Friday, September 1, 2023

Maidens of the Cave - Stone Maidens #2

Maidens of the Cave is the second procedural crime thriller featuring FBI forensic anthropologist Christine Prusik, written by Lloyd Devereux Richards. Released 1st Aug 2023 by HarperCollins on their Wm. Morrow paperbacks imprint, it's 368 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a gritty, well written FBI serial killer procedural featuring an unconventional forensic anthropologist investigator who is often at loggerheads with her supervisors and doesn't have time for office politics when there are evil people to be brought to justice. 

It's very tensely written; an action driven lone wolf dogged investigator with loads of atmosphere and a feeling of real threat. The opening scene, almost a prologue, which sets up the entire story arc was honestly quite difficult to read in its brutality. The author has very good technical expertise with descriptive prose, and although the dialogue is a bit rough in places, it's never clunky and I never found myself yanked out of the story by overwrought descriptions or action. The plot hinges on some outlandish methods of murder, and, fair props to the author, a twist, which he got 100% correct. (Well played, sir. Well played).

This is definitely not a cozy mystery and much of the action, which includes poisoning, violent murder, and child abuse (may be potentially triggering to some readers. Despite being the second book in the series, all necessary back-story is provided in context, and the mystery is self contained in this volume, so it could be read as a standalone. 

The author is adept and competent. Although it's not at all derivative, the vibe here felt a lot like Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme books, and fans of that series will likely enjoy this one as well. Although it's tempting to compare the protagonist to the Temperance Brennan (Bones) books, this series is much darker and more graphic in both description and plot.

Four stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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