Synopsis – The Perfectionist – by Simon Duke
1988. A severed and decomposed head belonging to an unidentified old man is found rotting in an Iowa corn field. Confronted with this gruesome discovery, rookie reporter Gerry Stokes is urged by the local sheriff and his newspaper editor to cover up the affair. But the truth can't be concealed forever.
2010. Stokes, now an arrogant and unpleasant sex-driven, yet seasoned veteran journalist at the Chicago Tribune, must at last atone for his wrong-doings as the shunned-upon past returns with a vengeance. Payback ultimately comes in the attractive form of Sarah Howard, a nostalgic but committed young woman, who believes she has identified the old man as being her own long-lost grandfather, Ted Callaway. Unwilling to be exposed by the young woman, Stokes is forced into an investigation to discover the truth of what happened twenty-two years ago.
Looking for Callaway's killer leads Stokes to an even more sordid truth: Callaway is one of many victims; people seemingly chosen at random across the nation by a serial killer who has been at large for more than two decades: a killer so cunning that he has flown under the radar of the cops and the FBI by navigating through the loopholes of the federal law enforcement system while respecting a unique and horrific modus operandi. By fine-tuning methods of execution, the killer seeks artistic perfection. He is "the Perfectionist".
As the case is in full swing, Stokes's parents die in a tragic car crash. Reluctantly he must temporarily halt his pursuit and travel back to Iowa for the first time in years to take care of the funeral with his brother, Joe. Stokes faces Joe's anger regarding his decision to leave the family hog farm behind and never come back. Little does Stokes know but this tragedy and its aftermath impact him more than expected.
As the hunt for the killer progresses, Stokes becomes obsessed with the case and questions his own selfish nature. The evil lurking behind the investigation causes a gradual attitude shift inside him as he looks back on his former Iowa life, this time with feelings closer to regret. He not only tries to resurrect a difficult relationship with Joe, but he also begins to feel a mixed array of emotions for Sarah who becomes a crucial part of his life, in some ways his anchor.
2013. Three years later, the investigation is given a new lifeline after Stokes is alerted to a series of gruesome Colombian neckties in California. Stokes realizes that the Perfectionist, who had been dormant for a long time, is still at large and has resumed his hunt for new victims. The current nature of the murders and the media buzz around them put the FBI in the hot seat, and Stokes must confront their determined lead investigator, Special Agent Elliot Keppler, to obtain confirmation that his killer is still active.
At the same time Stokes is quick to identify a promising path to journalistic success. He sets himself an ambitious and innovative target; a risky objective preventing him from keeping law enforcement in the loop, one which may very well merit a Pulitzer prize and pave the way to fame: he wishes to publish a truly special book; a book, which for the very first time in publishing history will give the police the means to capture a serial killer. And not just any serial killer... America's greatest and smartest: the Perfectionist. Using the potential shared success generated by such a book as bait, Stokes finds unlikely help along the way from Frank Craven, his editor at the Tribune; Dr. Ken McFarland, a forensic autopsy technician and old friend; Prof. Dennis Morton, a criminology professor; and James Henry Johnson, a death row convict - all of whom acknowledge the need to proceed in discretion. But to keep his book project alive, he has to keep on hiding the full truth from the FBI. And by doing so he becomes a Person of Interest, arousing Keppler's suspicion.
With such high stakes, the pressure is on. Stokes is in the race of his life to discover the killer's identity and publish his bestseller, while bending the notions of what can be considered ethically right.