Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date – 31 July 2018
Those looking for an intense and stimulating piece of crime fiction should look no further than the new book in the long-running FBI Thriller series, Paradox, which combines a clever murder mystery with a dark psychological thriller.
FBI Agents Sherlock and Savich wake up to their worst nightmare: an armed man in their son’s bedroom. Only just managing to foil the potential kidnapping, Sherlock and Savich are confronted by the terrible fact that their son is being targeted by someone trying to get to them. A few days later, in the small town of Willicott, Maryland, Police Chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder on the lake from the deck of her house. Both of these crimes are connected to an escaped prisoner from a mental institution and a terrifying ghost from Sherlock and Savich’s past. Things get more complicated when the lake is dredged for the victim’s body and a surprise discovery is made: the skeletal remains of several bodies that have been lying on the lake bed for years. As the FBI is called in to investigate, Ty must face the disturbing reality that her home may have been used as the dumping ground for a serial killer.
Splitting their attentions between the two cases, Sherlock and Savich hunt for a deranged killer with a serious grudge against them, but are they prepared for just how crazy their quarry is? At the same time, Ty and her new FBI partner, Sala Porto, start to investigate the recovered bodies. A distinctive belt buckle may prove to be their best lead, but this discovery will have some unexpected consequences in another small town. How are these cases connected, and what devastating secrets will be uncovered as a result?
Coulter is an extremely prolific author, having written a huge number of books since her 1981 debut. Paradox is the 22nd book in Coulter’s long-running FBI Thriller series, which has been published annually since 1996, with only one gap in 2006. The FBI Thriller series follows the investigation of a wide range of mysteries and crimes by members of the FBI, with many of the featured characters recurring through the various books. At the same time, Coulter has co-written the A Brit in the FBI books with J. T. Ellison. A Brit in the FBI is a sister series to the FBI Thriller franchise, which features several characters from the original series and already contains five books, including the 2018 release The Sixth Day.
Before this book, I had not read any of the other entries in the FBI Thriller series, and I was a little worried I might have trouble following the story of Paradox as a result. However, I was pleasantly surprised about how easily it was for me to jump into the plot of this book and enjoy the intriguing mysteries planted within. It is important to note that a significant part of the story does link back to the 13th entry in the series, Knockout. Coulter does an amazing job summarising all the relevant detail of this previous book and ensuring that the readers of Paradox are well informed of the events that could have an impact on this current case. This book also plays host to a huge range of characters employed by the FBI. While I knew that the main two agents, Sherlock and Savich, have appeared multiple times before as the main protagonists, I was uncertain about how many times any of the other characters may have appeared in previous books in the series. As a result, their inclusion and actions might not have had as much impact on me as they were supposed to, although I don’t think this takes too much away from the story. As a result, while Paradox will be particularly appealing to those readers who have enjoyed the FBI Thriller books before, new readers can easily come into the series at this point and still enjoy this excellent murder mystery.
Paradox’s story is split between two separate investigations, both of which are very different in scope and content. The focus of recurring protagonists, Sherlock and Savich, mainly involves the hunt for a deranged character from their past who is targeting several people he holds a grudge against. In the other storyline, new characters Ty Christie and FBI Agent Sala Porto are investigating the bodies found within the lake, and find themselves on the hunt for a previously undiscovered serial killer. Both cases are exceedingly interesting and offer different things to the reader. The hunt for the fugitive who has committed recent crimes becomes a desperate game of cat and mouse between the investigators and the killer, and both sides have trouble predicting the actions of the other. As a result, this storyline is faster paced and set in a bunch of different locations. This storyline also relies on a darker psychological tone to stand out rather than dramatic twists, although there are a few noteworthy reveals for the reader to keep an eye out for.
The investigation into the bones on the bottom of the lake comes across as a more traditional murder mystery, as the characters associated with this case look at clues, follow evidence and interrogate a range of suspects. This story has a more fixed setting, which mostly focuses on a small town located near the lake, although there are a few detours to other locations. The examination of the connected and trusting nature of a small town is a great feature, as there are quite a few secrets and lies hidden within this friendly setting, as well as quite a few suspicious characters who show an interest in the case. This storyline turns out to contain quite an intricate mystery that contains a huge range of twists and surprises that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The final reveals are quite dramatic and have significant impacts on several characters that are introduced. This is an amazing piece of murder mystery fiction.
While these two storylines are ostensibly separate from each other, there is a bit of crossover between them. The two teams of investigators are constantly in communication with each other, and there are several discussions about their respective cases. In addition, one of the characters who is mainly investigating the bones in the lake, FBI agent Sala Porto, has a significant personal stake in finding the fugitive that Sherlock and Savich are hunting for, as one particular murder the antagonist commits haunts him throughout the book. As a result, he and Ty also meet some people associated with the hunt for the fugitive, and also make a significant break in the case towards the end of the book that adds a whole new dimension to the story. Both storylines are very well written and ensure that the readers get a variety of different elements to entertain and intrigue them.
An interesting feature of Paradox is the way that Coulter tells her story from a huge range of separate viewpoints, which helps create an interesting and unique tone for this book. While a large part of the story is told from the point of view of Ty and the FBI agents Porto, Sherlock and Savich, other characters also tell a substantial part of the story. The book’s main antagonist, the fugitive being pursued by Sherlock and Savich, probably has the next largest point-of-view scenes within the book. These chapters are particularly dark, and the insight into his mind and psyche that result from these scenes are noticeably intense and chilling. It is also fascinating to see the fugitive’s mindset as he tries to attack the people he hates, while at the same time avoid capture by the FBI. Paradox also makes use of a range of other smaller side characters, especially in the storyline where Ty and Porto investigate the bones found in the lake. These viewpoints are often brief, but are usually tied in to the relevant investigation and provide some interesting details about the suspects, as well as provide some background history to the case. There is a lot of extra detail added to some of the periphery characters, as well as a significant amount of discussion especially the relationships and past that some of these minor characters had. This focus on some of the supporting characters contributes a lot to the book’s unique tone, although at times it does feel unnecessary to go into such details.
One of the Paradox’s key highlights is the antagonist Coulter uses for the fugitive killer arc that Sherlock and Savich are investigating. Without going into too much detail, as even mentioning the character’s name may spoil the story for long-term fans of the FBI Thriller series, this antagonist is a fantastic and memorable addition to the story. The chapters focused on this antagonist are excellently written and turn Paradox into a partial psychological thriller, as it examines a rather unhinged character. This character is definitely a stand-out part of this book, and represents a great return from a previous entry in the FBI Thriller series.
The latest book from bestselling author Catherine Coulter, Paradox, is an outstanding piece of modern crime fiction that presents two enthralling crime based storylines that compliment each other, working together to create a highly enjoyable and intriguing overall narrative. Dark, clever and character driven, Paradox is an excellent addition to the long-running FBI Thriller series that will be equally appealing to both long-term fans of the franchise and causal readers looking for a new mystery fix.