I'm not sure if thrillers count as speculative fiction, but regardless, I feel this is a novel which must be heralded, no matter the genre. I've cross posted a slightly modified version of this review on Amazon and my blog. I've also submitted them to The Suspense Zone and Dancing Word Writers Network.
Clearly, I believe in this author and this book. There has been much talk on the LGG e-mail list about faith in fiction and tons of other topics associated with good novel writing. James has excelled in every area I can think of. Here are the rest of my thoughts:
First of all, I have to say that I am ruined. Mr. James has totally ruined me. It’s like I have just finished off a bar of the best imported German chocolate. How could I ever go back to Nestle? Why would I want to? Will any suspense or thriller ever grab me and shake me and not let me go like this one? Will I ever feel this pulse-pounding, fingernail chewing, sickening, exciting feeling while reading a novel again? I just finished the book today and I think I’m going through withdrawal. I can’t believe the last page is turned and it’s over. I’m sad. What a shame it had to end.
What is all the hoopla about, you ask? Patrick Bowers, an environmental criminologist for the FBI, is consulting on the case of a lifetime. A brilliant serial killer is systematically murdering young women, leaving a chess pawn at each crime scene. But as piece after piece of the puzzle become available, nothing seems to fit. The sicko is always one step ahead of the good guys, taunting them and raising the stakes. Patrick’s recent widower status, estrangement from his stepdaughter, and having to work under an unpleasant former acquaintance escalate his stress level and create additional interest to the story.
The Pawn has a killer plot—complex and riveting, it had me guessing, reeling, sweating, and hanging on for dear life at the end of every single chapter. There is nothing not to like. My only warning is for the squeamish--the book contains several vivid descriptions of victims’ torture as well as post mortem details. The stark realism captured me and brought me totally into the story. I felt as if I was in peril myself, frantic for resolution.
And yes, Virginia, there is a spiritual element. The quest for faith and love run deep within the pages, and not only for the main character. At first glance, this may seem a plot-driven novel, since everything that happens is so paramount to the story. But you will definitely root for Pat, his daughter, and the other law enforcement officers. You will discover that even in the midst of certain evil, there is a God who exists and cares. One that will overcome evil, if not in the next few pages, ultimately.
For you suspense lovers out there, this frenetically paced drama will have you drooling for more. The Rook is the second book in the series, due out in a few months.