Friday, October 17, 2008

Review for The Rook by Steven James

Steven James has written an engrossing and sometimes disturbing thriller featuring FBI agents Patrick Bowers and Lien-hua Jiang. In this one, they go to San Diego to investigate a series of fires and end up catching a serial killer--but not before he nearly kills them.

Aside from a single nit, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. James has a wildly creative mind--sometimes a scarily creative one--and a knack for characterization and weaving in false trails and red herrings.

My favorite character, from a creative point of view, is the villain, Creighton. We start out seeing him as so creepy and evil that I had to force myself not to read before bed or I got nightmares! However, the real intrigue to Creighton comes over halfway through the book, when his capture and interrogation reveal the reason behind his twisted mental workings. Brilliantly conceived and brilliantly set up--and I also love how James made us understand him without being made to pity him.
The mystery itself is complex and expertly woven. At one point, I was so sure I knew what was happening next that I practically shouted at the characters to get a clue, but I was wrong! The ending too me by surprise, too: Creighton, as the title suggests, was only the rook in this story. James laid enough clues that I could figure out the king, but several other pieces are in play, in ways you'll never suspect!

Agent Bowers has a unique skill, geographical profiling (looking for patterns in time and place in order to trace a criminal's point of origin, and he learns, his next move). This gives the mystery an interesting perspective to compliment the usual investigative procedures, including personality profiling done by Agent Jiang. The romance between Bowers and Jiang moves forward in halting steps, a nice change from the usual get-them-together-by-book's-end approach. Also interesting is the growing father-daughter relationship between Bowers and his step-daughter; although, as a protective mother of four, I wanted to slap Bowers a few time for his parenting choices.

If you like thrillers, you'll love Steven James. In fact, I enjoyed The Rook far more than the NYT best-seller thriller I read in August. James doesn't just write exciting thrillers--he writes intelligent ones.

Buy it. You won't be disappointed.

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