I did an author spotlight a few days ago for this blog tour and book (click here.) Here is my overdue review, plus I will have another review on Thursday as I catch-up on my reading schedule. This is the first book in a new thriller series featuring a talented magician turned FBI agent. Think the Mentalist with a touch of Criminal Minds mixed with The Magician TV series starring Bill Bixby from the 70s...but how does that mixture work? I'll tell you.
Copyright: September 2014 (Berkley) 368 pgs
Series: 1st in Jessica Blackwood Thriller series
Sensuality: Serial Killer deaths
Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller / Suspense / Police Procedural
Main Characters: Jessica Blackwood, FBI agent and former Magician star
Setting: Modern day, sites across the United States
Obtained Through: TLC Blog Tours
The FBI computers have been redirected to a site with a series of numbers and the name "Warlock". The techy people figure out it is encoded GPS coordinates leading to a body. Dr. Jeffrey Ailes recruits Jessica suddenly for her unique magician skills from her past and effectively pushes her upon the lead agent on the case. This isn't any typical murder.
Chloe McDonald was buried two years ago, but thanks to the coordinates, they find Chloe only a few hours dead appearing to have been brought back to life and climbing out of her grave only to die again. Jessica and the D.C. team race to the Michigan site and only Jessica has the background to really understand the level of slight-of-hand involved. It quickly becomes clear that more will die in the Warlock's staged illusions that quickly has the public believing he is really supernatural. Besides solving the murders and unveiling who this murderer is, she must debunk his staged kills to dispel his growing following.
Jessica is a child magician prodigy from a magic royalty family that is beyond dysfunctional. She makes a complex and layered main character to sustain the action. I am an instant fan of her! Damian is Jessica's self-appointed guardian angel, former lover, and a psychopath who is a little too convenient to save her from danger of all kinds or clear road blocks for her investigation. He knows too much about the Warlock, his methods, even Jessica's movements, and is the only glaring weak link in the plot. Conversely, he is the ultimate anti-hero on many levels and this character, if not careful, can easily become the "Dexter-esque" star of the novels rather than Jessica. I do like that even in her relationship with Damian everything is as complicated as her family ties, nothing is easy for her.
Dr. Jeffrey Ailes is the mathematician genius who takes Jessica from financial crimes in the FBI to this high profile case. I love this character and want more of him. The Warlock is an enigma, is he just a serial killer with delusions of grandeur or a deadly genius with a god-complex? You will have to read it to decide for yourself. This novel presents a villain who is scary and yet exposes the sad condition of the media and gullibility of the masses. The breakout unexpected star that I hope to have more page-time in the next books is red-headed FBI Field Forensic Technician Danielle (no last name I could find). She is smart, observant, not easily threatened by Jessica, and has such a presence she leaps off the pages in the few scenes where she appears.
The settings are critical to the staged deaths and are vivid, whether rural or the middle of Times Square in New York. The concept of a gifted magician turned FBI agent is one of those where execution is the key. It could turn out gimmicky and a worn-out trope or brilliant, either way. In this case, it breathes and takes on a life of its own. The pace is standard for a thriller...breakneck. Yet we get a layered main character and just enough explanation of magic theory and delivery to understand the complexities without slowing the story. The climax is tense with plenty of nail-biting action and I ate it up.
This debut of a new thriller series delivers a fresh take on this premise, taught suspense, an intense main character, and a rush of a story. Pure entertainment that swept this reader off her feet. When is the next book? **Gush, gush.**
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.