Killer Nashville Book of the Day
Every Crooked Path by Steven James
Reviewed by G. Robert Frazier
Reading Every Crooked Path, the new novel by national bestselling author Steven James, is like peeling an onion: each layer of mystery pulled back reveals something more foul and evil than the last.
What starts as an investigation into a fatal stabbing takes a twisted turn when James’ recurring hero, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers, uncovers a child exploitation ring on the Dark Web, a cyberworld hidden away from the regular internet, where anonymous clients barter and trade in sexually explicit photographs of minors for their perverted pleasure and the profit of a mysterious cadre of webmasters.
James hooks readers right from the start, as within the first few pages Bowers is attacked at the crime scene in a Manhattan high-rise. Bowers manages to fend off his attacker, but before he can get anything out of him, the man jumps off the balcony to his death, leaving behind a key and a cryptic clue to an even larger conspiracy.
Partnered with Detective Tobin Cavanaugh, a special agent with NYPD’s Special Victims Unit, Bowers pieces together clues to a series of child abductions and their connection to the suicide victim. Bowers ultimately must go undercover to infiltrate the conspirators and bring them down from within, discovering along the way that not everyone is who they seem and that they will do anything to keep their secrets intact.
James purposefully spares readers from any graphic depictions of children in exploitative situations, explaining in an Author’s Note, “I chose to show the reactions of the characters seeing them. I’ll trust your imagination to fill in the rest.” It’s both a sensitive and confident decision on James’ part; sensitive in that the subject matter is horrifyingly real, yet is handled in a delicate manner, and confident in that James is able to craft the dark world of crimes against children without having to resort to graphic excess. Given today’s landscape of in-your-face, no-holds-barred storytelling, James’ approach is both refreshing and admirable, as well as something a lesser author might not be able to pull off.
At nearly 600 pages, Every Crooked Path (Signet) is a surprisingly quick read with short chapters, snappy dialogue, and tautly written action scenes.
James is the national bestselling author of nine novels, including the critically acclaimed thrillers Checkmate, The King, Opening Moves, and The Queen. He has won three Christy Awards for best suspense and was a finalist for an International Thriller Award. His thriller The Bishop was named Suspense Magazine’s book of the year. For more information, visit StevenJames.net, Facebook.com/sjamesauthor, and @sjamesauthor on Twitter.
G. Robert Frazier is a writer and an avid reader living in La Vergne, Tenn. He reads for the Nashville Film Festival and Austin Film Festival screenwriting competitions and is an active member of the Tennessee Screenwriters Association, Nashville Writers Meetup groups, and La Vergne Library Board. Follow him on Twitter @grfrazier23 and visit his Adventures in Writing blog at https://grfrazier.wordpress.com.
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