The Palm Reader – Christopher Bowren

Summary:

This is a Jackson Walker thriller. It’s a sequel to his previous outing “The Devil in the Grass”, and is set in and around the Florida Everglades, but it can be read as a stand-alone book.

Main Characters:

Jackson Walker: The protagonist is a young Seminole Indian, former pro football player, and now lawyer-cum-detective who “is strong with the spirits”, but disavows this part of his heritage.

Mason Matye: French, and Head of a satanic sect that was destroyed by Jackson in the previous novel, now escaped and, pardon the pun, hell-bent on revenge.

Lolita: Eponymous palm reader, she aligns with Jackson to battle the satanic cult.

Janie Callaghan: forty-something cross between a PI and a lawyer, employed by Robinson, and assumes something of a maternal interest in Jackson, with whom she works to resolve this case.

Minor Characters:

Gramps: (Nathaniel Jackson) Jackson’s grandfather, a Seminole chief, who wants Jackson to come fully into his spiritual powers.

Eli: Local Russian Mafioso boss.

Peter Robinson: Jackson’s boss.

Plot:

The satanic cult leader wants revenge. Jackson killed most of his sect in the last book, (timeline 5 years previous), and had him imprisoned. Mason creatively gets himself out of the jail, and now aims to track down his nemesis, to sacrifice him in a Black Mass in order to get back into Satan’s good books (or should that be bad books??).

Meanwhile, Jackson & Janie have been called to do some preliminary preparation work, to help defend Robert Lopez. This guy is a peddler of porn, and was caught with some paedophilia on his laptop. He denies ever having it, etc., though admits he is in the porn business, and also insists he’s being framed by some local Russian criminals, who themselves are purveyors of porn and snuff films. Robinson feels there is more to this story than they are being told, however, and before agreeing to take the defence (but after getting a 10k retainer!), sends Jackson and Janie to find out more.

The two go to Aversions, the strip club owned by the Russians, to get more information, and naturally Jackson falls out with these dangerous and callous criminals, Eli the boss and Boris his enforcer.

This begins two parallel storylines, with both evil sides aiming to hurt or kill Jackson, and anyone else affected is just collateral damage.

Lopez goes on the run, and indeed there does seem to be more to him than he has let on.

Jackson is completely unaware of Matye’s lethal interest in him, and focuses solely on the Russians. He ignores the dreams he is having, as well as his grandfather’s attempts to get him to accept the powers, and the portent of the dreams.

Lolita then appears, a person who herself has visions or intuitions, yet when she intimates to Jackson that their lives will be closely interwoven and one or both may possibly die, she is rudely dismissed by Jackson. She meets his grandfather, and the two recognise and respect the power in each other.

Ultimately, after a few close calls and violent incidents, Gramps gets kidnapped. Thinking it was the Russians, Jackson and Janie attempt to spring him from the strip club, only to be proven disastrously wrong. Hooking up with Lolita, Jackson goes in search of Gramps. He begins to believe in his spiritual powers, and realises how horrible he has been to the people around him who were only trying to help.

He finds himself back on the farm where five years ago he destroyed the cult. There is a new gathering of Satanists now, there to witness the sacrifice of Jackson. These is quite a lot of action at this point, before Jackson & Mason finally face off.

What I Liked:

  • It’s well-paced, with the story moving faster as it climaxes.
  • The spiritual powers didn’t become a Deus Ex Machina that sorted out all the problems, but were merely pointers that could be followed or ignored.
  • Characters were well-written, if sometimes a little too predictable, but meshed well to give a strong impetus to the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • No real emotional development in the protagonist, which would be needed to grow the character.
  • There is some extraneous stuff at the start, while probably good for stage-setting, but doesn’t really grow the story.

Overall:

I don’t really go for this genre, as it can be formulaic, but when it works it can be amazing. This worked for me, however, as I was interested to see what would happen to this young, hot-headed yet likeable guy, whom Trouble has marked out for special attention.

I think this is a series that has great potential. It most definitely is not a YA audience (i.e. younger than sixteen), as there is a lot of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, language and casual death.

Walker has potential to be a really strong protagonist, a champion for the minorities, an action-orientated guy, and coupled with the natural spirituality (non-religious!) angle, the focus on loyalty and importance of family, could really carve a niche for himself.

Suspenseful, fast-paced, multi-faceted, multi-layered, the plot keeps twisting right to the explosive end. It was an interesting read, with enough at the end of the book for the series to continue. I’d recommend it as an adult holiday read.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to the author for a free copy of the book, in return for an honest and objective review.

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