Title: Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund
Rachel Carver Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Ex-SBI agent Rachel Carver must hunt a group of killers on her own before time runs out in this gripping debut.
Former North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agent Rachel Carver blames herself for the collateral death of an innocent woman in her last case. Unable to accept her superior’s attempts to cover up the incident, she turned in her badge. But when a former partner asks her to consult on a new murder case, she reluctantly agrees, traveling to a small, remote mountain community, where she’s tasked with leading a group of inexperienced detectives on a hunt for the killer. The trek has hardly begun when what seems to be the act of a loner proves to be much more as Rachel’s team comes under attack—and a detective is killed in the fallout.
Now that the stakes have risen, Rachel’s old employers at the SBI step in to take over the investigation. But Rachel, convinced they are on the wrong track, continues to work the case alone. And just as she delves into the town’s past, she discovers a secret history that connects the victims—one that makes her the target of a man who would kill to keep it a secret.
Perfect for fans of Tami Hoag and J. T. Ellison, J. R. Backlund’s gripping mystery debut Among the Dead is sure to be a knock-out.
Among the Dead is an intriguing first installment in J.R. Backlund’s new series starring ex-SBI agent Rachel Carver.
Rachel left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation under a bit of a cloud when a case she was working on ended badly. So when her former partner Danny Braddock, who is now the Chief Detective for the Sheriff’s department in small NC town, asks her to work as a consultant on a murder case, she reluctantly agrees to help with their investigation. Rachel’s expertise is invaluable to the small department since they lack experience in murder investigations. There is little evidence to go on as they investigate Dean McGrath’s murder and after Andy Coughlan is murdered under the same circumstances, the biggest fear is a serial killer might be responsible. Rachel is certain there is a something in the victims’ pasts that lead to their deaths, but the SBI takes over the case in the aftermath of tragedy. However, Rachel is not convinced the SBI theory is correct but will she solve the cases before the killer strikes again?
Rachel is a flawed but immensely appealing protagonist. She can sometimes become a little overly involved and obsessed with cases and while this trait sometimes works against her, it does make her a an excellent investigator. With many years of experience under her belt, Rachel has plenty of tact and diplomacy and she does an excellent job guiding the inexperienced team during the investigation. Rachel is very hard on herself and she tends to take on misplaced guilt when things veer off course.
While the killer’s identity is known right from the beginning of the novel, the motive for the murders remains shrouded in mystery. The murderer is extremely well versed in preventing transfer of evidence so the investigation is forensically challenged right from the start. Rachel urges the team to focus their efforts on victimology in hopes they will uncover the link between the deceased and their killer but that connection is also somewhat elusive. A huge break seems to crack the case wide open but a shocking turn of events culminates in a devastating blow to the detectives. Rachel is determined not let political maneuvering derail the investigation but will she uncover the truth before it is too late?
Among the Dead is a meticulously plotted mystery with a suspense-laden storyline and an outstanding cast of characters. The novel is fast-paced with plenty of clever twists and turns. J.R. Backlund brings the story to brilliant conclusion that completely wraps up all of the loose ends. The Rachel Carver series is off to a strong beginning and it will be interesting to see what the intrepid sleuth will face in the next installment of the series.