Every Crooked Path
A novel by Steven James
Book review by Jules Brenner
Signet, released 12/1/15, 608 pp., $9.99
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James leads us into some very dark places for this latest thriller in his crime series, the Bowers Files, featuring agent Patrick Bowers of the FBI.

While studying a crime scene after the forensics team has done its work, he goes over every part of the twelfth-story New York apartment in which a man was stabbed to death 24 hours ago. His partner, Special Agent Jodie Fleming, is downstairs as he proceeds to read the blood patterns, furniture and tools markes on the probable entry point the killer used and the progression of the struggle that ended with the murder. This was Bowers' specialty: watch the scene unfold. He calls it seeing the "context."

Moving out to a small balcony, he hears a sound and calls to Jodie thinking that she's just entered the apartment. He gets no response. Instead a man appears brandishing a knife -- a well trained man bigger than Bowers' 6'4" and very well trained. But the attack is brief and, when Bowers identifies himself as an agent of the FBI, the man starts sputtering things that make no sense, asking if Bowers has the file and acting like he's in mortal danger.

He jabbers about already being dead and a "they," who will kill him.

"You have no idea how far this goes," he says...

And dashes to the balcony railing and jumps off.

Well we, indeed, have no idea, except that finding out how far the suicidal man's problem goes will be the purpose of Bowers' investigations of missing children, cybercrime, the dark web, and an organization of evil known as The Final Territory. He will understand what drove Randy MacReynold's (his attacker) to jump off the balcony.

Bowers teams up with NYPD detective Tobin Cavanaugh whose 6-year old daughter went missing years ago and Tobin has been devoted to find her and/or her killer using a unique method ever since. It gives Bowers a vital partnership and a new perspective with which to close in on the abductors and, possibly, in time to save the children who may yet be alive.

Other characters add romantic and psychological factors into the search for the conspirators, led by a man known as The Piper, while we learn that entry into the "deep web" requires a special browser and passing a vetting process by the criminals who protect it -- a very dangerous course for an undercover agent to take. When Bowers proceeds down this path, the dangers of this cabal of psychotic killers get closer... and personal.

James' use of Bowers' girlfriend Christie's young, headstrong daughter Nessa adds another note of appeal, along with tension and terror.

For a crime thriller of over 600 pages, the book lives up to its title! It's also James' first title in the series that isn't named for a chess piece or chess move. But the important thing is that James keeps you engaged in a vexing case and makes the pages fly.

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