There is a reason that author Josh Lanyon has landed on my auto-buy list and it has everything to do with the consistent delivery of top-notch mysteries that center on plot and character rather than endless bouts of sex and weak story lines. When I read a mystery novel, I want one that keeps me guessing and is intelligently written and that just about sums up what Lanyon delivers every time. This author has been on my to be read list again and again and so I thought who better to begin my Reading Challenge Month 2016 TBR Week than someone who leaves me satisfied each and every time.
The Mermaid Murders introduces us to a new team of FBI agents, Sam Kennedy and Jason West. The pairing of these two was deliberate as their boss, SAC Manning, desperately wants to find enough evidence to bring Kennedy down off his pedestal—a place where his near flawless field work in putting serial killers behind bars has put him. But Kennedy is a lone wolf—older, sharp, and not one given to diplomatic exchanges, he often alienates not only anyone unlucky enough to be partnered with him, but the law enforcement agencies that call him in for help. In fact, it is his latest fiasco that involved cutting a city official down to size on national television that has landed him his new partner/babysitter, Jason West.
Jason is a definite fish out of water when it comes to violent crimes. His time in the FBI is spent tracking down art thieves and while it has its fair share of danger, it isn’t anywhere near the level of what he’s currently been assigned. Uneasy about having to report in on Kennedy’s actions and being caught in the middle of whatever grudge SAC Manning has against his new partner, Jason tries to resist being snarky towards the frigid Kennedy. However, after having been shut out repeatedly by the older agent, Jason chafes at the superior attitude Sam Kennedy gives off and is ready for this assignment to be done.
One of the interesting twists in this story is that Jason finds himself returning to the very town where the first murder of a young teenage girl took place a decade before—it just so happens that she was his best friend. Now with the “huntsman” behind bars, someone is playing the copycat and has killed another girl, leaving behind the chilling souvenir of a carved mermaid in her mouth. This was the Huntsman’s signature when he originally began his killing spree so long ago. Sam and Jason are now in a race against the clock to discover whether they are indeed dealing with a copycat or if Sam had really messed up and overlooked a potential partner that is still roaming free and picking up where his predecessor left off.
Josh Lanyon writes taut, fast-paced stories that have larger than life characters who are deeply flawed and vulnerable, while still exuding professionalism and a sense of street-smart toughness. Sam Kennedy is your classic lawman and even looks the part–chiseled jaw, slightly graying temples, yet physically fit and sporting a frosty demeanor that would stop any speculation about his abilities dead in their tracks. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy who finds working with partners both annoying and slightly demeaning. But there is something about Jason that manages to sneak in under that rough exterior and capture Sam where he lives. When that feeling blossoms into physical attraction, all bets are off and we begin to see the more human side of Sam and he becomes one of the most appealing characters that Lanyon has written to date.
Jason is endearing from the start—smart with a sharp sense of humor, he manages to endure Sam’s abrasive overtures and make headway in their case. But Jason also finds himself dealing with multiple flashbacks—first the fact that he is returning to a town where his best friend was murdered and secondly, recovering from being shot during an art bust that went bad. Both these things have him on edge and questioning himself—not to mention the fact that Sam feels he may be unfit for duty when Jason momentarily freezes after a suspect pulls a gun on him. All in all theirs is an uneasy alliance and the fact that Jason also finds Sam attractive does not bode well.
Once again, author Josh Lanyon creates a wonderful chemistry between her agents and as they fight to unravel the mystery of the mermaid murderer, they also fight against their own attraction to one another. With continual twists and turns, this mystery is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page. The Mermaid Murders is the start of a series called The Art Of Murder by Josh Lanyon. I cannot wait for the next installment!
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of this week’s fabulous prizes from NineStar Press. One lucky winner will receive a copy of all the NineStar Press releases for six months in ebook, and another will win a collection of seven print books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on TBR Pile Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!