Monday, October 17, 2016

Beautiful Maids All in a Row

Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow
Random House Group: 10/11/16
eBook review copy; 325 pages
ISBN-13: 9780425285855
Iris Ballard series #1

Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow is a highly recommended thriller.

Dr. Iris Ballard is just trying to survive day to day now. Two years ago she was working as a profiler for the FBI when she and her husband were attacked in their home by a serial killer she has helped track down. Her husband was killed. Iris survived being cut open but lives daily with flashbacks, phantom pain from her wounds, and guilt. She left the FBI and is teaching at a small college, drinking and mixing it with pills to forget. She rarely gets a full night of sleep from the nightmares.

Iris happens to see her former partner, Luke Hudson, on TV, as part of the investigation to find the serial killer dubbed "The Woodsmen." She also realizes that she knew his latest victim. When Luke shows up at her door asking for help in constructing a psychological profile of the killer, she's not interested, until she sees the case file and reluctantly agrees to help. Iris is up against an intelligent killer who thrives on control and not making mistakes. Can Iris help Luke and the FBI or has she really met her match?

Beautiful Maids All in a Row is a page-turner. The writing is good. The plot moves along with only a few stalls along the way. The serial killer is ruthless and takes pleasure in being cruel and torturing his victims. The descriptions of his actions are vivid and brutal.  Iris is depicted as a real person; she is flawed, damaged, and struggling with her own anger issues and mental health. Luke is less well developed as a character, but Harlow does set up a backstory for the two. This looks like an intriguing start of a new series. Based on this first book, I would certainly pick up the next book featuring Iris Ballard. Yeah, she's damaged physically and emotionally, but she is also tough and determined.

There are several flaws in this novel, but, after I learned that Harlow was 19 when she wrote this years ago, I am choosing to overlook them - even though she has written several books since and could have, perhaps edited some of the questionable material out or added material to keep it realistic in the novel. Specifically I'm questioning the opening addictive behavior of Iris and the abrupt cessation of her addictive pattern. A patch is mentioned for the smoking (not as easy as all that) but what about the drugs and alcohol? The something in the mouth scene was too close to Silence of the Lambs for me. But, moving beyond any qualms, I think Iris has a lot of potential for more investigations.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

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