The Pawn is
Steven James' first fiction book and a very impressive thriller.
Patrick Bowers specializes in environmental criminology, concentrating on the places the criminal use. He
also consults for the FBI and has been called to help in the latest case: a serial killer who kills young women and leaves a yellow ribbon on the scene. One of Bowers' oldest friends
- and enemies - is also working on the case.
While Bowers' career is definitely flourishing, his personal life is in tatters. His wife died almost a year ago, and her daughter, Bowers' stepdaughter Tessa, is estranged from him. They are both still grieving her in their own way and seem to be unable to find common ground. Tessa lives with Bowers' parents and has started to cut herself as a way to deal with her life.
Bowers learns that the killer, who calls himself The Illusionist, is extremely intelligent and plans everything carefully. The killer is also taking Bowers' interest in him very personally and starts to threaten his stepdaughter.
James has chosen an interesting narrative perspective: Bowers is the main character, and his sections in the book
are written in the first person point-of-view. Other point-of-view characters have been written in the third person. The second
(and most significant) of them is the serial killer, The Illusionist. The reader has a clear view
onto his thoughts, motivations, past, and actions that some readers might find quite disturbing. There is also a second killer, Aaron Jeffrey Kincaid, whose motives are left
deliberately vague until the latter half of the book. His thoughts and past can be disturbing as well.
Tessa is also a brief point-of-view character, and her pain with her life and situation, and her attempts to cope with it are plain to see. Alice McMichaelson is
The Illusionist's next victim. There are brief glimpses into her life as a divorced mother of two struggling to pay the bills and pushing herself to study. She has no idea that
The Illusionist is stalking her or that she is in any danger.
Although there are many characters, they are distinctive enough that the reader is not confused
among them. Bowers' good friend, FBI agent Ralph Hawkings, is likable and supports his friend. Ralph has a young, beautiful Asian woman, Lien-Hua Jiang, who is a capable and strong character;
she is also Bowers' love interest. The chief of the local FBI field office, Margaret Wellington, knows Bowers and loathes him. Together these central characters make an interesting mix.
James tells the story well; there are no slow spots or unnecessary information. Even though there are no vivid, gory depictions of the bodies, some of the two killers' actions and thoughts might disturb some readers. The book has clearly been written with a sequel in mind. There
is also a small, Christian-themed subplot in the book.