As you can tell, my current trend of reading mystery/espionage is continuing for the moment. Last week I finished reading The Pawn by Steven James. It is book 1 (of 4 so far) in the Patrick Bower Files. I was a little hesitant to read it, mostly because I don't normally find myself looking for mystery books whose baddie is a serial killer. Especially a serial killer of young girls. But the reviews for the entire series so far have been really positive, and sometime over the spring/summer, I picked up the nook ebook edition for free (on a temporary sale). Let's take a look at the book description from B&N:
As an environmental criminologist, Patrick Bowers uses 21st-century geospatial technology to analyze the time and space in which a crime takes place. Using an array of factors, Bowers can pinpoint clues to solve the toughest of cases. Bowers's skills have made him one of the FBI's top agents-until now.
Called to the mountains of North Carolina to consult on a gruesome murder, Bowers finds himself in a deadly duel with a serial killer who seems to transcend Patrick's analytical powers. Forced to track the killer's horrific murders one by one, Bowers finds his techniques and instincts are put to the ultimate test...
The above quote made me think the book might be heavy on theory like CSI or something, and for the most part, that actually held true. There are some interesting discussions around how serial killers are normal people for the most part (with obvious exceptions...like the killing people part). But Bowers main point is that to find a serial killer, he doesn't need to know his motives, he just needs to map out the areas where he commits his crimes and the times they were committed. From this info, he can narrow down his likely homebase (I'm vastly simplifying here). One of the main supporting characters is a profiler. Her job is to figure out the mind of the killer and what motivates him to kill people. This leads to some cool discussions between Bowers, who believes motives are meaningless when trying to track down a killer, and the profiler, who believes motives are one of the most important ways of catching a killer. So while there is a lot of action in this book, there is also quite of but of higher level investigative theory talk (which I consider a positive, when done well as it was in this book).
Another "rule" of Bowers is to never assume. When tracking a killer, he does his best to stick with known facts, and doesn't try to make assumptions about what other things those facts could mean. He believes it leads you down too many wrong paths. And for me, I have to agree with him. Mostly because I kept assuming things as I read the story. Hints are dropped throughout, and there were times I jumped to an assumption of who the killer had to be. And when I did that, I missed other hints that were dropped. For example, say I start thinking Dude B is the killer. Every hint that gets dropped after that assumption, I try to figure out how that applies to Dude B. Which often left me confused, as I was trying to make clues fit my perceived notion of who the killer had to be. I bring this up mostly because that totally proves the point Bowers is making. I thought it was kinda neat that I fell prey to that exact thing the main character is trying to avoid. Made me feel part of the book, in a weird way.
I should also point out that are discussions of God in this book, though they aren't the main focus. Some have tried to label this a Christian book, because it is published by a Christian publisher. But don't let that scare you off. First, the book is still violent and graphic..nothing is toned down because of who published the book. And the "God discussions" come about quite naturally. Eight months prior to the start of the book, Patrick Bowers wife died of cancer. In this book, he is still struggling with the after effects of that. So his wife dies at a young age, and he tracks down serial killers...at times, this leads him to question if there is a God, and if so, how could these things happen. There is no christian doctrine thrown at you..I think the questioning of God is natural in the life of the main character. Devoting an entire paragraph to this is probably making it a big deal, but I wanted to mention it since other reviews do as well. But if I did not mention it, I don't think most readers would think anything of it, honestly.
All in all, this was a very good, read. The main character was extremely likeable, and he really jumped off the page at times, especially in the scenes when he is remembering his dead wife, or dealing with his teenage step-daughter. And I liked that a bad guy was also a POV character, which enables us to understand a bit about what drove him into his ugly crimes. The chapters were short..90 chapters in total. This helped keep the pace moving quite nicely. And while I still don't see me reading a lot of serial killer type mysteries, I can guarantee you I will continue with the next 3 books in this series. Also this series is being developed for television. I think it would make a great tv show.