This was a book I read somewhere between 1995-1999, but no idea when it was published. Here’s what I remember:
It was an action/adventure-type book. I know it was one of a series, but no idea where it falls in with the others.
What I remember is someone getting killed (possibly beheaded, but at least had their throat cut) in a peculiar manor. I seem to recall that the room where this murder took place was filled with steam or smoke. Someone had rigged a tape measure (a retractable one) - possibly sharpening the sides of the retractable tape - that released at a certain point. When it retracted, it slashed the major blood vessels in the neck, killing the victim.
I think there may have been a subplot involving a serial killer, and it had a magical/mystical theme.
I’m thinking it took place in California.
That’s pretty much all I remember. The tape measure death stuck with me, but I can’t find a context for it.