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Official Review: Maggie Magdalene by James Byron Huggins

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Official Review: Maggie Magdalene by James Byron Huggins

Post Number:#1 by fitzml
» 06 Jul 2013, 17:49

[Following is the official review of "Maggie Magdalene" by James Byron Huggins.]

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In a prominent Louisville abbey, a young nun is found brutally murdered in a manner that suggests any number of troubling motives: The method and sheer savagery are reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. The symbols, ancient writings, candles and manner of death also suggest some kind of religious ritual. And the absence of forced entry suggests that the murder was an inside job. Because of the religious overtones and appearance of an inside job, local law enforcement gladly steps aside when the U.S. Attorney General commissions his own special investigative team, including beautiful attorney Maggie del Rio, who’s assigned by the mayor to keep him updated. Special Agent Crockett is assigned to lead this team, but with no apparent motive and no suspect(s), witnesses or definitive criminal profile to work from, he knows his team has got their work cut out for them. The Attorney-General’s unrealistic deadline for finding the perpetrator and wrapping up the case hinders rather than helps the investigation. And further complicating matters is the fact that each hard-won clue in the investigation raises more questions than answers – questions that draw Crockett and his team into a dark maze of secrets, betrayal and unholy alliances that seem to revolve around an ancient prophecy. Crockett and crew soon learn that nothing is what is seems as the body count continues to rise…

In Webster’s Dictionary, under “Great Novel”, it should say “See Maggie Magdalene”. This story gripped me from page one and didn’t let go until the very last page. What reeled me in right away was the variety of directions the story could take that were equally compelling. A modern day Jack the Ripper would be compelling enough, but a Jack the Ripper in the church would be ghastly! Or was the perpetrator part of a secret/satanic cult lurking within the church? The suspense was heightened by suggestions in the opening pages that the killer was “not human.” One reference could have been hyperbole due to the viciousness of the crime, but the second reference made me wonder if there was a supernatural angle.

The main characters were well-developed and had interesting backstories that were revealed in layers in ways that contributed to the story line. Maggie was the most fascinating of them all because her character kept evolving. There were a lot of characters in this novel, but the author’s ability to keep track of everybody and to keep everyone “in character” was impressive.

I also liked that this novel never sagged under the weight of too many players and subplots. Although I love conspiracy novels, they have a tendency to take themselves too seriously - as if the more high-powered groups they can stir in the mix the more serious a story will be taken. Unfortunately, for me, this makes a story so implausible and unwieldy that I shut down from incredulity or information overload. However, this story never got too far out or lost its sense of humor. The ongoing banter between Crockett and Maggie had me laughing out loud at times.

The final scenes are action-packed and described in such painstaking detail I could actually visualize them.

The only character I had an issue with was Torino. For a detective, his atrocious grammar didn’t come across as too bright. I did like that his character conveyed some interesting facts about the homeless and crucifixion in the Sudan. Grammar and spelling began to suffer near the end of the story, such as "cow to" when I think "kowtow" may have been intended. I also wondered why religious figures in stories always sound so robotic and call everybody “My child.”

Those minor issues aside, this was a great read and it’s apparent the author had as much fun writing this story as I had reading it. I wish there were more stars that I could give it, but I definitely give it four out of four stars.

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