The Psalmist, by James Lilliefors. Witness Impulse . 384 pages. E-book $2.99. Trade paperback $11.99 (due out in late August).
HarperCollins has launched a special imprint for new e-books in the mystery/thriller category, and they have lured some exciting talent – and set extremely low prices – to establish this imprint. Judging by Naples author James Lilliefors’ opener for “A Luke Bowers and Amy Hunter Mystery” series, these books are as strong as anything being featured in old-fashioned print.
The novel’s setting, fictitious Tidewater County on Maryland’s eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, is artfully painted by Mr. Lilliefors in appropriate shades of gray. A late winter snowfall gowns a bleak, partly frozen landscape. The area, the middle section of the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware to the north, Virginia to the south), has an economy based on agriculture, the seafood industry, recreational boating, and tourism. The author’s Tidewater County, like the region in general, is dotted with small towns, many of which are drenched in history. Because of its relative isolation, it’s a great place to focus a story.
And what a story James Lilliefors has to tell.
Late one morning, Luke Bowers, pastor of the Methodist church, travels to his church office only to find a murder victim – an attractive young woman – positioned in a pew with her hands in a gesture of prayer. She had been severely beaten. Her eyes are open. Preliminary examination suggests that the woman was killed elsewhere, then transported to and posed in the church later.
Who is she? Why was she left to be discovered in the church? What are those strange numerical carvings on her hand?
The lead investigator on the case is Amy Hunter, a young detective with the Maryland State Police. She is assigned to work with and direct local law enforcement on homicide cases. The Tidewater County Sheriff, his last name – Calvert – radiating local history, is dismayed that it’s not his investigation to run. He tries to undermine Amy’s authority and credibility every step of the way. The state’s attorney is smoother, but not particularly supportive of how she’s running the case.
Although Amy has two able subordinates, Pastor Luke Bowers ends up being her main sounding board and unofficial partner in this investigation. He comes up with the idea that the numbers refer to one of the biblical Psalms. Luke’s attractive, smart, and devoted wife likes to kid him about his relationship with Amy. Is she jealous?
The search for patterns turns up three similar homicides in nearby states, each with similar Psalm numbers left to be discovered near the corpse. These murders occur within days of one another.
The investigation, which ends up involving an FBI agent whom Amy briefly dated, is a search for other common denominators. Indeed, it seems definite that these murders are the work of a serial killer. What relates these victims? How can the answer lead to discovering the motive and identity of the murderer? . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 30, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 31 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Psalmist.