Need some book recs: civilian vs murderer(s)

I’d like to read a novel or three about someone playing cat and mouse with a killer but the character who isn’t the killer shouldn’t be in law enforcement on any level or in the military. This civilian ought to be the driving force between capturing or otherwise stopping the killer, too.

Without law enforcement characters, I guess that leaves:

  • vigilantes
  • amateur sleuths (but not PIs, please)
  • people who are trying to avenge one of the victims
  • someone hoping to rescue a victim before it’s too late (like in Mine by Robert McCammon)
  • “ordinary” people who are roped into stalking supernatural killers of some type (urban fantasy plots are acceptable)
  • potential victims who turn the tables on the killer and somehow hunt him/her instead

I don’t mind if they work with the police/FBI/CIA/MPs/private investigators as long as their cooperation doesn’t constrict them too much i.e. forcing them to only act within the confines of the law, and they’re still the one you’d credit with stopping the killer.

So, suggestions?

Years ago I loved Stephen Gallagher’s Red Red Robin.

Dean Koontz’s The Good Guy comes to mind. It’s about a guy who is minding his own business while drinking at a bar, gets mistaken for a hit man by stupid client and when real hit man turns up, the ‘good guy’ has to save the intended victim’s life and himself while all kinds of shit hits his fan.

I just finished A Quiet Belief in Angels by RJ Ellory (someone had recommended it highly in a recent thread), and that’s an ordinary guy - he was a kid at school when a series of murders began in his small town, and as he grows to adulthood he becomes more and more obsessed with tracking down the killer. I thought this was very good. I’m not really sure if it is cat and mouse exactly in the way you are describing, because the guy doesn’t intend to play games, but it kind of ends up that way … anything more would be a spoiler.

And in a completely different style, Lawrence Block’s Bernie the Burglar series is about a cheerful, non-violent cat burglar who always seems to stumble over a murder or other serious crime (I can’t remember if every book features a murder, but many do) and then he has to solve the murder in order to get the police off his back and oftentimes it’s a complicated thing because he’s usually trying to pull off his own cheerful, non-violent crime at the same time. When I started with the series, I really enjoyed these books and thought they were all in good fun, although the most recent have been a little darker in tone in a way that I think is creepy, and not in a good way.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the book the TV show “Dexter” is based on. If you don’t already know, Dexter does work for the police, as a blood spatter expert. In his spare time, he’s a vigilante. with a relentless need to kill.

So I don’t know if this fits your bill or not… just throwing it out there.

I’ll second The Good Guy and add Velocity, also by Koontz.

Maybe look at Dick Francis. I think all of his heroes are civilians, though I could be forgetting someone, and boy does he abuse his characters.