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, dressed in a flowing gown, like a visitor from the distant past. A beautiful and shining young woman, she gazes up at a bone — white winter moon like a fairy-tale princess frozen in time. At first glance, one might not even notice that she is dead, coated in a glistening patina of ice.

Homicide cops Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano take the lead on the case, uncovering a plethora of eerie clues — each more warped and spine-chilling than the last. Yet the identity of Karen’s pitiless killer remains a mystery. Then the next victim is found upriver at an abandoned waterworks, posed with an unlikely object in her clasped hands. Struggling to link the victims and make sense of the madman’s agenda, Byrne and Balzano follow his twisted trail, which stretches into a past of dark crimes forgotten by all but a few.

Now the past roars back into the present with a vengeance as the ingenious killer unleashes a torrent of rage upon the streets of Philadelphia. As Byrne and Balzano sift through suspects and clues, they unearth a shocking secret history: a legacy of malevolence and cold-blooded retribution dating back twenty years. And the farther they make their way up the body-strewn banks of the Schuylkill River, the closer they get to a villain from their worst nightmare, an evil as patient as it is merciless.

Lightning fast and razor sharp, this jolting thriller from acclaimed author Richard Montanari coils back in time to deliver a fiendish mystery, a shattering revelation, and one hell of a wild ride. Lock your doors and turn up the lights. Montanari’s terrifying bedtime story will keep you up all night.

Badlands by Richard Montanari book cover

Badlands: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #4)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Hardcover
Type: Novel
Page Count: 400pp.
Pub. Date: August 2008
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
UK Title: Play Dead
Original Pub Date: August 14, 2008 (Hardcover — Heinemann, UK)

 

Badlands by Richard Montanari book cover

Badlands: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #4)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Paperback
Type: Novel
Page Count: 416pp.
Pub. Date: August 2009
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

 

This title is also available as an ebook and audio book from the CLEVNET e-Media Collection.

Publisher’s Summary:
Philadelphia police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are working a new beat: the Special Investigations Unit, a.k.a. the cold case squad. Ironic, given that it’s the height of a blazing hot August. But even these hardened homicide veterans are chilled to the bone as a dormant murder case stirs to life — leading Byrne and Balzano into the dark heart of their city, their souls, and a psyche of pure evil.

Months before, a teenage runaway’s body was found in the desolate, dangerous North Philly district dubbed the Badlands. Dead runaways were no novelty on these mean streets, but the Caitlin O’Riordan case was different. Her corpse was found in the basement of a rancid tenement apartment, the inexplicable cause of death: drowning. In the end, nothing was solved and the case was closed.

Now a confession to the bizarre murder on the police tipline sends Byrne and Balzano rushing to make an arrest. But instead of a killer, they discover a ghastly scene: a jar containing human remains — along with a cryptic clue leading to an unlikely witness. Laura Somerville lives far from the squalor of the Badlands, and seemingly light-years from any connection to a murdered runaway. But moments after discussing the case with this elegant lady, Byrne and Balzano make another grisly discovery, and find an enigmatic word spelled out in Scrabble tiles.

Across town, another victim’s shallow grave reveals deeper mysteries. Her secret diaries portray a woman haunted by a shocking past, and obsessed with finding a depraved killer.

Now, as the body count grows, a terrifying design literally takes shape. Pieces of a gruesome puzzle are being set into place by the cruel hands of a madman using the city as his game board. His playthings are the innocent, and his opponents — and pawns — are Byrne and Balzano, who must, before time runs out, decipher the truth about a shadowy house of horrors and its elusive master.

Internationally acclaimed author Richard Montanari works his black magic to spine-tingling perfection in Badlands, conjuring all the relentless suspense, dark twists of intrigue, and full-throttle action that make his brilliant, engrossing novels required reading for thriller fans.

The Echo Man by Richard Montanari book cover

The Echo Man: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #5)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Hardcover
Type: Novel
Page Count: 518pp.
Pub. Date: March 2011
Publisher: Heinemann, UK

 

The Echo Man by Richard Montanari book cover

The Echo Man: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #5)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Paperback
Type: Novel
Page Count: 518pp.
Pub. Date: August 2008
Publisher: Arrow

 

This title is also available as an ebook from the CLEVNET e-Media Collection.

This book was published in hardback and paperback in London but only as an e-book here in the United States. We hope that it will eventually get its own printing here in the U.S. Until then, The Heights Libraries have an exclusive paperback copy for lending as well as the ebook in the e-Media Collection.

Publisher’s Summary:
Tormented by the exquisite beauty of a concerto and the bloodcurdling cries of a dying woman, the Echo Man composes his own symphony in response: a string of artfully staged slayings — all of them linked to cold murder cases and designed to taunt the police of Philadelphia.

Detective Kevin Byrne hears sounds, too. They wake him in the night, haunt him by day, and remind him of the first homicide suspect he ever arrested: a gifted, beautiful classical musician who inexplicably went mad and became murderous. Now Byrne believes that Philly’s serial killings might be linked to that case.

But his partner, Jessica Balzano, has too many bodies on her hands to worry about Byrne’s strange intuition or personal demons — until all the perfectly placed clues, all the evidence, all the deception point Balzano in one direction, and she discovers that the killer is closer than she could ever have suspected.

From the acclaimed author of Merciless, The Echo Man is a masterpiece of suspense that builds to a crescendo of terror and stunning surprise.

The Killing Room by Richard Montanari book cover

The Killing Room: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #6)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Paperback
Type: Novel
Page Count: 368pp.
Pub. Date: February 2012
Publisher: William Heinemann, UK

 

This book was published in hardback and paperback in London. We hope that it will eventually get its own printing here in the U.S. Until then, The Heights Libraries have an exclusive copy for lending through the CLEVNET webcatalog.

Publisher’s Summary:
Nothing will ever be the same again . . .

In the heart of Philadelphia’s badlands, Homicide Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are called out to a particularly chilling crime scene. Once the pillar of the neighbourhood, an abandoned church has become a killing room.

At first it looks like a random act of violence. But then a second body is found, and a third.

Each crime scene more disturbing than the last, each murder more brutal. And it soon becomes horrifyingly clear that a cold, calculating and terrifyingly precise mind is at work.

With very few leads, and a mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead, Byrne and Balzano are faced with challenges they could never have imagined as they race against time to hunt down their killer, before it’s too late . . .

The Stolen Ones by Richard Montanari book cover

The Stolen Ones: A Novel of Suspense (The Philadelphia Series #7)

Author: Montanari, Richard
Format: Hardcover
Type: Novel
Page Count: 320pp.
Pub. Date: February 2014
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Original Pub Date: July 2013 (Hardcover — Sphere, UK)

 

Publisher’s Summary:
A “master storyteller” (James Ellroy) uncovers a sealed-off network of secret passages connecting all of Philadelphia — and the killer hidden within.

For one hundred years, the Delaware Valley State Hospital at Cold River was known as a warehouse for the criminally insane. Two decades ago, it closed its doors forever. But Luther Wade never left, and roams the Byberry catacombs beneath the city, waiting and watching.

On a late winter day, a wealthy businessman is found brutally murdered in a Philadelphia park. Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano get the case. They soon discover a mute two-year-old girl wandering the streets with a key piece of evidence linked to a series of murders committed halfway around the world. As they investigate, they’re drawn closer and closer to the doors of Luther’s devious maze, and to the dark secrets of Cold River.

(This post was last updated February 27, 2014 to add new books in the series.)

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