The Pawn by Stephen James is an outstanding debut novel. This criminal investigation story focuses around Special Agent Patrick Bowers, expert on capturing the most devious of criminals. Bowers is given a case, however, that even he cannot seem to solve. A man called the Illusionist, a cruelly intelligent and confident mastermind, has been leaving a trails of clues to several murders, including his signature chess piece, a white pawn. These clues have been leaving criminal profilers stumped and wondering when the next crime will be committed. With another woman abducted, time is ultimately running out.
With an M.A. in storytelling, James does credit to his degree in his ability to create elaborate plots and complex character development. James refrains from pulling any punches as he delivers a story full of terrifying twists and turns, while keeping a sound message of love and forgiveness easily intertwined. As God can forgive even the most desperate sinner, so do the characters in this story learn that to stop cruelty and evil, one must sometimes empathize with the damaged human being who is acting out his pain.
The dialogue of this story is true to the characters and develops the storyline instead of dragging it along. The pace is very fast, with the story spanning two decades. Each character is given his or her own voice, usually overlapping onto each other so that the action never seems to stop. Character reactions are also well portrayed and not watered-down, making them more human and relatable. They reach a point of having to make difficult decisions and not the right ones, but this is where James’ underlying theme of forgiveness shines.
I appreciated the realistic descriptions of the crimes, but would not recommend this book for children under the age of thirteen. There are many mature elements, including murder and self-mutilation, which would not be good for younger readers. More mature readers, however, can enjoy this book for its unique look into the criminal investigation process and how this can lead even the most hardened hearts back to God. – Heather Schultz, Christian Book Previews.com
Special Agent Patrick Bowers never met a killer he couldn't catch.
Called to North Carolina to consult on the case of an area serial killer, Bowers finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Cunning and lethal, the killer is always one step ahead of the law, and he's about to strike again. It will take all of Bowers's instincts and training to stop the man who calls himself the Illusionist.