Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"The Pawn" by Steven James

I actually read this almost three weeks ago, but haven't managed to blog about it until now. Thank the Lord the rest of my summer looks calm and empty!

Anyway, my mom recommended Steven James' books to me when I was at home in NC last month. We were watching an old ep of Bones together, and I told her she should read Kathy Reichs' books that inspired the series. I said one of the things I liked best about her books is that they take place partly in North Carolina, my adopted home state. Mom said. "Oh, you should read the Patrick Bowers books by Steven James! The first one takes place here too!" So when I got back to CT, I got the first one, The Pawn, out of the library.

Ironically, I had warned her that Reichs' mysteries can get rather gruesome and spooky, and I wasn't sure if they'd bother her because of that. Turns out, I needn't have worried, because The Pawn was more gory and creepy than any of the four books I've read by Reichs. A goodly chunk of it is written from the point of view of a sadistic killer, and it creeped me out so much, I had to read it in just three days because I wanted to get it over and solved and behind me as fast as possible.

The Pawn is about FBI Criminologist Patrick Bowers tracking down a serial killer in the mountains around Asheville, NC. Bowers is recently widowed and alienated from his teen stepdaughter, and his personal life gets tangled up in his work and vice versa. Overall, the book is taut and suspenseful.

I think this is James' first mystery thriller, and as a debut in the genre, it's pretty good. The only thing I didn't like, besides it being a little creepier than I care for, was that I kept seeing the author in the book. By that I mean there were things that made me go, "Oh, he's setting up the workplace conflict here," or, "Here's the obligatory Special Ability that will come in handy at the book's climax." As the book went along, it had fewer obvious Mystery Components, and there were quite a few twists I didn't expect, so I'm betting the other books in the series (it totals four so far) are smoother and bear fewer authorial fingerprints.

Anyway, I liked James' style, so if I can get more of his books from the library, I probably will read more. So yes, if you like suspenseful mystery thrillers, you'll probably dig this book.

(Originally posted on The Huggermugger Blog on Jul. 5, 2010.)

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