Oliver’s (Coyote, 2017, etc.) “cowgirl philosopher” returns in this Las Vegas-set mystery-thriller.
Jessica James’ rough-hewn manner belies her training in philosophy, and her penchant for finding trouble has led her into three previous adventures. The latest book in the series finds her taking a bus from her home in Whitefish, Montana, to Las Vegas, where her ailing mother asks her to find a stage magician named Zane “the Mesmerizer” Powers, whom she says is Jessica’s biological father. Needing a place to stay, Jessica gets back in touch with dancer Cayenne Scarlett, who was born Mackenzie “Kennie” Czarnowski, “the only popular girl who’d been nice to Jessica in high school…probably because Kennie’s dyslexia had made it necessary for her to cheat off Jessica to pass English lit.” Kennie has since “made it big” dancing with Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, but it quickly becomes obvious to Jessica that there’s more to her old schoolmate than meets the eye. Just as in previous installments, Jessica soon finds herself embroiled in a dark plot—this time involving a black market organ-harvesting operation. She also uncovers darker personal revelations about Kennie, as well as her own mother. This series entry, like the others, crackles with energy throughout; Oliver has a good ear for dialogue and a keen instinct for pacing, and her scene-setting gets more evocative with every outing: “The sunlight set the rocks ablaze in orange light, and the otherworldly scenery transported her back to the age of the dinosaurs.” Jessica remains an instantly likable protagonist, but Oliver resists the temptation to pair her with a one-dimensional villain; indeed, her antagonist is, in some ways, the most intriguing character in the book. The well-orchestrated conclusion will leave fans of the series eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
A fast-paced and engaging Jessica James outing.