Monday, January 20, 2020

First Stone (The Stepping Stone Cycle - Season 1, Episode 1) by Gary Ballard

First StoneFirst Stone by Gary Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a particularly brutal case, forensic psychologist, Dr. Jack Carter, takes a much needed vacation with his wife, Sarah, up the east coast into Maine. A month later, Jack is found, catatonic, standing on the side of the road and there is sign of Sarah. Sometime later, he regains consciousness in the Meridian Mental Health Institute in Meridian, Connecticut, with no memory of what had happened nor where Sarah is. The police believe he’s killed her and is faking amnesia, but there’s no evidence to confirm she’s even dead. He spends the next year and a half there recuperating and in treatment, and when he’s finally cleared for release, he returns to his and Sarah’s home to try and pick up where his life left off and to search for his missing wife.

A former work connection in the FBI, Special Agent Bill West, has been assigned Sarah’s case however, it has come to a standstill for lack of any additional leads. But when a new case which has a possible connection to her disappearance comes to his attention, he contacts Jack to join him in the investigation. The mutilated corpses of a number of women have been found in an old shack up in the mountains of West Virginia and the guy all the evidence points to claims he also killed Sarah and wants to talk to Jack. But when Bill and Jack travel to meet the killer, he changes his story. He claims he is innocent of the murders and has never heard of Sarah or Jack. As Bill follows up on any leads he can from the crime scene, Jack begins interviews with the accused to determine his fitness to stand trial, and things get more bizarre as every day goes by.

What a great start to the mysterious Stepping Stone Cycle series by Gary Ballard. The story held my attention from start to finish and now I have to read more! Jack is a likeable but tragic figure and his FBI pal, Bill West, is as comfortable as a real friend. The story is not a straight up mystery either. There are spooky, paranormal, horror goings-on as well. I recommend this story to mystery readers looking for something out of the traditional “serial killer” genre that don’t mind paranormal/horror aspects. Good story!

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