Spectrum: Alan Jacobson
Sometimes a person can sense when they need to follow their own instincts and leave caution to the wind. Other times this ability to realize that something is off, that you need to retrace your steps can place you and others in danger but Karen Vail is persistent, tenacious, astute and although a first year cop when the main part of this story first occurs she realizes years later that a killer has come back to haunt her. On a plane with her Roberto her boyfriend, now both FBI agents and arresting a killer who murdered women in a killing spree that last for 20 years, Karen remembers the first time she entered a crime scene that resembles something in the present. Arresting the right person might be what it looks like but something about it feels off and instead of getting ready to go off with Roberto she insists that they let her off the plane leading her right back to the precinct and her mentor and trainer Russo.
Imagine becoming a police rookie and your first time out being taken under the wing of a seasoned detective who learns from the moment you step into the room with the dead body that you are no one to fool with, someone who will become an asset to the force and no one to take lightly. From the present we meet her as she views the body of Carole Manos who has been brutally murdered in a bizarre manner. The story then flashes back to the 1970’s and we meet a Greek family out for an evening of bowling with friends. Enjoying their time together and yet wanting to get something to eat, Basil heads for the snack bar and encounters a woman that would ruin his life and change the4 course of events for him and his family forever. But why single him out? As Basil is just trying to find his way back to his wife and children this woman comes on to him and although he tells her he’s married she somehow creates a disturbance and tells her husband a different story. When he goes after Basil the end result is tragic yet not his fault.
The man he fights is blinded by what they claim he did to him and the end result is a full out war against him, his family and his entire life. Having to move in with a friend, not having much support except from his friend Fedor, he’s arrested but finally exonerated in the eyes of the law but not in the eyes of the family who claimed he blinded their father and husband. Retribution came and now Livana is alone with her two children and the fear in her heart and life will never go away.
Reporting the event to the police leads readers to understand that they do not even want to take a statement and that the mob is running the show. But, Fedor won’t back down, gives his statement and the story comes back to the present or the 1990’s and Karen Vail. Getting to know her we also get to know those on the force that accepted her and those that prefer to work only with men. Twenty years pass but first she encounters a second murder of a man and this time she tries to link both together. Similarities do come to light and their seems to be one killer at large as the author goes back to the past and we learn more about just how dangerous these people are when Livana’s son is kidnapped and held until Fedor follows their instructions. Now part of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in the present this case of the serial murders plagues her and she is determined to find the killer who has haunted her since her first day on the job. From the inception of the novel and the moment you meet Karen Vail you realize that she has the abilities to become a profiler and her questioning techniques far surpass some seasoned cops, as her power of observation is quite keen taken under the wing of Sergeant Carmine Russo and never faltering even once.
Things change and the past is recalled as we revisit Livana and Basil is murdered as a lesson to her and Fedor for daring to speak out, stand up for themselves and point a finger at a killer. The killer is a member of a mob crime family and will stop at nothing in order to make sure Livana and Fedor suffer along with her children Cassandra and Dmitri and his son Niklaus. Why do her friends and members of the church shun her and her family? Why does she have to live in fear? As we return to the present of the second murder of this Slasher, we learn that the next victim is a member of the mob family and the man that might have killed Basil over 20 years ago. But, they are far from done with Livana and her family and the killings continue and move to the present as ten more fall prey to this person’s wiles.
Twenty years in the present Vail goes over the case with the detective that handled it back then and as they review what they know they realize that there is a link to a murder in the present and the two in the past. Yet, the mob boss that was killed was the only male that was targeted. Things spiral out of control after Sept. 11th when the pieces start to fit together like a perfect mosaic filled with tiles that create a picture you just won’t believe each one properly glued and placed. Going over the details of the cases with Isidore Prochetta or Prosch only a few know as his nickname, realizes that she is smart, has great instincts and with the pressure on knows what has to be done since the first day when she save Russo’s life.
Author Alan Jacobson has created a strong female character that manages to collide with her bosses but gains their respect as she is outspoken, tenacious and her gut instincts are spot on. Going back and forth between the past and the present, learning more about the Mafia bosses son that was killed, the link to Basil’s death and the mob, helps readers understand why Lavana and her family had to move to Ellis Island in order to seek some type of refuge. Learning more about the island, the immigrants and why they came there, realizing this might be her only hope; Lavana and her family endure the move. Finally understanding the gravity of their situation they move into an abandon hospital wing in Ellis Island. Added in we learn about Karen’s pregnancy, dealing with Deacon who seems happy about it and a marriage that was doomed from the start with a man who refused to deal with his mental disorder. Bipolar disorder is serious and can lead to serious consequences when not dealt with properly. Is he capable of being a father and when Karen is hurt on the job can she hide the fact that she is pregnant in order not to be taken off the case she so desperately wants to solve?
Things spiral out of control as Karen comes home one night to find her husband had not gone to work again and one morning stating she would not allow him to pick up their son from school as she no longer could trust or depend on him. Often drunk and disoriented and not supportive of her career, Karen also makes another important change. A lead or break in the case to catch the killer now called The Hades Killer and the death of someone close to the case and a harsh realization she faces when it comes to her job choices. Then the story once again flashes back to the past and we learn that their might be some construction work done at Ellis Island and that the family might have to move again but not before we get more of an insight into Dmitri and what hidden secrets he has hidden from everyone for so long and that will definitely help readers reflect on the present how and why you just won’t believe.
Moving the story to the present and the aftermath of September 11th and the horrors faced we learn more about Karen Vail and the many different restaurants that make up the traditional foods that we all love in our wonderful New York City. I especially can identify with the various types of knishes, which are the best and so delicious. As a BAU or Behavioral Analysis Unit profiler the author now changes the playing fields and sets the audience up for the action to follow.
When Livana receives a phone call about her daughter this brings evidence to light that someone close to her might be a killer. Identifying the body of her daughter and learning about her murder forces her to call her old friend Prosch to help solve the case. But, heads are bent out of shape, as the detectives in charge are not happy about having someone not in their precinct on the case. But, Livana is scared and trusts no one and wants to make sure justice is done but the light is shining on someone you would least expect.
Years pass and the story progresses from 2006-2013 and the suspect eluded capture until something happens and all the dots seem to connect to something from the first murder case Karen handled. Revenge, betrayals, deceits and lies are at the heart of what a killer has planned so methodically and carefully while another is about to take the fall. As a former member of the BAU unit himself the author shares his insight, knowledge and inner workings of the behavior of a psychopath and that of someone who appears to have the same Autism Spectrum Disorder and not capable of murder unless the killer plants the right evidence and makes that person the fall guy. “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition which affects individuals in two main areas: Individuals have impaired communication and social interaction. Individuals have restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.”
When Karen finally realizes that they have arrested the wrong person, has someone from BAU guide her through the interview what happens next is a race for justice as Karen, her new boyfriend Robby, Russo, Prosch and the original detective team hoping to stop this killer before someone else is killed. An ending heart stopping, bone chilling and definitely delivered with surprises and twists: Spectrum: the first of many Karen Vail novels and fortunately not the last.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine