Published by Signet on December 1, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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Who is the Piper? . . . Special Agent Patrick Bowers returns in an electrifying prequel to the Bowers Chess series from critically acclaimed, national bestselling novelist Steven James. A mysterious suicide and a series of abductions draw Patrick into a web of intrigue involving an international conspiracy where no one is who they appear to be and the stakes have never been higher. Soon, Patrick discovers that the secret to stopping the Piper’s current crime spree lies in unlocking answers from an eight-year-old cold case—and the only way to do that is by entering the terrifying world of the conspirators himself. Dark, probing, and chilling, Every Crooked Path takes an unflinching look at the world of today’s cybercrimes and delves into a parent’s worst nightmare as it launches a new chapter of Patrick Bowers thrillers.
Confession. Every Crooked Path is the first Bowers book that I’ve not read in one sitting. With his other books, lengthy though they may be, I knew enough to carve out an entire day to immerse myself in the world of Patrick Bowers. I had intended to do that with Every Crooked Path. I just couldn’t. It had nothing to do with James’s writing, which was as on point as ever. In fact, that just exacerbated it.
Steven James has gone to some pretty dark places in his “Chess Piece” series, but nothing like this disturbingly realistic storyline of cybercrimes, child pornography, and sex trafficking. James traverses the razor thin line between saccharine sweet and sickeningly exploitative in a seriously impressive way. He doesn’t use the shock value of the subject material to create the story’s tension and is never graphic in his descriptions. Every Crooked Path is a story to shake you, to wake you into action against an ever growing problem.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and I had the privilege the very week I spent reading Every Crooked Path to write a church curriculum for another story of human trafficking called Caged No More. Perhaps it was because of that, because of all the data I’d researched and all the non-fiction stories I’d read, that Every Crooked Path seemed more than just a story to me.
Bowers is tasked with untangling a web of international conspiracy, a mysterious suicide, a series of abductions, and, perhaps the key to it all, an eight-year-old cold case. Behind it all, they hope to find the man responsible, known only as the Piper.
Ever since the close of the “official” Bowers Files series with The King, Steven James has continued to flesh out Bowers’ storyline with other incredible stories. Opening Moves took us back to Bowers first case, alluded to through the series, and Checkmate closed that recurring storyline once and for all.
As the second prequel Every Crooked Path is free to be its own thing, beholden to the future in some areas, but with very little past to guide its way. As such, you see Bowers at a different part of his personal life than ever before and young Bowers may handle things somewhat differently than the Bowers of earlier books set at a later time period would.
If I could venture one tiny criticism, and it’s more of an observation, because it’s a possible anachronism for the sake of a great story, but given that Every Crooked Path is a prequel, I’m wondering if the technology used the book actually meets up with the general time setting this is supposed to be set in. But that niggling thought soon goes away as you get immersed into the storyline.
It seems like Steven James’s storytelling gets better with every book and, I feel like I say that in every review, but it’s true. I’ve tried to pick a favorite of his books, but I just can’t. They all feel like they tell one giant story amid each of these just-as-important smaller stories. It’s not one book, I like; it’s the character. I hope Steven is willing to write Patrick’s adventures for a long time to come because I’ll always be up for reading them.