Every Crooked Path

Every Crooked PathEvery Crooked Path by Steven James
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Published by Signet on December 1, 2015
Pages: 608
Also by this author: The Queen, Opening Moves, The King, Checkmate, Fury


About Every Crooked Path (from the back cover):
Who is the Piper? . . . 

A mysterious suicide and a series of abductions draw Patrick into a web of intrigue involving an international conspiracy where no one is who they appear to be and the stakes have never been higher.

Soon, Patrick discovers that the secret to stopping the Piper’s current crime spree lies in unlocking answers from an eight-year-old cold case—and the only way to do that is by entering the terrifying world of the conspirators himself.

Dark, probing, and chilling, Every Crooked Path takes an unflinching look at the world of today’s cybercrimes and delves into a parent’s worst nightmare as it launches a new chapter of Patrick Bowers thrillers.

When I pick up a Steven James book, I know I’m in for an incredible story with a complex plot and excellent characters.  In a nutshell, that’s my opinion of Every Crooked Path—which I think that’s been my opinion of all his books to date.  I love them and look forward to the next one each year.  So with another year and another book read, I yet again have another year to wait impatiently for the next Patrick Bowers book.

When I pick up a Steven James book, I know I’m in for an incredible story with a complex plot and excellent characters.

Having finished the ‘chess’ series, I was curious to find out if Steven could recapture the magic of those books.  Every Crooked Path is set before the events of the Pawn, during his FBI tenure in New York.  Long time readers will be familiar with Tessa, but getting to know her mom, Christie, is a real treat.  She’s so alive and so very likeable.  The dynamics between Christie and Patrick are excellent, which makes knowing how their future turns out even more dramatic.  I do hope there are a lot of books in this new chapter of the Bowers Files as I look forward to spending more time with Christie and slowly watching the events I know to expect unfold.

The subject matter of Every Crooked Path is tough—really tough.  As in more than a few nights I spent ample time praying for my children.  Steven does not dive into sordid details nor does he provide descriptions of what some of the characters see or do.  But the subject matter and the immense reach of child pornography providers is enough to unsettle many readers.  This is a difficult subject matter and while it is handled tactfully, simply sticking one’s toe into the mind of those justifying child pornography and molestation as well as tactics by pedophiles and kidnappers is enough to make most uncomfortable.

The subject matter of Every Crooked Path is tough—really tough.

As with all of Steven’s books, he explores some good themes and topics.  I loved watching the characters process the different sides to human nature and desire.  While Tessa often plays a major portion in working through themes, I very much enjoyed watching things sorted through Francis’ mind.  In fact, I really loved this character.  Francis is awkwardly endearing.  His sympathetic backstory helps the reader better understand his struggles.  His job is certainly a challenge and his ‘hobby’ equally difficult.  He’s a complex character with a rich personality that I hope to see in subsequent books.

I would love to say that I figured out the mystery and exactly who all did what, but that would be a lie.  While I think there were enough clues to make some pretty logical deductions and figure it out, I was having too much fun letting Patrick solve it for me, that I really didn’t figure out much of the mystery.  But that’s part of what makes this series good.  While pieces of the puzzle might fall into place or be obvious early, most of the time it takes the entire book for everything to be revealed.  Not only that, there are subtle and not so subtle differences in the structure of each story so that each book feels fresh and new.

I would love to say that I figured out the mystery and exactly who all did what, but that would be a lie.

I do have a small complaint with this book though, which is really more of a pet peeve.  It feels like the majority of general market books these days have a token gay or lesbian character.  Perhaps I should not have been surprised, but given the origins of this series, I was surprised to find in the opening chapter that Patrick’s FBI partner is a lesbian.  Unlike most of the books I read, I don’t think she’s going to end up being just a token, politically correct character—at least I sure hope not.   However, it feels as though the gay or lesbian character has become a trope in general market fiction, one designed to express the author’s political or social agenda rather than being a truly compelling and/or intriguing character.  Hopefully that will not be the fate of the character in this series.

Aside from this one issue (which I realize is a pet peeve), I very much enjoyed the rest of Every Crooked Path.  It’s just what long time fans of this series should expect—great characters, complex story, thought-provoking themes.  While most of this story is wrapped up, there are a few dangling threads, which means I can’t wait until this time next year when I can find out what happens next!

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