2-for-1 Review: Southern Fraud

Okay, I'm putting the reviews for Absolute Liability and Death Benefits in one post, because I read them back-to-back, and they just *go together* ... Especially considering they're the first two novels in JW Becton's Southern Fraud thriller series.

Absolute Liability
JW Becton
Whiteley Press, 2011

Julia Jackson used to be a cop. Now she's an investigator with the Georgia Department of Insurance, fraud division. And she's just heard - on the radio - that she's been abducted at gunpoint. So begins an investigation unlike any Julia has worked before. Not only is she investigating two fraud cases, but she and her new partner - Mark Vincent,  ex-military investigative hunk (er, hulk) - are also doing anything possible to help find the kidnappers. As time passes, it becomes increasingly clear that Julia really was the intended target, and its all somehow connected to one of her fraud investigations. There's something that someone will do anything to keep hidden.

As I've said several times on this blog, I'm not a big fan of mysteries - and I typically figure them out crazy soon. Becton has managed a feat few pull off: I had no clue who the "bad guy" was until it was revealed. I mean, I had my suspicions, but they kept changing back and forth, I was never able to make a firm decision. The story is attention-grabbing and fast-paced, thanks in large part to skillful character development. And the obvious chemistry between Julia and Vincent. Julia's not one of those unearthly "super cops" -- she's just a good investigator with a passion for justice (which is the reason she went into law enforcement: to find her sister's rapist). She gets scared, she gets pissed off, and she has a great sense of humor. Definitely a likeable character, and I look forward to reading more of her adventures. Or misadventures.

eBook provided by my personal library.

Death Benefits
JW Becton
Whiteley Press, 2012

After a brief medical leave to recover from her last investigation, Julia Jackson is back at work - and permanently assigned Mark Vincent as her partner. There are worse fates, and she's particularly grateful for his presence as she wades into the details of her new case. A burned body found in a truck, and a near-instantaneous call to receive the death benefit check from the widow. Yup, definitely smells like insurance fraud. What nobody expected was to uncover a twisted, messy secret that would rock the little Georgia town to its core.

All the great elements of Absolute Liability are present in Death Benefits as well - Julia's a character you can relate to, and Vincent is...well...he's Vincent. You've really got to experience him for yourself. The secondary characters are one colorful group as well, my favorite being Mrs. Twilley - the little old lady whose aunt plays a surprising role in the story. I think that's one thing I really, really enjoy about these books: Becton's portrayal of small, southern town flavor. And it's definitely a flavor. I've lived in the South my whole life, and she's definitely captured the atmosphere. I had a better idea of who was responsible this time, but it was still a bit of a toss-up between which of the two was the sicko. And yes: Death Benefits is creepier than Absolute Liability. Do not read this one late at night (I actually skimmed over some of the crime scenes, because they're that well written).

Once all the loose ends are neatly tracked down and cleaned up (literally, heh heh heh), we're left with the tantalizing promise of a shift between Vincent and Julia, and Julia finally making progress towards catching her sister's rapist -- or at least finding new leads. Definitely looking forward to the next installment, and increasingly amazed that the person who made me actually kind of like Caroline Bingley can write such creeptasticly amazing mysteries...

eARC provided by author for review.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a big mystery fan myself, but I loved both of these stories! I really like the characters and yes, I like how Julia is not a "super cop" - she's real. Oh, and Vincent, I'm totally a #MarkVincentfangirl, love him!

    I can't wait for next book to come out!