Field of Graves is actually the first book ever written by bestselling novelist J.T. Ellison, though it was not published until this year. A prequel story to her popular series, this book offers insight into her characters by providing an origin story for Taylor Jackson and the rest of the recurring cast.
When Lieutenant Taylor Jackon is called into Vanderbilt University to investigate a homicide, the circumstances surrounding the murder immediately make the young detective question the killer’s motives. Specifically, the body was laid out and left in such a way as to draw attention, as if they wanted to make a show out of the killing and ensure the police would invest significant resources into their investigation.
Before Taylor is able to make any real headway in the case, another young woman is found dead. She, too, was a student. Other than that, the two murders don’t appear to be related.
Dr. Samantha Owens, a medical examiner and recurring character later on in the series, is the first person to find a link between the two victims. During the autopsies, she discovered traces of a specific poison that’s present in both of the girls’ blood, which can only mean one thing. A serial killer is on the loose.
Making the case more difficult is the fact that Taylor is battling her own demons. She’s plagued by anxiety and panic attacks, both of which are the result of a shooting she was previously involved in. After running into a couple of dirty cops, one of them attacked her, forcing Taylor to fire on him. The cop was killed, and Taylor was later cleared of any wrongdoing, but the entire ordeal has left her battling PTSD.
Taylor, in need of help and in a hurry to uncover and stop the killer before he can strike again, brings in an FBI profiler by the name of John Baldwin to lend a hand.
Like Taylor, John has his own issues, which makes their work relationship complex and somewhat rocky to start out with. (It sort of reminded me of the Mel Gibson and Danny Glover characters in Lethal Weapon. It just works!) However, the two learn to play off each other’s strengths, forming a dynamic, crime-solving duo.
While both Taylor and Baldwin have seen a lot in their respective careers, nothing could have prepared them for the case they’re now working together. As girls continue to go missing, their bodies turning up days later, they have to find a way to put off fixing themselves and hold it together long enough to catch the elusive killer.
Dark and creepy in all the right ways, Field of Graves is a fun and thrilling mystery that makes CSI look like child’s play.
J.T. Ellison can really bring it! I absolutely love that she published the novel that got her an agent, but never saw the light of day until, well, now. Lots of authors are going back and writing origin stories for their series and characters once they become a hit, but this is different.
Field of Graves is an organic origin story. Presumably, Ellison worked off of this draft when developing her characters for other books. Therefore, she didn’t have to make things fit and work backward because the story was already there. Reading it provides great, in-depth background information on her most beloved characters.
I honestly expected this story to be flawed, assuming that because it was the author’s first attempt at writing a novel, it would lack the growth and experience she’s accumulated since then. After all, Ellison has already published seven books in this series before Field of Graves.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she’s delivered a really compelling, relentless mystery that brings raw emotion and everyday problems to the forefront of who her characters are. They felt real. Taylor is not your typical, cookie-cutter female protagonist. She deals with the kind of problems that many people can identify with and relate to. Therefore, it’s easy to connect and bond with her.
While I did find this story to be a tad more character-driven than other mystery novels, the story itself is top-notch. I was left guessing right up until the ending and thought everything was tied up nicely.
If a good mystery is what you crave, J.T. Ellison has you covered!
Author: J.T. Ellison
Pages: 357 (Hardcover)
Release Date: June 14, 2016 (Order now!)