“Crush” by Alan Jacobson (Vanguard Press, 2009)

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After the runaway success of Jacobson’s first Karen Vail novel, The 7th Victim, our impressive FBI profiler is back in the fantastic follow-up, Crush.  While the pressure may be on Jacobson to make his second Karen Vail Mystery be just as good as his first, in my opinion, Crush is better.  Jacobson is now comfortable in writing Vail and lets her explore her boundaries and limits, coupled with having the agent be in a foreign place.

At the start of the book, Vail is on vacation in the beautiful wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties.  After the stress, pressure, and near-death experiences of The 7th Victim, Vail can certainly use the break, and has been so ordered by her ASAC.  But as Vail and her boyfriend, Detective Robby Hernandez, are about to enjoy a very expensive wine tour, they are told it’s been canceled and they’ll receive full refunds.  Vail’s curiosity gets the better of her and she soon finds that a dead body is the culprit.  Her profiling skills automatically kick into gear as she strategically maneuvers herself onto the task force, leaving Hernandez by the wayside.  But this is who she is.

Now on the Napa County Major Crimes Task Force, Vail teams up with Investigator Roxxann Dixon, as soon more bodies are discovered each with telltale signs of the “Crush Killer.”  Then the killer begins contacting Vail, threatening not just her life but that of her son if she doesn’t do exactly what he says.  But the wine industry is an important part of the nation’s economy, and the political issue of whether to release the details to the press creates more enemies for Vail.  Ultimately it will be up to her to manage and keep the task force together, and catch this Crush Killer before he gets to anyone else.

Jacobson has not only written a full-throttle thriller that will keep readers hooked to the very end, but also educates them in the niceties of wine tasting and drinking, as well as some of the different kinds of wines offered by our wine country; not to mention the number of real locations used in the book.  Crush is a story that will have you entranced, causing your mouth to dry up in a craving for that tasty red liquid; and after finishing the book you’ll feel the urge to check out Napa and Sonoma counties to see if they really are as beautiful as Crush depicts them.

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Originally written on September 29th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Alan Jacobson check out BookBanter Episode 19.