Thursday 13 November 2014

Book Review - Mortal Insight by E. B. James

Review by Paula Vince

Detective Sergeant Steve Keller has begun to see things. He desperately hopes the visions mean something and not that he's going crazy. But the visions don't go away, and when they start meaning something more, Steve finds himself caught in an investigation way bigger than he ever imagined. As the pieces begin to fit together, something dangerous emerges. He can't hide what he knows, but to expose it doesn't just stir up controversy, it provokes someone who lurks in the shadows; someone who will kill to keep this information quiet. Mortal Insight, E.B. James new novel, brings you conspiracy, crime, action and asks the question: when your life is at stake, are some truths worth bringing out into the open?
I thoroughly enjoyed this unpredictable plot. It was great having no idea what might happen next. It's categorised as a detective/mystery story, and there's also a touch of the supernatural.

Detective Sergeant Steve Keller has started to see some weird phenomena on the job at sexual assault scenes. Although some believe his visions to be a stress reaction following a break-up with his wife, the accuracy with which he's able to predict potential perpetrators and victims indicates that there's more to it. He also has a very personal reason to believe the introduction of a new 'feel good' chemical, tanordebetian (TDB), added to non-alcoholic party drinks and the mains water supply, may help explain a heightened wave of sexual crime.

Steve is one of a handful of Davids trying to fathom the Goliath behind TDB. Others include his mother-in-law, Dorothy, who leads a group of social activists, Isaac, a local politician and his personal assistant, Nicole. It doesn't take long for them to work out that whoever wants them silenced is prepared to stoop to murder.

Are Steve's supernatural visions integral to the plot? I think the main storyline of the research being conducted could stand without this element, especially as he decides early on to keep quiet about it. However, it does make things more intense by revealing deeper truths which emphasise the stakes of their quest. Anyone who wonders about the significance of the front cover image will quickly figure it out.

I like the questions this book raises about the nature of our society. We've got to love the sort of novel that challenges us to think. Do groups, such as the Community Aware Group, cause more harm than good through the way they operate? Does their input extend to the reputations of others who side with their issues? Anybody would have to wonder whether they would even want the well-intentioned help of the CAG. And is it possible for anybody with integrity to last in politics over the long term?

May we sometimes be too quick to judge individuals for crimes without delving into all the extenuating facts? And to what extent does the media filter and spoon feed exactly what they want the public to know? To quote Steve's superior officer, Alan Pryor, in this story, 'they are notorious for twisting the facts to represent the agenda of whoever is paying their bills.'  Do Davids really stand a chance against huge, corporate Goliaths?

If asked whether this story finishes with a 'good' or 'bad' ending, I have to say there's good reason to say both. That's just one of the surprises of this story. I hope E. B. James has more of this genre up her sleeve.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, please visit her blog, It Just Occurred to Me. You may also like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.


  1. Sounds intriguing, Paula--will add it to my Christmas list! Thanks for this thoughtful review--and well done to E B James for breaking new ground like this!

  2. An intriguing read, Dorothy. And I agree about groups like the CAG in this book. Some well-meaning folk certainly can do great work revealing what is happening. They still need to be so careful to check out truth and be very wise when and how and where they release delicate information they discover. this was handled very well in this story.

  3. Oops, sorry Paula. No idea how I mentioned the wrong name above. A good review of this book.

  4. This sounds fascinating, Paula. Not the usual kind of book we have reviews of but really good to have diversity. I think this is a book I'd like.

  5. Sound interesting. Thanks Paula. I will have to keep an eye out for this.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Paula. This book is on my TBR pile. Might just have to slot it nearer the top :)

  7. Great review Paula. I'm looking forward to reading this one. :)

  8. Paula, thanks for your insightful review. This book is in my tbr pile :)

  9. Hi everyone,
    I recommend it. It's interesting indeed, and quite intriguing. I'm really hoping there will be more.


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