Saturday, February 11, 2012

Check and Mate: The Queen Is Outstanding

This past summer I attended a writer’s conference in Tennessee.  Steven James was one of the main speakers, so I picked up The Bishop to read before I went.  After all, I wanted to be familiar with the authors who would be leading the conference.
After reading the first few chapters I had to ask myself – “How in the world did I miss this guy?”  The writing was tight, the plot complex, the pacing accelerating like a hopped-up Ferrari.  However, the story was not for the faint of heart.  Graphic and unnerving descriptions of serial murders were front and center.  But the protagonist, FBI agent and geospatial intelligence specialist Dr. Patrick Bowers doggedly tracked down the killers as he handled problems on the home front with his intelligent and perceptive stepdaughter, Tessa.
Since then I have read all James’ Patrick Bowers novels.  Each one keeping me up late at night turning those pages, although toward the end of each novel I purposely slow down, not wanting to finish such a well-written book too quickly.
The Queen, the latest in the series, does not disappoint.  In fact, it’s the best Bowers book so far. 
Bowers finds himself in the wintery woods of northern Wisconsin investigating a double homicide, chasing an international assassin, and dealing with an estranged brother.   As the snow drifts deeper, Bowser faces eco-terrorists and criminal masterminds with evil agendas all their own.
As with all his novels, James expertly weaves the characters from previous books into the plot.  If you’ve read all the books from The Pawn through The Bishop you are definitely familiar with James’ heroes and villains and the battle of good vs. evil.  This conflict is what I appreciate the most.  Bowers is indeed the “Good Guy” and the bad guys are, well, evil and yet James is not willing to allow us to settle for simple solutions, for black and white answers.  James’ characters fight the evil in others and in themselves.   Concepts of the evil within each human heart, guilt, and forgiveness are wrestled with sincerely but never heavy-handedly.
The Queen is not just a good read, but a well-crafted story with multi-faceted characters, a storyline with a good many hairpin turns, and a plot that not afraid to explore our darker nature and yet unashamedly holds out hope.
Steven James has certainly moved this queen into the checkmate position.  It is a winner.

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