Title: At Rope’s End by Edward Kay
Dr. James Verraday Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Dr. James Verraday is a professor of forensic psychology specializing in eyewitness recall and criminal profiling. He’s a brilliant original thinker with a passion for social justice and a very antagonistic relationship with authority, especially the police force. So when Detective Constance Maclean appears in Verraday’s lecture hall at the end of one of his classes, he bristles. But the body of a young woman has just been found in a cranberry bog south of Seattle, and Maclean is convinced that this murder is tied to an earlier killing.
The Seattle police already have a suspect in custody for that case, but Maclean suspects the lead detective is knowingly putting away an innocent man to boost his numbers and quiet his critics. Verraday reluctantly agrees to use his skills as a profiler to help out with the investigation–if only to satisfy his own conviction that law enforcement is riddled with corruption. They form an unlikely alliance and soon find themselves tied up in a deadly game to find a serial killer whose wealth and influence make him almost untouchable.
Featuring a psychology professor and a Seattle police detective, Edward Kay’s Dr. James Verraday mystery series is off to an intriguing beginning with At Rope’s End.
With the discovery of Rachel Friesen’s body in a cranberry bog, Detective Constance Maclean is certain a serial killer is preying on vulnerable young women. But with another suspect about to stand trial for murder of a young woman she believes is the murderer’s first victim, Maclean needs to not only find the real killer, but put together an airtight case. She turns to Dr. James Verraday, a psychology professor at a nearby university, to help put together a profile of the killer. With Verraday embroiled in a lawsuit with the Seattle Police Department, his involvement needs to be kept on the down low, and following another murder, the pressure is on for them to unmask an increasingly sadistic killer.
James and Constance are both very complex characters with complicated backstories. James’s troubles with the Seattle Police Department began at a young age following a car accident that killed his mom and put his sister Penny in a wheelchair. His current lawsuit stems from an incident at rally so his bitterness towards the department is quite understandable. Constance also has her share of heartache in her past, including a firefighter father who lost his life in the line of a duty and a troubled history with a fellow police officer. Of the two, Constance is the most well adjusted but by novel’s end, James is making progress coming to terms with his past.
The investigation into the murders is interesting with James and Constance quickly discovering the latest victims were involved with a sketchy website called Assassin Girls. The women were fetish models on the site and Verraday and Maclean soon deduce their killer most likely found them through their online profiles. Constance quickly zeroes in on a somewhat creepy shop owner as a viable suspect but James is certain he is not the killer. A valuable clue they discover after the murderer claims the life of a third victim could crack the case wide open, but are their sights set on the right person?
During the investigation, James is plagued by a series of puzzling incidents that are more irritating than threatening. He initially dismisses the strange occurrences but he soon begins to wonder if there might be more going on then he first thought. A chance encounter with someone James has history with convinces him he knows the identity of the stalker but is his supposition correct? Or will James regret not paying closer attention to a few other odd things that failed to rouse his suspicions?
At Rope’s End is a fast-paced police procedural with a fantastic crime fighting duo that I look forward to seeing in future installments of the Dr. James Verraday series. The mystery element is fairly unique and the investigation into the murders is pretty straightforward. The murderer is apprehended pretty quickly with little fanfare or suspense which is a little disappointing since there is not much opportunity for the reader to try to guess whodunit. James and Constance are very likable characters with plenty of depth and it will be fun to see what direction Edward Kay will take their relationship in future works. All in all, a great mystery than fans of the genre will enjoy.