Over her varied career, Jess Lourey has amassed a loyal fanbase who not only devour her books the moment they appear, but who will also tell everyone they know to read her work. After a stellar run of standalones in which her profile in the crime fiction community continued to rise, Lourey announced that her next novel would be the start of a new series. For other writers, this might have been a risky move, but Jess Lourey has not only proven her astute business acumen, but also always manages to provide the highest quality narrative regardless of genre or style. It is with that knowledge that the crime fiction community celebrates the launch of The Taken Ones, the first full-length Steinbeck and Reed Thriller.
Devoted fans of Jess Lourey may have already met the characters of Evangeline Reed and Harry Steinbeck in the novella Catch Her in a Lie, their first case together which found them jetting off to Costa Rica. While it’s not necessary to read that novella before diving into The Taken Ones, completists may want to grab a copy. Otherwise, everything you need to know about that case (and there is a BIG something to know) is revealed in The Taken Ones.
In The Taken Ones, readers will learn that Evangeline “Van” Reed is an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCU) and that Harry Steinbeck is a forensic scientist. The death of a woman who was buried alive reactivates a cold case involving two girls who went missing in a Minnesota forest back in 1980. Van is placed in charge of the newly active cold case and Harry is once again assigned to assist her efforts.
Aiming to keep her readers on their toes and to never allow a moment of downtime, Jess Lourey has packed this novel with a seemingly endless trail of complexities. In less capable hands, this hodge-podge would have become a hot mess, but Lourey never loses sight of the main narrative, and each new revelation either adds depth to her characterizations or provides another unexpected avenue of investigation for the central case.
Since this is a police procedural, having a fully realized setting is vital to the novel and as with the majority of Lourey’s work, Minnesota itself becomes a character. The standalones, which have been largely inspired by true crimes in the region, have certainly proven that this area is chockfull of atmosphere and criminal potential. Jess Lourey feels an affinity for folklore and urban myths, which also finds its way into The Taken Ones. The historical crime—three girls going into the woods and only one returning—alludes to the legend of the Bendy Man, a fictional, but creepy-as-hell creation from the author’s twisted mind.
Both Van and Harry have tragic pasts, which are only touched upon in The Taken Ones. By embedding those morsels early, Jess Lourey has guaranteed that readers will come racing back for future entries in this series. Certainly, the central case is satisfactorily solved, but there are multiple threads in the lives of the main characters that can be mined for conflict and that still need resolution.
The Taken Ones is a fast and thrilling read that is sure to both please Jess Lourey’s existing fanbase as well as bring new readers into the fold. All of us are anxious to see what Steinbeck and Reed are up to next.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.