Trying to pin down Jess Lourey’s writing style is pointless. She has crossed the gamut of sub-genres within the crime writing arena and beyond, but what has remained consistent is the presence of well-developed characters, unpredictable plots, and that elusive addictive nature that transforms fans into fanatics. That said, in her last two novels Jess Lourey has stumbled upon a trademark which she has wielded like a weapon, slaying any doubts, and racing to the top of many “to-be-read” piles. In these novels, Unspeakable Things and Bloodline, Jess Lourey has used true crimes from her home state of Minnesota as inspiration – but not as roadmaps – for her complex storylines and the results have been stellar achievements.
It’s the 1960’s and Joan Harken has seen how rough city life can be – in fact, she’s lucky to be alive after facing that violence first-hand – so when her fiancé suggests they move back to his hometown of Lilydale she embraces the idea with enthusiasm tinged with uncertainty. At first, the quaint small-town vibe of Lilydale seems like just the salve she needs to ease her mental distress, but as news of her pregnancy spreads among the townsfolks, Joan begins to notice flaws in the just-a-bit-too-perfect façade.
As a journalist, Joan becomes entangled in the unsolved disappearance of a child in the town’s history. Could what happened to this boy provide the answers Joan is looking for? When a man arrives in town claiming to be the missing boy, the reactions of the townsfolk are both surprising and concerning. Now it seems like every movement Joan makes is being monitored, and what is with that mysterious shadowy figure Joan keeps seeing out of the corner of her eye?
In Bloodline, Jess Lourey blends elements of mystery, suspense, and horror to stunning effect. The tone of the whole novel perfectly transports readers back to a time when small-town life was viewed as an ideal. And yet, Lourey elicits the same unease that Joan feels from the readers of the novel as well. Something just isn’t right here. Structurally, there is a “frame” story in Bloodline that keeps interrupting the main narrative. This frame story gives readers a clue to the trouble ahead and allows them to watch for precipitating events and evidence of shady dealings.
The plot of Bloodline continues in this serpentine manner. So many disparate parts must come together for there to be a satisfying conclusion but rest assured Jess Lourey has this under control. From the creepy service organization (called Fathers and Mothers) to the matching smallpox scars on many of the characters, this is a finely constructed tale of mystery and mayhem. Readers can’t help be be intrigued and the keeps them glued to the pages until Jess Lourey is ready to drop her biggest surprises.
Bloodline is another fabulous achievement for Jess Lourey. As a stand-alone, this novel will surely bring new readers to the fine work of this wordsmith. Waiting to see where Jess Lourey goes next is going to be the difficult part.
Disclaimer: A galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.