See, I’d seen that look before. That wrinkled nose, that laughing sparkle in the eyes. In the movies, evil guys laugh out loud. Bwa-ha-ha. Or they chuckle suavely, swirling their drinks in their glasses. But this is the real deal, the real look most monsters have. A sort of cute, dainty, delicate recoil from speaking the thing out loud. The forbidden joke of it.

Are we being naughty now?

I know you’re used to seeing me review Andrew Klavan’s books, and I know you’ve come to expect me to praise each one to the skies. Nevertheless, I want you to believe me when I say that it’s been a long time since I actually stayed up late in bed with a book, unable to put it down except by a strong effort of the will.

Killer in the Wind is one of the most compelling thrillers I’ve ever read.

The hero, Dan Champion, is a former commando, a former New York City police detective, and a certified hero. Now he’s part of the police force in a small town in downstate New York. He’s dating a local waitress, a nice woman whose love he’d like to return. But he can’t commit. He can’t commit for a reason he himself knows is crazy. Three years ago, in the course of an undercover investigation, he had a hallucination under the influence of drugs. In the hallucination he encountered a woman named Samantha, whom he can’t get over. Even though he knows for a fact that she doesn’t exist.

Except that one day Samantha shows up in the flesh. She says one thing to him – “They’re coming after us” – before disappearing again.

Is this a real-world mystery, or a supernatural thriller? The borderline seems vague sometimes, and that’s no accident. Klavan likes to explore those boundaries. Some of the reviews on Amazon suggest that certain readers don’t get this. They take the uncertainty as over-the-top storytelling. But it’s not. It’s the author’s way of exploring the wonder of life itself – that all of us are living in an improbable world, a world impossible to explain by purely rational methods. For good and evil.

My own reaction to Killer in the Wind may not be yours. I’m pretty sure I was emotionally affected by the way it dealt with areas of human evil of which I have some personal experience.

But even if that’s the case, I can still recommend Killer in the Wind without reservation. It’s a tight, tense, deeply moving thriller with characters as real as your own family.

Cautions for rough language, sex, and violence.