Steven James' Christy Award-nominated crime thriller pits FBI Special Agent Bowers against a serial killer who enjoys torturing women. After visiting the mountain vistas where the murderer posed his dead victims, Bowers receives a taunting call from the "Illusionist." Although Bowers gets close, his insidious foe continues to elude him.
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On the plus side, this is an entertaining listen that will keep you engaged. If you overlook a few plot gimmicks, you will probably enjoy this tale. I did and will listen to more of Steven James books.
James is particularly deft in handling the "Christian inspirational" themes. These wouldn't deter me even if they were handled more forcefully; I enjoyed the Left Behind series which IS much more direct. James, though, uses a relatively light touch that works well and naturally for this story ~ so if this sort of thing gives you pause, there is no need to fear overt moralizing or calls to conversion. This is not that kind of book.
What you will find are good, but flawed, good guys ~ very bad, bad guys ~ focus on an interesting criminological technique ~ and a creative, engaging plot.
Unfortunately, that plot is unnecessarily, almost distracting, complex. Narrator Richard Ferrone, ordinarily one of the best, stumbles a bit here, failing to differentiate voices sufficiently to render the multiple villains easily identifiable.
The plot is also, sometimes, ridiculously contrived. An example: our protagonist, FBI special agent Patrick Bowers, is something of a wunderkind in tracking serial killers. He is in the midst of a search for such a villain who tortures and kills young women; many of them. On a personal level, our hero is also having trouble bonding with his new step-daughter. So instead of planning to spend quality time with her following his violent man hunt, he insists the FBI fly the 17-year-old in to see him, right in the middle of the serial killers' hunting ground. Oh, I wonder what might happen there! (sarcasm).
Alas, James resorts to this sort of plot contrivance several times. It detracts from the story and renders the characters and the tale less believable. For maximum enjoyment, prepare yourself to overlook this sort of thing.
Also, don't expect too much in the way of character development. It is all but absent, except in the main protagonist, where it is sudden and not especially well developed.
And lastly, prepare yourself for moments of tortured, overworked prose. An example: Bowers, preparing to see his step-daughter, observes that he is off "to see this raven, left on my doorstep, by this thing we call life."
All in all, enjoyable but flawed. There are probably better places to spend a credit (for mysteries/suspense/thrillers, first try Lee Child, Thomas Harris, Michael Connelly, Stieg Larsson, Tess Gerritsen, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Vince Flynn, John Sandford, Sandra Brown, David Baldacci, Jonathan Kellerman, you get the idea).
If you have already mined these writers, then maybe it's worth giving Steven James a try. I did and am preparing to sample the second in this series, fingers crossed that story-telling improves as the series grows. After all, in one of James' more overt inspirational observations, "Hope is evidence of God."
Very powerful start, with a dark side. The plot thickens quickly and you have a real page turner (or in the case of audio ... a real page listener). I would call this a mystery/suspense with a Christian world view. This is my first book by Steven James but it will not be my last.