3 out of 4 stars
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Dual Therapy, by Elvis Bray, follows Detective Storm Harrison as he investigates the rape and murder of a young girl. Upon viewing the crime scene, Storm notes the murder is eerily familiar to a case he worked when he first joined the Colorado Springs Police Department. Storm blames himself for the death of the young girl in the previous case, and his frustration about his inability to catch the killer has manifested over the years as a recurring nightmare. The nightmares have made it difficult for Storm to have a healthy social life, but Storm’s chance meeting with Katy Taylor, a county prosecutor who’s beauty previously held Storm’s attention, reignites a fire within the detective. With Katy’s calming influence, Storm is ready to take down the killer that has haunted him throughout his career. Storm is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure there are no additional victims.
At first, Dual Therapy plays out like a straightforward mystery: The story follows Storm as he pursues the psychopathic killer. Just when the focus on catching the murderer begins to feel overwrought, Bray switches gears, and the mystery takes on a new identity in the courtroom. The unexpected plot path and change in setting created an enjoyable narrative balance between detective work and legal drama, which made the novel stand apart from those typically found in the genre. Similarly, the novel culminates in a fantastic ending that is cleverly supported by the methodical development of the narrative. The ending is more intelligent than one would typically find in a mystery, and its excitement is rooted in the realistic nature of the court proceedings.
Additionally, Storm is an engaging first-person narrator. He has a matter-of-fact disposition that is threatened by the frustration and anger he feels about the elusive killer. In some ways, Storm is the typical hardboiled detective: he’s brash, intelligent, and isn’t afraid to take matters into his own hands. However, Storm’s development was so well done that the stereotypical nature of his persona only added to Bray’s enjoyable storytelling. On the other hand, Storm’s female counterpart, Katy, suffered from relatively shallow development. Until the end, when Katy becomes crucial to the plot, she’s mostly just a pretty woman used as a device to further the story. I would have appreciated more depth to Katy, especially considering her significance in Storm’s life.
Though the author is a great storyteller, the standout feature of this novel is Bray’s exhilarating play on the reader’s perceptions and assumptions. As the plot unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that the real focus of the novel isn’t catching the elusive murderer of the young girls. In actuality, the heart and soul of Dual Therapy is defined by a much-less-obvious murder. Using Storm’s first-person narrative, Bray expertly baits the reader into believing events unfold expectedly. However, as the nuances of what really occurred are unveiled during the courtroom proceedings, Bray has the reader questioning everything they thought they knew about the murder under investigation.
Dual Therapy was one of the most exciting and engaging mysteries I’ve read in a long time. The plot is methodically developed, Storm’s first-person narration is absorbing, and Bray masterfully plays on the reader’s expectations, all of which combined to create a book that is truly impossible to put down. Unfortunately, the novel needs another round of editing. I noted quite a few mistakes, though none of the errors were overly distracting. If not for the editorial issues, I would have rated Dual Therapy a glowing 4 stars; however, the errors force me to detract one star, leaving Bray’s work with a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. Despite its minor flaws, I highly recommend Dual Therapy to mystery fans looking for a thought-provoking plot with a clever narrator and elements of a courtroom drama. However, readers should be aware that the narrative includes graphic descriptions of the brutal crime scenes Storm investigates.
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