Book Review: The Pawn
Written by Seven James
Reviewed by Nike Chillemi
This one starts all the mayhem — as FBI Agent Patrick Bowers relentlessly uses geospacial-environmental techniques to hunt serial killers. He’s not interested in what the killers’ motives are. He only wants to catch them. Bowers reads like a flesh and blood hero. If you prick him, will he bleed? The answer is a resounding, YES! He’s trying to cope with his new bride’s death from cancer, deal with parenting his understandably resentful teenage stepdaughter, while wondering if Special Agent Lien-hua Jiang is getting under his skin. In his relationships, he seems to plod along in his unassuming way, trying to sort out all the broken pieces of his life.
Meanwhile, bodies of young women are piling up in the Asheville, NC area with yellow ribbons tied to their hair and a chess piece at each crime scene. Patrick Bowers is called in only to find his supervisor has it in for him due to a rocky past working relationship. He develops his theories mapping the time and place where the previous murders took place and then using complicated mathematics tries to determine where the next murder is likely to occur. All the while, this supervisor does her best to thwart his efforts.
This serial killer calls himself the Illusionist, his methods are particularly heinous, and the story does get graphic and gory. There are several concurrent stories going on within the larger story and the author blends them masterfully. Agent Bowers suspects the governor of North Carolina, now a presidential hopeful, may be the Illusionist. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers the governor was at one time a US government black ops assassin who was involved in the Jonestown mass murder. Except, as the author tells it, one teenage boy got away. This boy is now grown and is the leader of a new cult, and he has a deadly agenda of his own.
When Bowers brings his distraught stepdaughter Tessa to North Carolina, I wanted to scream, bad move. The author set it up well enough. Tessa felt abandoned, was at her wits end and driving her grandparents crazy. And yes, she did need the love of her step-father who is the best connection she has to her dead mother. Still, it felt a bit contrived. Bowers had to know the killer, who is toying with him, will go after her. And of course the Illusionist does exactly that. Bowers did a few other things that bugged me, like not having a working cell phone at critical times.
All things considered, the reader might not figure out this is Christian fiction. Bowers’ wife converted to Christianity, but when she dies of cancer, he doubts the existence and the goodness of God. Significant portions of this novel are gory and terrifying. However, the author does pose deep questions about the nature of evil. At one point Bowers tries to explain to his stepdaughter how evil operates in the world and how close good people can sometimes come to committing evil acts. This book is not for the squeamish, and I did cringe at times. However, it made me purchase the next two books in the series.