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I hadn't heard of J.A Kerley before coming across this in the library. A quick scan of the blurb and the cover appealed to my love of American crime thrillers, so I gave it a go. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised - after reading this I'll be checking out more of his novels.
The tag line on the front cover reads 'When it comes to murder, some things run in the family...' and the blurb on the back gives an indication that this is a crime thriller with the possibility of a religious twist. The first chapter introduces us to a couple and their baby who, on their remote space of land at home, get attacked. The baby is put in a boat by the mother to avoid becoming a victim, only for the boat to turn up on another stretch of land.
On the receiving end of the baby in the boat is Detective Carson Ryder and Harry, taking some leisure time away from detective work. Upon seeing the baby, they rush in but worry it's too late; after being airlifted to hospital, however, it seems the baby is a fighter and starts to recouperate slowly but surely.
Meanwhile, on a seemingly parallel storyline, we learn of Reverend Scaler, a TV evangelist with potent views, who has been beaten and tied upside down to hang dead after what looks like an S&M session gone wrong. With his reputation in tatters the two detectives take the case, despite it not seeming too sinister. That is, until more clues unravel and it seems that not all was how it first appeared.
As the plot continues, questions arise for both storylines. Who is the baby and where did she come from? Where is the family? Detectives discover what they believe to be the home and the murderous scene inside, but this only raises more questions. It now seems that someone is after the boat baby after a failed attempt to steal her from the hospital. Perhaps it's a little too much like wishful thinking to wonder if it was just a coincidence that he picked up the boat baby randomly.
I won't say anymore on the premise except to say that what starts off as one thing gradually develops in to something far more complex. I like the way the storylines begin to merge, the way characters are drawn in and clues come together only to raise more questions and doubts on what was first thought.
The character development was fairly good, with detail on Detective Ryder giving us a better insight in to his view of the world and of his job. With his own brother being a killer, it gives him a more unique stance on tracking killers, along with the fact that he has his own issues and demons he's dealing with. The range of characters does increase as the plot thickens, but most get just enough coverage to paint a good picture of the atmosphere and scene to make it realistic and easier to imagine. The main focus, however, is kept on some key characters, such as Ryder, which I liked because it gave the book a sense of grounding and a heightened relationship to attach yourself to when reading so that you want to read more about them.
The plot was intelligent and reasonably complex, but Kerley writes in a way that doesn't confuse or overdo the detail and lose the reader. To take the edge off the serious overtones are some lighter elements of comedy through the two detectives, which I found endearing and engaging to read, and it offset the murderous/crime elements just enough to make the novel that little bit more enjoyable to read.
Further praise can be found on the back cover, including : 'A chilling journey into a pitch-black mind' - Michael Marshall and 'The master of macabre' - Guardian on the back. I would agree with both. Kerley builds atmosphere well, makes the scenes and characters three dimensional and brings them to life vividly. I found myself wanting to keep reading to know what was really going on behind the death of the Scaler and behind the mysterious baby. It kept me guessing and wondering myself about each potential suspect, about each possible scenario, and that makes it an engaging crime thriller to get absorbed in to.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this. Having not read any of his other work (yet) I can't compare this to other novels, but I found this easy to read because it was intelligent yet enjoyable and detailed.
421 pages over 52 chapters
Selling on Amazon for £4.49
In the Blood - Jack Kerley
This is the 5th book in the Detective Carson Ryder series. The story is based on a discovery of a baby and a mysterious S&M attack of a TV Evangelist Reverend Scaler who is found bound and beaten to death. Carson and Harry work together to find the connection between the two. There are many players involved in this and it leads back to an unsuspected candidate. There is a high number of racial attacks in this book and quite a few are aimed at Carson's partner Harry Nautilus.
I was a bit dubious about reading this as I've read the first in the series and weren't too sure about it as characters didn't gel for me. But this book has certainly converted me. I felt the relationships were stronger and although Carson was having problems his friends stuck by him. I will definitely be going back and reading the rest of the series now.