A double homicide with alleged killer missing and presumed dead: it’s not exactly the complex case that Patrick Bowers is used to, and he’s less than happy that he’s been pulled from searching for the just-released-from-prison killer Richard Devin Basque (see The Knight) to investigating this murder—brutal though it was. But as Bowers digs deeper, he begins to understand why the powers that be want him on the case. Two dead is just the beginning as Bowers unveils a vast high-tech conspiracy in the middle of a sleepy Minnesota town.
In the midst of a culture infatuated with crime thrillers like CSI and Law and Order, Steven James delivers the real deal in The Queen. Multilayered and complex, it interweaves the storylines of his previous novels without making itself dependent on them, while crafting a whole new story that threatens to push Bowers over the edge. More than just cool geospatial investigative techniques and Bowers’ powers of reasoning, James also focuses on relational aspects, continuing to build Bowers relationship with his step-daughter, Tessa. Readers are also given a poignant look into Bowers past as his brother and his wife play an integral role in the story.
Combining Sherlockian reasoning with Hitchcockian suspense, The Queen kept me guessing and turning pages to the very end. Complex novels can easily get messy with their array of plotlines and viewpoints, but James handles it all masterfully. The Queen is refinement of the type of story James has been telling for the past five years—intelligent, realistic, and insightful. His characters are far from stock stereotypes with the conflicted killer Alexei Chekov being a prime example. Along the way, James asks some tough questions: What is the nature of forgiveness? How does one forgive oneself? How much pain and evil can the human psyche hold? It is these themes, played out through the characters, that prove James a master in the chess game of great fiction writing.
Just over a year ago, I picked up my first Steven James novel, The Pawn. I said then that I felt like a latecomer to an epic party—as by that time installment number four, The Bishop, had been released. I devoted a week to reading and I emerged feeling accomplished at having read all four of The Bowers Files, even if I did feel guilty for consuming four years worth of writing in a week and somewhat disappointed I’d have to wait about a year for the fifth book in the series. It was well worth the wait.
The Queen begins strong, hits hard, and never lets up. Steven James is truly a master Storyteller that knows how to deliver top-notch fiction. Every year, he ups the ante…which means I’ll be counting down the days until I have the next book in my hands. James’s killers are known for the cruel, twisted games they play with their victims but James is playing a twisted game of his own. His words the bait and I the victim – and he’s got me hooked.
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