Former FBI Special Agent Alex Rourke put Cody Williams
behind bars seven years ago and hoped he’d never
set eyes on Williams again. Williams, the prime suspect
in a series of child abductions and murders, was convicted
for the attempted abduction of another girl and the murder
of a serial rapist.
Now, Williams is dying in prison. In the years that have
transpired since his arrest authorities have recovered
the remains of a few of the missing girls they believe
he killed but there are other bodies still out there,
other families hoping for closure.
Williams won’t talk to anyone, except Alex Rourke.
And Williams has nothing to lose. As it turns out, the
same can’t be said for Alex Rourke and in a dramatic
turn of events Rourke is forced to go on the run from
known and unknown assailants trying to kill him, and
the police name him as the prime suspect in a murder
This is the third Alex Rourke novel, but Rickards has
written it in such a way that it’s possible for
someone who hasn’t read the first two novels to
pick up this one and thoroughly appreciate it. This is
a story that moves back and forth through time, from
the original investigation to present day, and as a result
the reader has all the information needed to appreciate
the situation and what’s happening without being
subjected to large portions of backstory that slow the
Last year in our Spring Issue I wrote a Backlist Review
of John’s other titles and this is what I said
One of the reasons Winter’s End stands out amongst
debuts is the ingenious premise of the story. The woman’s
body is found with the presumed killer standing over
her, knives in his hands, but a driving rain has washed
away the blood and the police can’t find any evidence
of how they got to the spot on the road where they were
discovered, nor do they have any concrete physical evidence
to prove the man is the killer.
And he has refused to answer any questions from the police,
making it almost impossible for them to close the investigation.
The elements of the story were expertly woven with the
skill of a seasoned professional crime writer, and the
talent John displayed in his debut novel was matched,
if not surpassed, in the follow-up, The Touch of Ghosts.
By the time I started The Touch of Ghosts I’d already
developed a deep emotional attachment to the main character,
and reading this book at times made me feel I’d
been kicked in the stomach. The alliteration is delicious,
the way the words flowed so smoothly made me go back
and re-read passages, just to enjoy the phrasing all
Again, I don’t want to offer spoilers to the plot,
but I will say this. With The Touch of Ghosts I was expertly
fooled. This is a mystery with a triple-twist, and it
keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
John Rickards is likely one of the most under-appreciated
rising stars in the crime fiction scene, and I believe
that he will follow up The Touch of Ghosts with a book
that will put him on the radar of every reviewer and
crime fiction reader out there. The only thing that is
keeping John from being an international best-seller
is that people haven’t heard how good he is.
There’s something about the way John writes that
gets under your skin, pulls you into his world convincingly.
The writing permeated the senses to the point where I
could smell and touch and feel along with Alex Rourke.
I can honestly say now, having finally read THE DARKNESS
INSIDE, that I stand by every word. I don’t want
to give too much away, but THE DARKNESS INSIDE is an
expertly woven tale. THE TOUCH OF GHOSTS blew me away,
but with THE DARKNESS INSIDE Rickards proves he’s
getting better with every book. Just as soon as you think
you start to have things figured out Rickards pulls the
rug out from under your feet. THE DARKNESS INSIDE never
lets up, continuing to raise the stakes to the very end
of the book and Rickards is one author who doesn’t
pull punches. I felt as physically and emotionally battered
as Rourke must have been by the time I finished the last
Although this is an intensely paced thriller Rickards
doesn’t skimp on the character development, on
examining the impact of the story on his protagonist.
Rourke won’t get over these events easily. He has
come face to face with painful truths about a case that
haunted him, and has faced the darkness inside himself.
It’s a riveting story that will grip you from beginning
to end, and should have a wide range of appeal to thriller
and procedural readers. I urge new readers to consider
picking up all three books, and I envy you. The only
bad thing about having read them is that I now have to
wait for more of Rickards and Rourke.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sandra Ruttan's debut novel, Suspicious Circumstances, was released
in January 2007. Her short fiction has appeared in Out of
the Gutter, Demolition, Mouth Full
of Bullets, Crimespree Magazine, The
Cynic and Spinetingler. For more information
visit her website.
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2007 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved