JEOPARDY SURFACE by Sheri Leigh Horn


Email this review


A debut murder mystery chronicles an emotionally addled FBI agent’s pursuit of a serial killer.

Jennifer Abbott, a young college student, goes missing—a story that attracts national attention—and when her body is found, FBI agent Regan Ross is asked to assist in the investigation. This murder is a particularly grisly one, and Ross suspects that this isn’t the perpetrator’s first. Also, the killer purposely leaves clues on a geocaching website, a taunting challenge to law enforcement. After Ross speaks to forensic psychologist Dr. Sheridan Rourke—she’s visiting Quantico to deliver a special lecture—the agent becomes convinced that the same man who killed Abbott is responsible for a string of murders in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Ross is relentlessly hounded by Monica Spears, a reporter intent on interviewing her about her traumatic past. Horn builds the story around Ross’ complex character—a brilliant expert at geographic profiling, she served with distinction in the Army in Iraq. Ross also suffers deeply from the untimely deaths of her parents, a loss she refuses to confront but that still stubbornly haunts her. Her authentic emotions and eccentricity—she’s a martial arts expert who owns a vintage Porsche—lend plausibility to the narrative as a whole. Her pain is depicted delicately—the reader will likely be relieved when she’s ordered by her superior to see a psychotherapist. But the personal drama that parallels the crime story can be gratuitously intricate. For example, Ross’ sister, Erin, a single parent, ends up entangled in a romantic relationship with Rourke. Ross only discovered her sister was a lesbian after Erin’s daughter, Lanie, was nearly killed in a brutal assault by a group of teens. And Rourke’s former lover might also have been a victim of the serial killer while he was still in Northern Ireland. While artfully depicted, these narrative complications can seem contrived and distract from the murder mystery’s march to resolution. But the hunt for the killer—particularly the science of criminal investigation—is described with impressive expertise and verve. The unusual braiding of sensitive, personal drama with a crime tale is inventive, if sometimes overdone, and generally makes for a gripping read.

An immersive and thoughtful account of an FBI agent’s professional and personal travails. 

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2017
Page count: 341pp
Publisher: Perpetuity Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


ChildrenFORENSIC IDENTIFICATION by Elizabeth A. Murray
by Elizabeth A. Murray
by Pete Earley