Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Pawn

The Pawn by Steven James

Special Agent Patrick Bowers never met a killer he couldn’t catch.

Until now.

Called to North Carolina to consult on the case of an area serial killer, Bowers finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Cunning and lethal, the killer is always one step ahead of the law, and he’s about to strike again. It will take all of Bowers’s instincts and training to stop the man who calls himself the Illusionist.

--The Pawn
by Steven James
Copyright © 2007 by Steven James
Published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group

My Review

FBI Special Agent Dr. Patrick “Call me Pat” Bowers is an environmental criminologist, which means he “merges the fields of environmental psychology with geospatial investigation.” (Direct quote from the book.) Like a profiler, he works with the geographic details of a killer’s activities to figure out the where—and sometimes the when—of a crime. Recently relocated from New York City to Denver to raise his step-daughter closer to his parents, he’s called Asheville, North Carolina to help out in an investigation.

As he and the team work the case, they discover there are actually two killers, one of which has a tie to one of the most spectacular mass killings of the 1970’s. This killer has never forgotten the government’s response to the massacre and now he means to make the man in charge of that response—now an important elected official—pay, in a way the world will never forget.
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This is Book 1 in the Patrick Bowers mysteries and it didn’t take me long to fall into “like” with this character. I’m not in love with him, but I really do like him.

The bad guy in this story epitomizes a champion chess player. One of the keys to chess is the ability to think several moves ahead, predicting what your opponent will do and making your moves based on that knowledge. The killer knows police tactics and makes his moves based on that knowledge, with amazing results. Bowers is stunned—almost to paralysis at one point—with how clever his opponent is.

He’s so clever that Pat begins to doubt himself and his ability to catch this guy. A tiny misstep with a colleague has him doubting himself even more. Everyone makes these kinds of missteps in life. It’s nice that our hero does as well, but he shows his humanity in the way he reacts to those missteps. He berates himself—mildly—and when he attempts to mend the misstep, we know it through his mental narrative. It’s nice to see this overt kind of vulnerability in a character. It makes him more likable, more real, more like someone we can connect with.

We like to see vulnerabilities in our heroes. That makes them human and we need to see that humanity, otherwise, we can never really connect with them. Bowers is a widow, his wife having died after only five months of marriage, leaving him with a sullen, 16-year-old stepdaughter. Sullen, 16-year-old daughters are hard enough to handle as they are, but a sullen, 16-year-old stepdaughter is ten times harder. Pat genuinely cares about Tessa, but he hardly knows her. The situation is made worse when the killer he’s tracking lets him know he knows all about Tessa. This causes Pat to go into over-protective mode, a move guaranteed to make Tessa resent him even more. By the end of the story, their relationship is resolved and they begin to build a bridge of understanding. Their relationship is one of the reasons I’ll continue to read the series, to see how it eventually works out.

Steven James has five books out in this series. The next is The Rook,, followed by The Knight, The Bishop, and The Queen. Chess pieces, specifically the pawn, made an appearance in The Pawn. Do the other pieces appear in the other books? I’ll find when I read The Rook. Stay tuned!

I give this story FOUR STARS.

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