“Inmate 1577” by Alan Jacobson (Norwood Press, 2011)

Inmate 1577
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When it seemed like the great thrillers involving the ace FBI Profiler, Karen Vail, couldn’t get any better after the bestselling Crush, Alan Jacobson brings Vail back to Northern California, this time in sunny and chilly and foggy San Francisco, with a new serial killer on the loose, and the growing and undeniable ties to one prison located on a certain island out in the bay.

Jacobson tells two stories here, jumping back and forth in time and from place to place.  First there is the story of Karen Vail, the FBI’s best profiler, who has been called back to California, to San Francisco to investigate a growing series of horrible killings, specifically elderly women who have been raped and brutally murdered, and their husbands, killed and left dangling and hanging from San Francisco landmarks.  SFPD Inspector Lance Burden is working with Vail, along with former colleague, Detective Roxxann Dixon; and with a crack team, the clues lead them throughout the beautiful city, as they investigate the bodies and put the pieces together.

Then there is the story of Walton MacNally, back in 1955, who has a series of really unfortunate events that lead him to start stealing and breaking the law, all to help and support his son.  But then he gets caught and spends his time in Leavenworth Penitentiary, and after a failed jailbreak, ends up on the rock of Alcatraz, where his life continues as a prisoner of one of the most infamous prisons in history.

The reader knows these stories are somehow linked, but Jacobson does a fantastic job of maintaining the suspense for literally hundreds of pages, and Inmate 1577 is a great 500-pager.  The author makes working a serial killer case more real than ever, as the agents involved continue to be stumped at finding the killer, and feeling simply lost, until they get another clue they must chase down.  While Jacobson does take a little while to actually get to Alcatraz in the book, as well as being a little too liberal with the acronyms, these are but minor distractions in this great example of the page-turning thriller.  Jacobson even spent some time on Alcatraz writing the book, as well as many days and interviews researching the book.

Inmate 1577 is simply a great book that any mystery fan will gobble up like their favorite dish.  Whether this is your first Karen Vail novel or you’ve been working your way through them; you will not be disappointed with this lengthy book that will keep you reading and both wanting to reach the end and at the same time not be done with the book.

To purchase a copy of Inmate 1577, go to the Norwood Press site.

Originally written on August 31, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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