J. A. Kerley- The Death Box

jkCarson Ryder thought he’d seen everything. A specialist in twisted crimes, Detective Carson Ryder thought he’d seen the lowest depths of human depravity. But he’s barely started his new job in Miami when called to a horrific scene: a concrete pillar built of human remains, their agony forever frozen in stone. Finding the secret of the pillar drags him into the sordid world of human trafficking, where one terrified girl holds the key to unraveling a web of pain, prostitution and murder. There’s just one problem: Ryder’s not the only one chasing the girl. And the others will kill to keep the secret safe.

I’m currently relishing catching up with this series, after somehow overlooking the last two releases- The Memory Killer (published in June) is next on the list. In a change of direction, Detective Carson Ryder has upped sticks and moved from the sultry climes of his native Mobile in Alabama to Miami, as part of the team of consulting specialists at the Florida Centre for Law Enforcement. His reputation as a man in tune with the mental processes of the most dark and depraved criminal minds, has paved the way for his inclusion in this new team, leaving behind some of the stalwart characters of the series to date. As Ryder navigates his way in his new home (a temporary palatial beach side residence appropriated from an incarcerated crime lord), a new job, and a fairly unwelcoming team of detectives overseen by a scheming and slippery boss, Roy McDermott, the scene is set for a whole new chapter in Ryder’s life. However, I was delighted to discover that Ryder’s escaped psychotic brother Jeremy makes a welcome appearance, to aid the continuity of the sharp change in direction of the series…

What I love about Kerley’s writing is the instant shock factor that unerringly drives his books. The opening to this one is particularly harrowing, with a container full of illegal immigrants arriving in Miami, with the majority of them dead, or close to death. As the plot progresses, Kerley provides an insight into the horrific nature of human trafficking and the awful fate that awaits them (in particular the women) as the overseers of this lucrative business, treat them no better than chattels to be exploited and used. The discovery of the concrete pillar of human remains is particularly poignant and unsettling, and immediately appeals to the crusading and humane nature of Ryder, to identify this people and bring their killers to justice. As Ryder pursues the traffickers, and a young girl who has escaped their clutches, what follows is a violent and breathless thriller, that will shock and delight in equal measure. The plot is well executed, as Kerley has an innate skill at controlling the pace and measure of his storylines, and I found this difficult to put down, despite the sometimes more graphic and disturbing elements of the narrative, but what I think Kerley has achieved most successfully is the intergration of Ryder into a new team and locale.

The character of Ryder is pretty much played to form as a bit of a loner with a strong moral core, and not afraid to kick some butts when the occasion arises. I like the moral integrity he displays, and although I’m entirely familiar with him as a character, I enjoy the sense of familiarity that each book brings. In most crime thrillers, a main character is only as successful as those that surround him, and although this book lacks the larger life sidekick of Harry Nautilus (from the Alabama based books) Kerley has quickly established a strong base to work from, and Ryder’s new youthful partner Ziggy Gershwin may come to fill Harry’s big shoes!  Ryder’s new boss Roy McDermott is a somewhat Machievellian character despite his outwardly cheerful disposition and the team of detectives, that are initially so suspicious of Ryder, certainly have room for development individually. I also liked the prickly and focused Chief Forensic Examiner, Vivian Morningstar, who delivers her barbed asides like an evil Cupid. As I said previously, Ryder’s errant brother Jeremy also makes an appearance to keep us grounded in the previous series, so all in all this a welcome conglomeration of old and new. A good read once again from Kerley and can’t wait to get started on The Memory Killer…

Jack Kerley spent years as an advertising agency writer and producer before his wife demanded he quit work and write a novel, which he thought a fine idea. The result was The Hundredth Man, the first in the Carson Ryder series. An avid angler, canoeist and hiker, Kerley has travelled extensively throughout the South, especially coastal regions such as Mobile, Alabama, the setting for many of his novels, and the Florida Keys. He has a cabin in the Kentucky mountains, which appeared as a setting in Buried Alive. He lives in Newport, Kentucky, where he enjoys sitting on the levee and watching the barges rumble up and down the Ohio River. Visit his website www.jackkerley.com

(I bought this copy of The Death Box)



