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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 50.
- Review Date: 2007-09-24
- Reviewer: Staff
In this tame debut, the body of a young girl discovered by the side of a Nashville highway puts homicide detective Taylor Jackson and her lowdown boyfriend, FBI Agent John Baldwin, on the trail of the Southern Strangler, a playful, brutal killer who likes to carry his victims across state lines before murdering them and removing their hands. Before long, however, Taylor's reassigned to the suspicious death of a prominent TV personality, leaving John struggling to keep ahead of the Strangler's mounting body count. Meanwhile, Taylor is still recovering from a near-fatal neck injury earned in her last case and worrying over her own demons—not the least of which is John's threat to marry her. The real victim is Ellison's plot, strangled by slow pacing, egregious subplots (a serial rapist, a crooked officer, a pregnancy scare) and a clichéd cast of characters: the shady Southern belle, the veteran detective pushed over the edge, the evil genius who stays a step ahead of everyone—even the appealing Taylor strikes a numbingly familiar tough-yet-vulnerable pose. Though a climactic showdown injects some much-needed excitement, readers may have a hard time getting there. (Nov.)
Trouble in Music City
Taylor Jackson and Whitney Connolly are two sides of the same coin. While both are beautiful blondes from the wealthy Nashville neighborhood of Belle Meade, the former has eschewed her background (much to her parents' dismay) to become a homicide lieutenant in her city's police department, while the latter is a rising star journalist for a local television station, with a twin sister, Quinn, who has gone the full-fledged upper-class housewife route. Jackson and Connolly see their jobs intersect when a body is found on the outskirts of the city, one that bears the unmistakable signs of being the victim of a serial killer. The search for the perpetrator will involve both women, as well as Jackson's lover, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, in a multistate manhunt that will endanger all of their livesincluding Quinn's.
In her debut novel, All the Pretty Girls, Nashville resident and former financial analyst J.T. Ellison does a skillful job of capturing the city and its flavors, while taking the police procedural out of its usual New York/Los Angeles/Chicago big-city milieu and placing it in a mid-sized, vibrant Southern city. She's populated her novel with believable players, on both sides of the law.
Murder is the same all over, but the "Southern Strangler" has a gruesome habit of leaving the hands of his previous victim next to the bodies of his newest ones. This lends a compelling urgency to Jackson and Baldwin's efforts to track down the brilliant and methodical killer, who quotes Wordsworth and Keats. Jackson's case loadshe's also tracking a serial rapistand her increasingly complicated personal life keeps her head spinning, while Connolly's suspicions are leading her down a path she's scared to explore. What they don't realize is that their different trails are converging.
Southern readers will find All the Pretty Girls a thrilling ride through a well-known locale, and the rest of the country will get a closer viewand a different perspectiveof Music City.
James Neal Webb keeps his hands to himself in the Nashville suburb of Donelson.