What better way to kick off the return of my blog by reviewing a book by one of my favorite authors? I'm sure a book giveaway would be better, but with so few readers, I'll have to boost my subscribers again before doing something like that. (Sorry. I refuse to give away my only copy, which I paid for myself.)
And so we begin.
Revulsion. Anger. Disgust. Lightheartedness. Wonder. Hope. Uncertainty. A gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. And yes, even joy. Those are some of the things I felt while reading Opening Moves. I even skimmed through it a second time just to see if I reacted in the same way. I'll have to answer for the most part in the affirmative.
Patrick Bowers, Milwaukee homicide detective, notices things. He has an uncanny way of seeing and remembering details that no one else does. He can put the puzzle pieces of a case together to reveal the big picture that has eluded others. But will he be able to connect several murders from different states and dismemberments from here in his own town to the single, or perhaps multiple, perpetrators?
Where to start? A prequel always seems risky, and James has said it wasn't his original intention to write one for this series (September Suspense Magazine, p. 58). But he's glad he did and so am I. I enjoyed seeing Bowers as a cop who longs for more, one who eventually makes it into the FBI. I have to think his new found friend Ralph Hawkins has a lot to do with that. And, digressing a little, may I say that Ralph is one of my favorite characters. He's a mammoth on the outside and a teddy bear on the inside. He and Pat have a way of communicating something without ever saying it—they read between the lines of each other's words. I love being able to “look in” on them when they're doing that.
For those who have never read James, this is a great place to start. For those who have read the whole Bowers series, Opening Moves gives you even more insight into Pat, introduces Dr. Calvin Werjonic with his geospatial techniques, and shows you how Pat meets his nemesis. You can read my reviews of the previous books HERE (although I have no idea how I neglected to write a review for The Queen, so, two you can read are: HERE and HERE).
I have to say that the most striking thing about James' books, this one included, is the theme of man's depravity. James will tell you that he doesn't want to glorify evil, but instead portray it for the reality it is, and then point to the fact that it can be overcome (see this interview: Title Trakk). I definitely see that, although it's still hard to read some descriptions of murder, especially when you know this stuff really happens. I guess it's good that it bothers me and that I'm not totally desensitized to the violence. It bothers me more that the man named Joshua grew up with the bible, knowing it, and yet turned his back on God's love and forgiveness because his father had twisted scripture too much, and Joshua had killed too much, to ever allow himself redemption. So sad. He rejects truth when he hears it because he feels so guilty. I always hate it when religious-type people are the bad guys. It eats at me. We who are the Body of Christ are human, yes. Absolutely. Not perfect. However, we have a God living in us that is supposed to be providing resurrection power for us. Where is that seen if not in a transformed life? Why are we not availing ourselves of this power and overcoming our circumstances, our desires, our thoughts, our actions? Granted, just because the guy is religious doesn't mean he's been changed by Jesus. I realize that. Far from it. These are things that James has made me think about, though.
I’ve read all of James’ novels and am not sure this one is my favorite. Yes, he’s an amazing writer, one of the best ever in modern fiction. I still lean toward The Knight or The Bishop as better. I don't know, maybe this book was just too disgusting, too dark. I let the book sit for a few days after reading and my thoughts have mellowed a bit. There's no story without the violence, and the story is amazing. And there is hope. Always.
I definitely recommend this book and look forward to the last two in the series, The King and Checkmate.