With 19 Souls, J. D. Allen grabs the gritty PI genre by the balls and delivers a solid punch to the reader’s solar plexus. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart, but for those readers who are willing to explore the more sinister side of the human psyche, their journey will be rewarded with plenty of unexpected developments, authentic characters, and an all-encompassing noir-ish viewpoint.
The success of 19 Souls owes much to the complexity of the two main characters. Jim Bean is our flawed hero, while Sophie Evers is anything but the typical villain. It is rare to see the same level of deep understanding imparted to a book’s antagonist as to that of the series lead. So unusual that some readers may feel a bit wrong-footed through the early chapters of 19 Souls. But by the time the plot kicks into high gear, it’s clear that J. D. Allen knows what she is doing. Having the typical gender roles swapped also helps to lend the book a uniqueness – not quite jarring, but different enough to intrigue.
The novel begins in a tiny Las Vegas diner. Sophie – pretending to be Cynthia Hodge – wants to hire Jim to find her missing brother, Daniel. Needing the job, Jim agrees, which might just be the worst decision he has made (and let’s just say that he is not know for making great decisions generally). As it turns out, Sophie is not related to Daniel and her ultimate goal in finding him is very different from the one she has outlined in her client meeting.
After a brief visit to a dude ranch, Jim Bean begins to suspect that he is being played. This is the point at which the novel changes course. Suddenly Jim is hunting Sophie as he navigates the chaos she leaves in her wake. Like all good noir tales, 19 Souls needs that femme fatale and this one is about as vicious as they come.
J. D. Allen does not shy away from profanity and the novel does feature frank depictions of sexual situations. None of this feels gratuitous; and in reality, without it the whole book would ring false to the reader’s ear. This is an unflinchingly gritty tale, wonderfully written and wholly satisfying. 19 Souls is the launch of a new series. It remains to be seen where Sin City Investigations will go from here, but based on this first taste it certainly isn’t going to be a smooth or predictable ride.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.