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Opening Moves by Steven James

Reviewed by Dale Lewis

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"[James] is a consummate storyteller weaving plot, principals and power."

It’s 1997. The police believe there is a Jeffrey Dalmer copycat roaming the streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Deep down, a young Patrick Bowers believes this is much more than posthumous idol worship of an infamous cannibal. In Opening Moves, the prequel to the five titles in the Patrick Bowers Files, homicide detective Bowers finds himself in the middle of a morbid collection of extreme kidnappings and sadistic mutilations.

With the help of the investigative team, Bowers soon discovers that some of the most notorious and blatant killers in our nation’s history are referenced resources in these kidnappings. The investigation quickly succumbs into a recurring nightmare of conniving manipulation and chilling terror. Coupled with world renowned criminologist, Dr. Calvin Werjonic, (who’s on the cutting edge of groundbreaking investigative techniques), Bowers comes face-to-face with a blood-thirsty, fame-seeking maniac.

A few of the crimes mentioned in Opening Moves actually occurred in real life. This alone adds to the foundational macabre overtones of the storyline. The emergence of three killers intensifies the mystery and suspense while creating multiple tangents within the main storyline. The interconnection between characters is astounding on both the criminal and law enforcement levels.

One of the highlights for me was experiencing the unity of a diverse team working towards a common purpose--where no rock is left unturned and no lead neglected. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Patrick Bowers (pre-FBI days) in the manner he’s portrayed.

James is clear and crisp in his descriptive details, both in locale and characters. The created dialogue is superbly realistic. He is a consummate storyteller weaving plot, principals and power.

The internal struggle to find redemption and peace in one killer’s mind coupled with Bowers assertion that we are all capable of darkness and unimaginable sin is captivating. Reading Opening Moves is not a mindless activity – it will stir issues within that we easily ignore or are hardened towards.

While Opening Moves does contain pure evil (isn’t that a misnomer?), James doesn't glamorize it or position a lingering spotlight on the shock factor. He addresses the tension he experiences in the foreword. In Bowers’ own words, “I took a moment to collect myself, to try filtering out the disgust. Finally, I opened my eyes, but the disquieting residue of anger and nausea hadn’t gone away.”

My only “frustration” with reading this Steven James novel is its length. The beginning, middle and end consume a lot of copy and pages. It’s a tad disheartening when you’re at page 280 (chapter 52) of the story and you still have another 48 chapters to go. But then again, I don’t know what I would edit out to shorten it.

The next Patrick Bowers title is The King set to release in July 2013!

Dale Lewis now mans the front desk at the EFCA (The Evangelical Free Church of America) National Office in Minneapolis, MN. He was the graphic designer/pre-press production artist for over twelve years before being asked to step into this new role. Prior to that, he was the publications manager at his alma mater, Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN in the public relations office as well as the adviser to the college’s yearbook. He's a director/actor/writer for the Hope Church (Oakdale, MN) adult drama worship team and was the senior editor of the church newsletter. He's also written two collections of poetry, “Whispers of Assurance” and “On Life: Constant Communion Without Ceasing” as well as a devotional entitled “Eternal Education.” He and his family live in Oakdale, Minnesota.