“Spectrum” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media, 2014)

Spectrum
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Karen Vail returns for the sixth installment, in Spectrum, and this time Alan Jacobson gives the readers a look at her past and how she went from being a NYPD rookie to one of the best FBI profiler’s. The book begins with an opening throwing the reader in the middle of a case where Vail has some big decisions to make, and then switching off in every other chapter about a Greek family beginning in the 1970s, and while it seems confusing at first, it all comes together at the end.

It’s 1995 and Vail is on her first day of the job as a rookie New York cop with a tough as nails veteran partner looking to please and do everything by the book, but also learn the way of the streets and do the hard work she needs to succeed. She is pulled into a murder case that, as the years pass, becomes a long drawn-out serial killer case. It remains unsolved for over two decades, and each time a new body is found – a woman with a slashed throat and jagged piece of glass protruding from her neck, cuts blinding her eyes, and a strange X and four letters carved into her – Vail is notified and brought in to investigate, to see if they can get any closer to finding out who the killer is.

The other part of the book focuses on a Greek family whose father is involved in a strange fight that turns bad and leads to them being ostracized from their culture. They have to leave their home and everything seems to be against them. Eventually they end up living on Ellis Island in an abandoned building, struggling to get by. The story seems out of place and not exactly clear to the reader, but halfway through the book the link becomes apparent as the reader is able to put the evidence together and understand what the author is doing.

Jacobson clearly had a lot of fun writing Spectrum and readers familiar with Karen Vail will really enjoy reading her history, not just in how she climbed the ranks of the NYPD, then joined the FBI and eventually became a profiler, but also in her personal life with her husband who became her ex-husband and how she raised a child on her own while advancing her career. Like a gripping case, Spectrum has all the pieces and evidence there, and if the reader does some good detective work, they will put it all together and know who the killer is by the end, or be pleasantly surprised. Spectrum is the best Karen Vail novel yet and whether you’re familiar with the series or this is the first one you’re reading, you’ll be hooked from cover to cover.

Originally written on October 5, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Spectrum from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“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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