I have found a new author to add to my list of favorite fiction writers. Steven James has mesmerized me twice now and I'm looking forward to reading his third and his fourth books.
Patrick Bowers is an FBI Special Agent whose expertise is in environmental criminology. He comes to San Diego to investigate a serial arsonist who turns out to be something more. With his special skills, Bowers, along with his assistant Lien-Hua, tracks down the killers involved in a deadly plot to seize a new weapon designed to take defense technology to a whole new level. The plot includes murder, suspense, a little humor, and even some romance.
I like how James develops his characters. He gives them great dialog and even makes fun of his job as a writer. Example:
"Pat thinks profiling is a complete waste of time."
"Not a complete waste of time," I said. "It keeps a lot of novelists off welfare."
We passed through several more rooms, Lien-hua carefully observing the eddies above the doorjambs, working with surprising acuity to lead us to a room at the back of the house. From the evidence I'd seen so far, I agreed that this room was probably the source of the blaze. "Not bad for a profiler," I said.
"Yeah, well, this environmental stuff isn't that complex. Maybe I should write a novel about it."
I also enjoyed how the author writes a little theology into the book without being too obvious about it. Here is one example:
"...We can never be sure we won't jump or push someone else. But that's not a satisfactory answer because we all want to think that we're different, that we would never do those things - and yet the edge is within reach of all of us. Neitzsche wrote, 'Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.' You have looked long into the abyss, my boy. And you've seen how alluring it is."
I thought for a moment. "You're right, Calvin, except I don't fight monsters and neither do you. We track offenders who are just as human as we are. Killers, rapists, pedophiles - they do monstrous things and their actions make then more guilty than others, but not less human. The more you search for what makes 'them' different from 'us,' the more you find that, at the core, we're all the same. Offenders aren't monsters any more than we are."
"Then, perhaps," Calvin said with disturbing resignation, "we are all monsters."
The Rook was the winner of the 2009 Christy Award for suspense. Mr. James' next novel, The Bishop, comes out in August, 2010. I'm looking forward to it.
Window to My World has also written her views on this novel. Go check it out!