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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Book Review: Desert Remains by Steven Cooper

This was a great find and the Parker/Mills books are turning into a favorite series very quickly (there are currently two books and – spoiler alert – both are very well done). I was contacted by the then-publisher, Seventh Street Books, about reviewing the newest title (Dig Your Grave) and while I was intrigued, I have a habit of not reading later series books if I haven’t read the earlier ones, so politely declined – until they offered the first book as well. Since I was intrigued by the premise (a psychic and detective working together) and the somewhat unusual (for me) setting of Phoenix, Arizona, I agreed to give the books a look.

I’m so glad I did!

Cooper has managed to create a world of collaborative murder-solving between a psychic (Gus Parker) and a detective (Alex Mills) that reads intelligently, without judgment, and with an interesting amount of insight into the interaction between private and professional lives in two very different characters. The personalities are a lot of what make the book so enjoyable. Gus is, self-proclaimed, a bit of an aging surfer dude. His relaxed attitude, attention to New Age-y self-help like meditation and mantras, and intuitive style are a great foil to Alex’s harder, more traditional tough-guy cop. Neither fully plays to type – these aren’t stereotypes come to life on the page, they are living, breathing characters with all the attendant inconsistencies, flaws, and frailties of full-blooded people. Cooper does a fantastic job presenting them and their actions in this light, and their depth and breadth play out in great detail as the book – and murders – unfold.

The writing is very good. Cooper has a very easy-going, engaging writing style. I fell right into the world he has created from the get-go, and didn’t want to leave it by the end of the book. The pacing is spot-on, the twist was one I didn’t see coming (although in hindsight maybe should have, a little bit), and the tension was real and gripping throughout. The supporting cast is very well crafted also, on both sides. On Alex’s side – from his wife to his compatriots (and foils) at the police station/city hall – and Gus’s – specifically his mentor Beatrice (one of my personal favorites) and his slate of clients (both at the imaging center and his psychic ones) – the characters are really what drives this story forward and makes it such an enjoyable read.

The murders were interesting also, don’t get me wrong. The petroglyphs and murderer’s backstory were great and unusual angles that I found fascinating and original, and the teasing plotting out of the reveals and misdirection were well handled and definitely contributed to the story, but the characterization was so strong that it really drove everything home for me.

I’m definitely looking for more from Steven Cooper!

Thanks to Seventh Street books for my review copy of this book.

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