It’s all too easy to let the ghosts you see consume you—but the very things that haunt you can often keep you alive and fighting, as the mysterious widower Mark Lansdowne discovers in Jones’ debut novel.
The novel opens in contemporary Missouri where Lansdowne, whose friendly exterior masks a history of covert missions and lethal violence, is still recovering from the death of his beloved wife one year prior. But as autumn gives way to winter, the outside world intrudes in a bloody fashion: A string of attacks on locals yields a spiraling body count; the apparent culprit is an animal extinct for thousands of years. A pitched battle with the creature sends Lansdowne to the hospital—where he meets a beautiful nurse—but evidence implies that the animal Lansdowne killed was not the only one of its kind. Jones’ novel confidently lays the groundwork for future books, with romantic and thriller subplots tightly interwoven in the service of a propulsive narrative. No time is wasted in introducing the characters or the creature, yet nothing feels rushed. Fans of romance may feel shortchanged by the surprisingly chaste nature of Lansdowne’s interactions with the nurse. However, thriller fans will rejoice at the well-paced vignettes and spiking tension. Jones doles out information with care, providing enough history to make things clear without overwhelming exposition. This same care is evident in the novel’s resolution, which ties up loose ends without shutting the door on further developments. Although some of the writing in the book’s early stretches is a little rough—an excess of passive voice distances the reader from the action—the language warms up as the plot develops, becoming more controlled and suited to the story line.
Jones’ skill elevates this novel from what could have been a clichéd hash of elements into an exciting, if rough-edged, debut.