by Joshua Corin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Note: This review written as part of my Amazon Vine Voice series
Joshua Corin’s new thriller, Before Cain Strikes (An Esme Stuart Novel–Mira Books 2011) at first blush seems like yet another female FBI agent struggling to balance work and family, caught in the middle of a psychopath’s murderous spree, but as with all great reads, the author’s voice saves the day. Sure, her failing marriage suffers and her young daughter is caught in the middle, and I worry until the end that she will come out divorced and alienated from her family, but Corin peoples her world with such edgy, quirky characters that you quickly forget the story has the ring of familiarity. Soon, it feels like coming home to your favorite sort of story–a brilliant criminal (Cain42) that requires an outside-the-box thinker to capture, told by a fresh voice with mounds of creativity.
Corin sets up a fascinating premise for his protagonist, Esme Stuart (love that name)–an online training school for wanna-be serial killers hidden behind impenetrable firewalls. Supported by a caste of characters that seem to be average people leading average lives who rise to the challenge of stopping this horrid creature, Esme keeps finding clues, moving forward one step at a time with alacrity and intelligence. For the sake of her personal life, she wants to stop–not run down that next clue–but her mind won’t stop working, coming up with solutions and inching toward a successful end. There are a few plot twists that strain credibility, one almost made me put the book aside, but the strength of the characters and Corin’s solid writing skills overcame my doubts.
Corin does one thing that annoyed me, though. He does what writers call ‘head hopping’. He jumps inside people’s heads to share with the reader what they are feeling. It’s OK to do this at a scene break–between paragraphs if you’re desperate, but Corin does it within paragraphs. I had to stop occasionally to figure out who I was at the moment so I could attach the right emotions.
That, though, didn’t stop me reading this book to its frightening end. Overall, it’s fresh, creative, intelligent and Esme is a great addition to literature’s quirky collection of FBI agents. I look forward to Corin’s next book.
To purchase this book from Amazon, click Before Cain Strikes (An Esme Stuart Novel)
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, an ISTE article reviewer, an IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.