Review: Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James

Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James is the 10th book in the Bowers Files, where FBI special agent Patrick Bowers grapples with a baffling series of murders in Detroit—and discovers a terror plot with roots that stretch back centuries.

Read an excerpt from Every Deadly Kiss!

Every Deadly Kiss is the 10th book to feature FBI Agent Patrick Bowers, and the series shows no signs of slowing down. Patrick’s new relationship with Christie is on the rocks, but he’s got to get to Detroit to consult on a new case: a killer seems to be on the loose, and Pat, as an environmental criminologist, has some special skills that can be put to use.

Since I was an environmental criminologist and the lead geospatial investigator in the Bureau, it was becoming more and more common for me to consult with other Field Offices and law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

In a nutshell, my approach had to do with studying the timing, location, and progression of serial offenses rather than looking for means, motive, and opportunity. The process grew out of research dealing with how people perceive and process their surroundings and then make rational choices that lead them to engage in criminal acts.

Five people are already dead, and their bodies have been left in abandoned buildings and houses in the heart of Detroit. In a city with one of the highest crime rates in the country and a police force spread thin, they can use all the help they can get before the killer strikes again. Complicating matters, the agent he’s working with is Sharyn Weist. Pat dated Sharyn eight years ago and never really lost his feelings for her—and it’s mutual. 

Seeing her again today had been tougher than I thought it would be and, considering the recent bumps in the road Christie and I had been experiencing, it made me ask those “what if” questions.

What if I hadn’t broken things off all those years ago.

What if life hadn’t waited so long to bring us together again?

What if…?

Our brief hug when she first met me at the airport spoke volumes, even though we hadn’t exchanged a word.

Sharyn is also hiding something, but not from Pat: only a small group of people know that she used to be Scarlett Farrow, a child actress who changed her identity after her stalker was put behind bars 15 years ago. But he just got out of jail, and Pat is beginning to see parallels between Sharyn’s past and the current murders. Could they possibly be connected?

Meanwhile, a rogue former cop is on the loose, and he may have connections to a jihadist that is planning a widespread attack using a manipulated form of one of the most dangerous diseases the world has ever known, and the clock is ticking.

The abandoned properties of Detroit offer a fittingly creepy vibe to the tale, and it’s even discovered that there are tunnels underneath many of those buildings, which of course, goes perfectly with Bowers’s geospatial talents.

“During World War Two, since Detroit was a manufacturing city, the automobile plants were retrofitted to build tanks and construct military convoy vehicles. Because of that, the city was considered a prime air strike target. So the schools—and even many of the churches—that were built in those years were constructed with bomb shelters underneath them.”

Additionally, James offers passages about Sharyn/Scarlett’s work on a thriller movie at a young age that affected her emotionally, and it really offers some food for thought about how a young child can be affected by violence, even if it’s only pretend.

Mostly, they tried to keep her from seeing the scary parts of the movie, but she was a kid, and kids find a way to see stuff grown-ups don’t want them to see.

It’s fake blood, she told herself. But it didn’t look fake at all. And it gave her nightmares for years.

Harris stabbed the man over and over and over and blood kept spurting up and splatting onto everything and Scarlett just kept reminding herself that it was all fake, that none of it, none of it was real.

Although the killer is revealed midway through, James has plenty of surprises in store. If you think that there are just too many things going on, and you’re wondering how they’ll all possibly connect, don’t worry, he’s got you covered—and it will be epic. James is a pro at creating suspense (and addressing timely subjects such as terrorism), assigning his characters twisted and complex motives and offering up a very affable protagonist in Patrick Bowers.

Though reading the previous books always helps, new readers can just as easily get hooked without feeling that they’ve missed out and are playing catch up. If you like cat-and-mouse thrillers with heart, you can’t go wrong with the Bowers Files.

Check out Steven James's exclusive guest blog about organic writing and get a firsthand look at how an early scene from Every Deadly Kiss developed!


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Kristin Centorcelli reviews books at, loves a good mystery, and is a huge fan of boxed wine. You can also follow her at @mybookishways.

Read all posts by Kristin Centorcelli for Criminal Element.

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