Take 2 with our thrillers this week is more in line with the traditional sense of the genre. This one’s a crime thriller that follows both a serial killer and the PI that’s unknowingly connected to him. It gets pretty gory (though not in my review!) so if that’s more your speed I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy here!
The Beholder by Steven Hague
Genre: Crime Thriller
When unlicensed PI Zac Hunter takes on a routine missing person case for a hotshot movie producer, he figures he can do a little good and make a little dough. But as the case sucks him deeper into the seedy underworld of L.A.’s strip clubs and sex dens, he starts to wonder just what the hell he’s gotten himself into.
Eight hundred miles away, a deranged serial killer who calls himself the Beholder has a master plan. He’s waited the best part of twenty years to get reacquainted with Hunter, and now he finally has the object of his obsession in his sights.
As the two men draw inexorably closer, the death toll climbs on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, while the misery of illegal immigration and enforced prostitution is laid bare. Soon, the Beholder’s depraved scheme will bring about their reunion, and Hunter will find himself at the mercy of a true psychopath – a man whose capacity for evil knows no bounds…
This one is actually the third in this series but I didn’t feel like I was missing too much by not having read the first two. Enough background is provided and we’re reintroduced to most of the regular cast, which would probably be helpful for those who do follow the series as it’s a nice reminder. It’s presented really well too, so it’s not an overload of information but just a gradual introduction to the story so it’s quite easy to get caught up.
Our MC is Zac Hunter, former cop turned PI, but interspersed with his narrative we also get to meet the serial killer, The Beholder, and have brief glances into his motives. As well, a third character, Carmen, figures prominently in the book as she tries to follow her sister’s entry into the sex work industry. I typically like books with multiple perspectives as I think it’s a really great way to get the whole story and that was no different here. What I really liked with having both Zac and Carmen providing their first-hand experience was that we got to see opposite views of this industry, with Carmen showing us how women get sucked into this work and Zac showing the aftermath.
As I mentioned above and you can probably gather from the blurb, this book does not shy away from the description of the horrors of this work. Many women in this industry are abused and assaulted, which luckily isn’t detailed in this book but the violence is still present. As well, the serial killer’s murders get quite intense, and Hunter seems almost like a superhero with his crazy fighting skills against those who stand in his way (definite Taken vibes). I could still appreciate the creepy atmosphere the author was setting up, but there were some descriptions I just had to skim over.
My biggest problem was with how women were handled in this book, which I was a little cautious of going in since I expected from the blurb that most would be victims. I’ve found that a lot of crime novels tend to have few female characters and if they are present, they’re normally set up as love interests or eye candy and unfortunately this one fell in the same category. Every female character that appeared in the book had to have her beauty (or lack of it) commented on immediately in setting up her character, and oftentimes repeatedly after. Even those that were being victimized had to be set up as beautiful before we could sympathize with them.
There was one woman who seemed exempt from this but her description was still problematic. Most of the times, the descriptions of ‘beautiful’ women would involve a mention of their long hair and the one woman who had short hair seemed to be at odds with what the characters knew of women. She also was in a typically male profession and I don’t know whether it was this or her hair but every mention of her always tried to describe her in terms of a man.
This is a fast-paced thriller and the mystery is sure to keep you from putting down the book but I wish more could have been done with the female characters.
About the Author: Steven spent ten years churning out copy for one of Europe’s largest investment companies before he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an author. He is 45 years old and lives in Norwich with his wife, Lisa, and their chocolate Labrador, Orson. He loves reading crime fiction and he’s also a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll – everything from early Elvis right through to the Foo Fighters.
His first novel, Justice For All, introduced Zac Hunter, an uncompromising ex-cop who’s on a one-man mission to clean up the mean streets of Los Angeles. In the sequel, Blood Law, Hunter’s search for a missing child leads him into dangerous territory and he soon finds himself caught in the middle of a gang war. The Beholder is Steven’s third novel, and this time Hunter must face off against his most dangerous foe to date, a psychotic serial killer who’s out to settle an old score.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own