J. A. Kerley- The Killing Game (Carson Ryder 9)

Product DetailsAfter a humiliating encounter with a cop, Romanian immigrant Gregory Nieves launches a vendetta against the Mobile Police Department, Alabama. Nieves can’t fight a department, so he selects one man who symbolizes all men in blue: Carson Ryder, the MPD’s specialist in bizarre and twisted crimes. Carson has never seen a killing spree like this one: Nothing connects the victims, the murder weapon is always different, and the horrific crime scenes are devoid of evidence. It almost seems he’s being taunted. Even laughed at. Carson doesn’t know it yet, but he is caught up in a sadistic game of life and death. And there can only be one victor…

I must confess to being quite the fan of this brand of serial killer thriller, and would definitely cite Jack Kerley as one of the most accomplished exponents of the genre along with Richard Montanari and Chris Carter. In this, the latest outing for the mercurial Detective Carson Ryder and sidekick Harry Nautilus, the series continues apace with a particularly screwed-up killer who definitely instils an uncomfortable feeling in the reader with his peculiarly scatological nature…

If you are a regular reader of Kerley there is much to delight you here, and once again he plunders the darkest recesses of his imagination to bring us a suitably depraved and imbalanced killer. Gregory Nieves, struggling with the weight of his sociopathic tendencies and involuntary bowel problems, yes, I did say involuntary bowel problems, is a great construct. Here is a man who draws on other people’s facial expressions, garnered from TV an magazine adverts, practicing them daily, to try and give the impression that he is in some way close to normal- not a premise I have come across in a book and that leads to some lovely  moments of humour. After a routine traffic stop that causes an extreme moment of embarrassment for Nieves, he declares war on the local police department, and naturally Ryder becomes a focus for our killer. As Nieve’s bizarre relationship with his own sister Ema comes to light and the disturbing nature of their childhood comes to light, it becomes apparent that Nieves is not the only problem for Ryder, as Nieves begins to exact his twisted revenge. Once again, Kerley has excelled in his characterisation not only constructing a truly creepy killer, but putting Ryder through the mill not only with his on-going challenging of his superiors, but also immersing him in a love triangle with a comely young student, and his long term on-and-off squeeze the brilliant pathologist Clair Peltier. As Ryder navigates the waters of office politics and affairs of the heart, along with determinedly pursuing a serial killer, there is much to hold the reader’s interest, and as always the interplay with Ryder and his larger than life partner, Harry Nautilus, remains a central strength of the book.

Yes, I would say the storyline is a little far-fetched and not the fare for the more delicate reader, with only a fleeting visit from Ryder’s intelligent and psychopathic brother Jeremy ( personally speaking my favourite character of the series overall), but Kerley just sucks you in completely, amidst the more nonsensical aspects of the plot and you enjoy the ride. The book ends with a tantalising prospect for a change of direction for our hero Ryder, so bring it on Mr Kerley. I can’t wait….

J A Kerley worked in advertising and teaching before becoming a full-time novelist. He lives in Newport, Kentucky, but also spends a good deal of time in Southern Alabama, the setting for his Carson Ryder series, starting with ‘The Hundredth Man’: http://www.jackkerley.com/

(With thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC – www.killerreads.com )

J. A. Kerley- Her Last Scream

Her Last Scream

Across the US, a secret network of crisis centres permanently relocates women in serious danger from domestic abuse. But now someone is killing them before they reach their destinations. Detectives Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus are having trouble gaining the trust of the volunteers who run the scheme. The only way in is for an undercover police officer to pose as a threatened woman, making herself a target and drawing the killer out. Reinetta Early is the ideal candidate – but she also happens to be Harry’s niece. He always promised his sister that he would keep Reinetta safe from harm. Suddenly he’s unsure if he can even keep her alive…

I’ve been a fan of the Carson/Nautilus series for some time and always look forward to the next instalment but did find myself a wee bit disappointed with this one. Although the central premise of somebody targeting abused women using the modern day equivalent of the old slavery underground railroad was interesting, I’m afraid to say that I did find this book a little stilted in the unfolding of the story. I also thought the rather unbelievable inclusion of Nautilus’ nearest and dearest being thrust into the path of a killer after so little time in the police force did grate on me and also subdued the natural and entertaining interplay between himself and Carson as Nautilus spends the whole book with his panties in a bunch. Whilst not the best of the series new readers could pick up and enjoy this and then have the joy of going back and starting Kerley’s series from the beginning.