Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: 'A Blood Thing' by James Hankins

Massachusetts author James Hankins is not only a movie star handsome man he is also a highly successful and honored writer. In addition to these skills he has been active as a lawyer (receiving his degree from University of Connecticut School of Law), was in health administration and embraced screenwriting. Attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, he received the Chris Columbus Screenwriting Award. His six (to date) published books - SHADY CROSS, BROTHERS AND BONES, JACK OF SPADES, DRAWN and THE PRETTIEST ONE have been popular with the public and critics alike: now he adds A BLOOD THING. As James states, `I write novels. They're all thrillers, with elements of other genres as well -- mystery, suspense, police procedural, paranormal/supernatural. I try to write books that make you want to read one more page before turning out the light . . . and then another, and, well, maybe just one more . . . ` James lives with his wife and twin sons just north of Boston.

James Hankins is a name already established but soon to be tattooed on the signpost as one of America's most significant writers in his chosen genre of Thrillers. Where he comes up with the off beat characters that should not be immediately appealing and takes us through a transformative acquaintance by the end of his book where we are committed fans is a gift. And he accomplishes this in a conversational tone that seduces us into the darkness of a place we otherwise would avoid - that old urgency to see what is in a darkened deserted cellar that hasn't seen a light source for years.

A `for instance', in introducing his main theme he opens his book with this: ‘The man looked at Sally Graham’s body on the floor again, as he had done a few dozen times since killing her. Then he looked back down at a page in his black three-ring binder, taking a long moment to study the highly detailed pencil sketch he had made of the murder scene. He was largely satisfied. The position if the body seemed mostly right, lying on its back, one arm down by its side, the other flung out as if the woman had been reaching for something as she died. The bare legs looked close to correct, too, with her left straight and her right bent slightly at the knee. He knelt down and straightened the right leg just a touch. And there were two stab wounds on the body, in just the right places, and that big curving slice across her stomach – just like his sketch. As planned, the underwear she’d been wearing was in his pocket; he would dispose of it later. The soiled panties he’d brought with him were lying on her ravaged stomach where he’d dropped them, soaking up blood. He picked them up and slipped them into a Ziploc bag, then stood and stepped back to survey the scene again. A quick glance at the sketch told him that her hair was just a little wrong. He stepped close to the body again, leaned down, and brushed a few strands away from her cheek. He nodded. That looked right.’ And so we get the flavor that leads into the story.

The author's summary is terse: ` Vermont’s promising young governor, Andrew Kane, is at another public meet-and-greet when a stranger from the crowd slips him a cell phone and whispers, “Keep this with you…keep it secret…you’re going to need it after the arrest. “Hours later, Andrew’s brother, Tyler, is taken into custody—framed for the brutal murder of a young woman—and Andrew discovers there is only one way to free him: answer the mysterious phone and agree to a blackmailer’s demands. All the governor has to do to make it all go away is compromise everything he stands for and grant a full pardon to a convicted felon. With no better option, he complies. Which is his first mistake…because the man on the phone isn’t through with him. He has another little condition. Then another. And another. And Andrew has no choice but to play along until he can find a way out of this personal and political nightmare. But he isn’t prepared for what he will face, or how far he will have to go to save his brother and keep his family together."

Defining what makes James' writing so fine is a tough task - reading him is a better approach than critiquing him. But this book is such a perfect craft that it may be his best novel yet. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, June 18

I want to thank Thomas & Mercer for providing a copy of this book so I could leave an honest, unbiased review.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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