Steven James ~ Move over!
LOOKS THAT DECEIVE by Braxton DeGarmo is both edgy and gritty crime fiction and a seat of the pants medical thriller. ‘Edgy’ because it pushes the edge of the envelope. It could be categorized as noir.
Lync Cully, a workaholic, dedicated detective has been loaned to the Major Case Squad. He’s investigating a series of gruesome and bizarre assaults on women in the legal profession, an explosion killing a lawyer, and the torture and murder of another man. The “wonder boy” of the detective squad, he knows these crimes are related.
Amy Gibbs, Cully’s former girlfriend, is a medivac nurse and part of the team transporting the torture victim by chopper to the emergency room. The horrifically injured man is able to mumble a few words about the killer to her and her partner before expiring. Cully wants to hold back this information from the public, but it gets out to the press, putting Amy squarely in the sights of this heinous killer.
The author uses plot construction often typical of thrillers. The reader is introduced to the highly intelligent and technologically advanced killer as “Lady Law,” a pseudonym the male predator uses online to lure females in the legal profession into his trap. He is adept in the use of aliases and ruse. The reader also becomes aware the killer has relationships with other characters in the story and they are none-the-wiser about his violent and depraved other life.
As it turns out in this deadly tale, looks can be deceiving. If you like unabashed, nail biting thrillers with an inspirational twist, this novel is for you.
Devastated by the untimely death of her husband, Dr. Carrie Markham could not imagine she would ever fall in love again. She is a member of a medical practice that is doing well and she thought that would be enough. However, when Adam Davidson enters her life, almost in spite of herself, she falls in love and they become engaged. Unfortunately, he is hiding something. After an evening at the movies, they become the victims of an apparent drive-by shooting. The author sets this up beautifully and pulls the reader in.
Worried that he might be putting Carrie in danger, Adam reveals his secret. He is not who he claims to be. Although she believes him to be a paralegal, he’s actually a lawyer. His is real name is Keith Branson and powerful and dangerous people are out to kill him. He has been in the government’s witness protection program. Quite understandably, this news unnerves Carrie. She’s not sure she wants to continue in a relationship with a man she’s just discovered has lied to her, and who could possibly bring about her demise.
Of course you can count on this author to deliver a thriller with accurate medical details. Yet I wasn’t bombarded with medical jargon that went over my head.
What makes the story compelling is how page, by page, the reader becomes invested in the characters. Carrie comes across as a highly likeable, living, breathing woman who has suffered bereavement but who is determined to get on with her life. As a successful doctor, she deals with the intricate office politics of a thriving medical practice, sometimes wondering if the male doctors in the practice are overlooking her because she is a woman. I was drawn to Carrie’s concern for her patients. The character’s struggles to understand and forgive Adam/Keith for lying to her make her come to life in a very real way. My heart broke for Adam who is a decent man, struggling to survive, and who dares to fall in love. He is the kind of man who does the right thing for the right reasons, and unfortunately has had to pay a high price for those ethical standards. Woven through this novel is a gentle spiritual message showing us how God is always there, even when it looks as if everything is falling apart.
There is no shortage of red herrings leading the reader in different directions. Supporting and minor characters are used to keep the reader guessing who the killer is. Although there is romance, the chase to catch a killer is the main thing. This is exactly the way I like my thrillers.