“The Darkness of Evil” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media, 2017)

Alan Jacobson has delighted us readers for a number of years now with his gripping Karen Vail books, and in the latest installment, the sinisterly titled Darkness of Evil, Vail comes up against what could be her greatest foe yet: a convicted serial killer.

Senior profiler at the Behavioral Analysis Unit, Karen Vail, is juggling lots of projects and problems at once; but that’s just her modus operandi, in addition to dealing with a new boss who she doesn’t really get along with. She’s also keeping her eye on Jasmine Marcks, who has just published a book about her life as the daughter of a serial killer, which she had no idea about until she was a teenager and was crucial in having Roscoe Lee Marcks brought to justice and put away for a very long time. Roscoe killed fourteen people and Vail took over the case in the early days of her career, helping the guy get put away.

Jasmine receives a note from her father. He knows about the book. He knows what she said about him in the book. He wants revenge. Vail lets Jasmine know the man is locked behind bars and everything will be okay. She is finally granted access to begin interviewing Roscoe to find out what he is up to, and then before she knows it, the serial killer escapes with help from a number of people on the inside.

The rules have changed; the stakes are through the roof. It’s a whole new ball game.

Bodies begin turning up, including a cop who was protecting Jasmine. The daughter decides to go it alone, keeping hidden and quiet, only getting in contact with Vail occasionally. Meanwhile, the ace profiler joins a crack team of US Marshals and other experts to chase down Roscoe and put him back in prison where he belongs.

The Darkness of Evil kicks it into high gear right from the start, as the reader immediately gets drawn into the book. Jacobson continues to make Vail a complex and complete character, as she juggles personal life problems, other cases, and the nail-biting terror of a serial killer on the loose who seems to have no limits to whose life he may take. He could be coming around the next corner with his sights on her. But Vail is a professional. She is experienced; a veteran. She knows what has to be done, and the reader is thrilled to be along for the ride.

Originally written on March 15, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Darkness of Evil from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Lost Codex” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller, 2015)

Lost Scoll
starstarstarHalf Star

Karen Vail, renowned FBI profiler, is back in her next adventure, only this time she’s doing something a little different: serving as a crucial member of an unusual team designated OPSIG Team Black as they attempt to unravel the story behind two ancient biblical documents.

With the first terrorist attack on US soil in some time, Karen Vail finds herself pulled into something much bigger than she can imagine. As she puts the pieces together and learns of the significance and implications of this attack that will likely turn to more, she is pulled into an elite group sanctioned by the President of the United States. The trail will take this crack covert team from DC to New York to Paris to England and eventually to Israel.

The first sanctioned Bible is purported to have been first recorded in 930CE, and after this document is rediscovered, in 1953, half of it goes missing. Then another document around the same time is discovered near the Dead Sea. Both items have potential revolutionary effects, depending on whose hands they end up in. Naturally there are many people from various “arenas” who would love to possess them, and it ultimately all comes back to the cradle of western religion.

There is good and bad with The Lost Codex. The bad is that since Vail is part of a team, the book doesn’t feature Vail all the time as readers have enjoyed in the past. However, the good is that this crack team has to use the various skills of each member to remain incognito and get to the bottom of these series of attacks. Jacobson has already proven he knows how to write a thriller, and in The Lost Codex, he leads his characters all over the world, infiltrating, researching, following up leads, and doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. It’s a thrilling book with a complex and fascinating story that pulls the reader in.

Originally written on October 27, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Lost Codex from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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No Way Out  Spectrum  Inmate 1577

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


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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7th Victim Velocity Crush
Inmate 1577 No Way Out

“No Way Out” by Alan Jacobson (Premier Digital Publishing, 2013)

No Way Out

In the fifth Karen Vail installment, the great FBI profiler gets to take a trip across the pond and enjoy some bangers and mash, visit Big Ben and help out some bobbies . . . no, actually, it’s much more cooler than that. Vail finds herself on orders to help out New Scotland Yard with a special kind of case that soon turns into something much more complex and terrifying, dragging her from the world of profiling and tracking to outright black ops. But if there’s anyone who can handle it, it’s the awesome Karen Vail.

No Way Out opens with Vail teaching a class at a conference in Madrid, Spain and soon finds herself in hot water and on the wrong side of the policía. Before things can get too heated, Vail gets dispatched to jolly old England for the first time in her life to help out New Scotland Yard with an explosion at a private collector’s gallery. But constables are not expecting much from a “profiler,” even when Vail starts doing her detective work and putting the pieces together.

At the heart of the explosion appears to be an attack against the supposed discovery of an original folio of one William Shakespeare, penned in his own hand. What’s more startling is its possible link to a theory that Shakespeare’s works were in fact originally written by a “dark-skinned” Italian Jewish woman, one Amelia Bassano Lanier. Since England is more synonymous with Shakespeare than the Beatles, it would come as a shocking, thermonuclear blow to the Brit population as a whole.

But as Vail continues to dig deeper, everything is not as it seems, and the case is far more complex and sinister and has ties deep within the British government. Plus one of the guys involved in solving everything turns out to be an old friend of Vail’s, Desantos, who’s working undercover and will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of these terrorist attacks. Because the guy behind it all is on the world’s most wanted list, Desantos has a score to settle, both on an international and a personal level.

No Way Out is the best Karen Vail novel yet, because Alan Jacobson has outdone himself with the research. As someone with a British parent and friends in Britain and having taken a number of vacations to London and the surrounding areas, I take a perverse joy in nitpicking and critiquing novels set in Britain that aren’t always accurate. No Way Out whisked me away to London and planted me firmly there with the culture, the language, the vocabulary . . . Jacobson did a fantastic job.

As for the detail with the British police service, MI5, British military, and even a US aircraft carrier, Jacobson has again done the work and immerses the reader seamlessly into this world. There are also a number of scenes involving the unusual British aircraft the Osprey, culminating in a final action scene that may be one of the best you will read.

What makes a Karen Vail novel so enjoyable is that Jacobson makes them as real as possible. The characters try hunches and ideas and risky plans, but unlike most thrillers, they don’t all work. There are failures and the characters have to go back to the drawing board and start again. It makes for more interesting and believable conflict in the story and keeps that reader reading.

No Way Out goes beyond being a great summer read, and may be one of if not the best thriller of 2013. Fans will love it, and brand new readers will also. Jacobson explains any necessary back-story, escorting the reader along on one wild ride that the reader wishes partly to never end, but at the same time want to find out how it all ends.

Originally written on July 24, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Now Way Out from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Inmate 1577  Velocity  Crush

Bookbanter Column: Get Lost in a Good Mystery Series: Karen Vail

When it comes to mysteries and thrillers, there are a lot of them out there.  And when it comes to a series, you want a character you at least like, enjoy reading about, and can look forward to with each book and a new mystery to solve.

Karen Vail is one of those characters.

She’s ones of the foremost FBI profilers who has done her work and time at Quantico, climbing the ranks, and is one of the more successful women working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Author Alan Jacobson put his work in with this character and series, working on it for seven years before publishing the first Karen Vail book.  He made friends with a number of people at Quantico and the FBI, learning and educating himself in just about everything so that when he starts working on one of his Karen Vail books, he has the FBI tools to make the characters real and the story not just plausible, but a great example of what goes on at in the world of the FBI every day.


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

Inmate 1577

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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Velocity  Crush  7th Victim

“Velocity” by Alan Jacobson (Vanguard Press, 2010)


After the cliffhanger of Crush, Karen Vail is right back in the thick of it.  The key to these books is the realism Alan Jacobson puts into his characters and his story, keeping the reader hooked until the end, as they simply have no idea what is going to happen next and who will survive.

We last left FBI profiler Karen Vail with the Crush killer caught, and the serial killings in the beautiful wine county of Napa Valley finally at an end; but the nightmare is still continuing for Vail, as her boyfriend and love of her life, Detective Robby Hernandez, is missing, and she doesn’t have a clue where he could be.  Vail doesn’t take a break, keeping the team together to track down and find Hernandez.  Then she gets the call she doesn’t want from her boss, ASAC Thomas Gifford: she is to come back to Washington DC right away, as her talent and skills are needed on a high profile case.  Vail tries everything she can to stay on the Hernandez case, but Gifford won’t hear of it and soon she’s back in DC working on the new case, trying to keep focused.  Vail meets up with Hector DeSantos, a government operative who knows people in high places.  Eventually everything comes down to a big confrontation, as Vail wants back on the Hernandez case, and finally learns the truth about Robby.

Hernandez was working undercover on a DEA operation, investigating the drug cartel, and a notorious kingpin Carlos Cortez.  Vail soon realizes her efforts to find Hernandez may have jeopardized his cover, after showing a photo of Vail and Hernandez with Quantico in the background.  Once Vail finds out about Gifford’s involvement with Hernandez, she’s back on the case and working with DeSantos; she will stop at nothing to get him back alive.  After her son, he’s the most important person in her life.

Alan Jacobson goes deep into the world of the drug cartels and illegal drug trafficking across the border.  Readers learn astounding details on various ways drugs are smuggled through hollow corks and on the backs of wine labels.  Velocity has both a compelling action story – equal to Crush – but also a fascinating look into a world that many people know exists, but know very little about.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on November 16, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.