Steven James has brought back Special Agent Patrick Bowers in an exciting prequel to the Chess series, and I am delighted. This Bowers is a younger, less sophisticated version, yet still astute and adept at solving conundrums. James still delights in twists and turns and dead ends and captivating characters.
Patrick has been loaned to the NYPD to work on a task force attempting to shut down a large child pornography network headed by “The Piper” as well as solve the kidnappings and murders of many children over the past few years. His geospatial take on crime and criminals intrigues one of the task force members, Tobin Cavanaugh, whose daughter, Adrienne, was one of those kidnapped and killed. Together, Tobin and Patrick, along with Patrick’s partner, Jodie, attempt to follow the traces of these high tech pornographers and pedophiles.
The topic is terrible but timely. Child pornography and child sex-trafficking is at an all-time high level. Today’s technology enables abusers to pander to their filthy habits with great facility by tapping into the Dark Web—one hidden behind firewalls and ever-shifting URLs and IDs. James does not describe the images, thank goodness, but the horror of the reactions of those faced with them in the pursuit of justice.
We also meet Christine Ellis, Patrick’s first love, and her daughter, Tessa. I enjoyed watching Patrick learn to talk with and interact with the highly intelligent Tessa. Reluctant to engage with him at first, they start to bond over logic puzzles and an interactive video game. Tessa loves her mother above all else and recognizes she loves Patrick—Tessa, therefore, wants Patrick to stick around.
Although the topic is unpalatable, the intrigue is not. You’ll be entranced by the stratagems and webs woven both by the police and the perpetrators. Steven James has provided us an excellent introduction to Patrick Bowers, and we start to learn about the man we’ve grown to love through the Chess series. I’d give Every Crooked Path: The Bowers Files
four stars—not because of the writing, which is superb, but because of the topic, which is distasteful though the subject may be timely and one that we should be cognizant of.
Steven James’ bio reads: “… 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. Visit Steven James online at StevenJames.net.”
Steven James provided me a copy of Every Crooked Path in exchange for my unbiased review.