by Greg Iles
Book 1 in the Mississippi series (1997)
By day, Harper Cole trades commodities from his farmhouse in the isolated Mississippi Delta. But at night, Harper serves as a system operator for E.R.O.S., a highly exclusive, sexually explicit online service whose clients range from the glitterati of Hollywood to the literati of New York.
Shielded by a guarantee of absolute anonymity, these clients pour their secrets into the digital confession box of E.R.O.S. Only “sysops” like Harper – the high priests of the system – know and see all. When six female clients inexplicably drop off the network, Harper suspects that something is amiss. But when a world-famous New Orleans author – and E.R.O.S. client – is decapitated in her mansion, Harper breaks the code of silence and contacts the police.
They are as shocked as Harper to learn that all six women have been brutally murdered, each with a different weapon, and in a different city. And each time the killer has claimed the same bizarre trophy. Horrified to find himself the prime suspect in the murders he reported, Harper is swept into a secret manhunt led by the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit.
While the FBI uses the technology of the future and the psychology of the past to trap the brilliant killer, Harper realizes that he alone stands a chance of luring the elusive madman into the open.