Police said the predator glides invisibly through crowds, disguised by his very ordinariness.
"He looks exactly like you and me," said LAPD Detective Margaret Millar. "He's smart, bookish. He likes a bargain. Maybe he wears glasses and has a ratty paperback crime novel tucked in his back pocket. At this point, we're not ruling anything out."
The most recent victim is Broxton's Mystery Bookstore, which suffered a fatal blow on January 11, 2011, and will expire at month's end.
"We tried to do everything right," said an employee in a gold lame gown, black stilettos and red lipstick who declined to give her name. "We didn't walk down dark alleys at night, we ixnayed rides from handsome strangers and we reached out to LA's literary community, kept our customer mailing list updated, used Twitter and Facebook and held author events every god-damned week. But in the end, the Grim-Lit Reaper found us anyway."
Police, who have plenty of leads, believe that the murderer resides on the Information Superhighway.
This is the second time in as many months that the bookish serial killer has struck in Westwood, an affluent neighborhood that encompasses UCLA.
The first victim was Borders on Westwood Boulevard, which suffered a fatal blow to the head late last fall and is expected to expire later this month.
LAPD detectives believe these slayings are connected to the demise of a bookstore in Brentwood called Dutton's in 2008 that is still mourned by the Westside community. They are investigating at least a dozen earlier fatalities throughout the Southland and caution all remaining independent bookstores in Los Angeles to to stay vigilant.
"It could happen anywhere, to anyone, where they least expect it," said LAPD sergeant Dorothy B. Hughes, who heads the serial killer task force nicknamed "The Amazon Effect."
One recent afternoon, a tough customer named Leigh Brackett strolled into The Mystery Bookstore and asked where a dame could find a book in this joint called Westwood.
The underpaid and over-worked but valiant and cheerful staff helped her find a first edition Raymond Chandler novel and an autographed copy of "Red Harvest" by Dashiell Hammett. They also suggested several new authors that Brackett might like, even a few frails.
"A gal could get used to a place like this," Brackett said, sighing with delight as she sank into a leather club chair.
"Don't get too comfortable, Missy," said the sad man behind the desk. "Ya got til the end of the month, and that's all she wrote."