I didn’t have the patience for chess and never learned the game. Perhaps I’m not smart enough to play it. I suspect if I knew more about the game, the added significance of the titles of Steven James’ Patrick Bower Thrillers would contribute to the masterful and complex series of stories. Through the thoughts of Special Agent Patrick Bower’s step-daughter Tessa, I learned the interesting positioning and movement of the bishop in the game and the impact of that awareness to her troubled thinking.
Once again in The Bishop Special Agent Patrick Bowers gets called in on a case while he’s teaching at Quantico for the summer. He and his 17 year old step-daughter Tessa are staying in a traveling colleague’s home in D.C. At the conclusion of The Knight, Tessa met her birth father hidden away in a remote location in Wyoming, and Patrick has allowed her to communicate with him via email but with some restrictions she’s chosen to ignore until Patrick can figure out why her dad is totally off the grid.
A cannibalistic serial killer from a previous novel, released on a technicality, pledges he’s “redeemed”, but Patrick isn’t buying it, and when a professional woman who helped the killer gain his freedom comes up missing, both Patrick and his fellow agent and friend Ralph Hawkins suspect the murderer is at work again.
Added to this, a Congressman’s daughter is supposedly murdered, but at first the corpse is unrecognizable due to the way the victim is killed. Meanwhile the reader is clued into the sick perpetrators of the grisly slayings, some of those killings remaining undiscovered as the story progresses.
Most of The Bishop published by Revell is told by Patrick Bowers with occasional sidesteps into third person narratives by Tessa, Patrick’s boss and nemesis Margaret, and the killers’ various voices. The dilemma Patrick faces when a female detective he previously worked with is admitted into the special program he’s teaching at the Academy mixes with the lingering emotional attachment he still feels for Lien hua, his Agency coworker he almost allowed into his heart. With Tessa orchestrating impossible challenges in combined visits by the two women, Patrick is pressed to decide how he really feels about one or the other of them while being fully engaged in solving the case with so many ill-fitting but perfectly planned puzzle pieces. There seems to be no end to the connections of victims, locations, and killers from Patrick’s past, but finding the right links to decipher the message in the clues keeps Patrick’s mind swirling, trying to find what he’s missing. And as usual Steven nabs Patrick’s voice perfectly—the genius geospatial, problem solving FBI wizard who’s afraid of and clumsy at romance since Tessa’s mom died two years prior from cancer and who is constantly distracted from personal issues by the overwhelming pressures of figuring out the killers in this case.
If you want a simple thriller, don’t tackle a Steven James’ novel. His stories are exceedingly complex with leftover killers from previous novels who either disappeared or were assumed to be dead. They’re lurking out there on the fringes of your mind—and of Patrick’s—all while you’re doing your best to discover who these horrific criminals are. There are some freakish murders in this story, so if you like tame mysteries, Steven’s books aren’t for you. The perverted killers in his stories demonstrate the severity of a criminal mind, and in this book in particular the author addresses the sin nature of mankind by clothing it in the question of the origin of morality.
The discourse between Patrick and Tessa attempts to distinguish man’s makeup from animals, but they struggle in the process. The moral questions attached to separating the heart of man from the instincts of animals drive the conflicts in this story, and it concludes with an unsettling picture of the traumatized Tessa, the plotting of an imprisoned female, and the whereabouts of a not-so-redeemed killer along with one we might have forgotten about, which will lead us into the next installment titled The Queen coming out in summer of 2011.
I recommend you start with The Pawn and read all the previous titles before engaging the fascinating 520 page The Bishop in order to understand the life and conflicts of the scientific and unspiritual Special Agent Patrick Bowers, a widower whose wife was a believer and whose daughter leans toward believing but struggles with faith issues and looks to be headed for another dangerous turn in The Queen.
I’m grateful to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for my copy of the long novel for review. You can imagine how happy I was when I opened the package to find this good-sized book ready for my consumption. Right on, Revell. And write on, Steven James.
Not for the seekers of “safe”, Steven James creates intelligent, creepy psycho killers within intricate plots which confound the best of mystery solvers.