Monday, August 2, 2010

The Bishop by Steven James

book cover

The Bishop
by Steven James

Trade Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Revell
First Released: Aug 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Steven James Launch Party!

Book Description, Slightly Modified from Back Cover:
FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers's specialty is environmental criminology--tracking lawbreakers by analyzing the significance of the time and place at which the crime occurred. His cutting-edge skills are about to be pushed to the limit when a young woman is found brutally murdered in Washington DC. Her killers continue a spree of perfect crimes in the Northeast, but with nothing to link them to each other, Agent Bowers faces his most difficult case yet. Even as he tries to solve this frustrating case, his personal life begins to crumble around him. His stepdaughter's biological father starts a custody battle for her, and two women whom he admires want him to chose between them...or he's going to lose them both.

The Bishop is a fast-paced forensic/detective suspense novel. This is the fourth book in the series. Though you can follow what's going on without reading the others first, you'll probably understand it better if you start with the first novel, The Pawn. Also, reading this novel spoils the "who-done-it" mystery in several previous novels, so you'll want to read the others first if you plan to at all.

The novel had a somewhat bleak tone. Several of the "killed by violence" bodies were described in more graphic/gory terms than in his previous novels--though, oddly, I found these descriptions less chilling. The ones were he left most of the details to my imagination were more chilling. Also, this was the first novel in this series that I've correctly guessed "who-done-it" before the big revel. Part of the reason I liked his previous novels so much was because he's one of the few authors who can fool me on a mystery anymore, so I was a little disappointed by that.

The world-building was excellent, with the details about forensics, the case, and the city bringing the novel alive in my imagination. All of the aspects of the novel seemed very well researched. The tension was high throughout most of the story (with a few slight lulls). The suspense was created by the race to save a victim before she's killed, the potential physical danger to the main characters, and the relational tensions.

The characters were interesting, complex, and dealt with realistic issues outside of the case (like how to relate to a biological father or potentially losing a daughter in a custody battle). The author portrayed the main women in this novel as smart, competent, respected, and not trying to be men. As a woman, I liked that.

There was a minor, ongoing "what makes human's moral" discussion among the characters in relation to the case. The Christian view was vaguely presented. More detail was spent on scientific study promoting a "humans are animals, there is no god" viewpoint, though only a few minor characters seemed to wholeheartedly support that view.

There was no explicit sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written and exciting clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Two weeks later
St. Ambrose Church
Chicago, Illinois
6:36 p.m.

[Name deleted to prevent a spoiler of the previous novel]'s body lay grim and still in a lonely casket at the front of the church. I stood in line, nine people away from him, waiting for my chance to pay my last respects to my friend.

The air in the church tasted of dust and dead hymns.

Having spent six years as a homicide detective and the last nine as an FBI criminologist, I've investigated hundreds of homicides, but I've never been able to look at corpses with clinical objectivity. Every time I see one, I think of the fragility of life. The thin line that separates the living from the dead--the flux of a moment, the breadth of eternity contained in the single delicate beat of a heart.

And I remember the times I've had to tell family members that we'd found their loved ones, but that "their condition had proved to be fatal," that "we'd arrived to late to save them," or that "we'd done all we could but they didn't make it." Carefully worded platitudes to dull the blow.

Platitudes that don't work.

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