(I bought this book.)
Back of the Book Blurb:
Meet Julia Jackson. Apparently, she's been abducted....
A woman is taken at gunpoint from the downtown office of Southeastern Insurance, and the police believe the victim is Special Agent Julia Jackson. Only it isn't true.
Now, with the help of her new partner Mark Vincent, state fraud investigator Julia Jackson must find justice for the woman who was taken in her place.
As Vincent and Julia begin to unravel the multimillion-dollar frauds that led to the abduction, they encounter a cast of quirky characters, one of whom will go to desperate lengths to hide a deadly secret.
Things only become more dangerous as bodies begin accumulating around town and Julia must discover the truth before the abductor comes to rectify his mistake.
Absolute Liability is the first in the six-book Southern Fraud Thriller series, which blends suspense, humor, and Southern charm with just a touch of romance. If you enjoy reading humorous mysteries or watching TV crime dramedies like Castle or The Mentalist, you should like Absolute Liability.
This was a solid mystery/suspense book with a touch of romance as described, but I didn't find it to be very humorous, or the characters to be quirky. There were definitely a few humorous moments, such as the spa-going habits of one of the male characters, but readers looking for a funny mystery series will be disappointed. Instead, it had a decidedly gritty feel with a well-plotted mystery involving arson, insurance fraud, kidnapping and murder.
Julia is a former police officer now working for the state insurance office. On the side she has secretly been investigating her older sister's rape for the last seventeen years. When she was laid off from the police department she took a copy of the file and some evidence with her so she could continue to search for the rapist. The rape of her sister is the pivotal event of her life - Julia cites it as the reason she became a cop, and the reason her sister is now an alcoholic and her parents divorced and her family crumbled. The current arson/kidnapping/murder storyline is the primary one, but the hunt for the rapist is a close second. Julia's family allowed the event to ruin their lives, and this is evident in their behavior in the present and in Julia's memories. Her father retreated into himself emotionally, disappearing long before the divorce from her mother. And her mother retreated from her social life and pretty much neglected her younger daughter. Julia is much like her parents and sister in that she obsessively blames the rapist for everything that happened, when in reality it's obvious that both her parents failed the major test of their lives, leaving both their daughters adrift after such a horrific event. They are not very likeable characters.
The present-day mystery was really well-done. The identity of the bad guys kept me guessing up until nearly the end. The book is written in first person narrative by Julia, but every couple of chapters there is a very brief one from the villain's perspective. It was intriguing and tantalizing, because as the reader we're in the mind of the killer, and he leaves us little clues about his motivations and thoughts, but we still don't know who he is. A really effective construct.
As Julia and her new partner, Mark Vincent, continue to investigate the insurance fraud in the hopes of discovering the identity of the killer, Julia finds herself increasingly impressed by and attracted to Mark. He has secrets and a painful past of his own, and their cautious behavior around each other felt real.
All in all I enjoyed the story, but found the secondary rapist storyline to be more of a distraction, taking the book into a much rougher vision of reality and casting an unflattering light on many of the characters. It may be realistic as hell, but it was also sad and frustrating, and definitely took away from the main mystery for me as a reader.
Check out the author's website at: http://bectonliterary.com/author/jenniferbecton/
Add to Goodreads
As JW Becton she writes mystery/thrillers:
As Jennifer Becton she has written historical fiction: