Jack Kerley

Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus - Detectives,
Psychopathological and Sociopathological Investigative Team, Alabama

"A Garden of Vipers"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky SEP 30, 2006)

”The Kincannons have been playing at being benevolent and likeable for so long that they may even believe that story themselves.  They abide social and legal compacts for the most part.  Until something threatens their world.”

A Garden of Vipers by Kack Kerley

In A Garden of Vipers, by Jack Kerley, Alabama detectives Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus are hunting the psychopath who tortured and murdered a young radio reporter named Taneesha Franklin.  Ryder is the hard-boiled and wisecracking narrator who, along with his partner, is a member of a special unit known as the Psychopathological and Sociopathological Investigative Team.  They are experts on the workings of disturbed minds. 

During their investigation, Carson and Harry begin to suspect that the Franklin case is just one of several related crimes that have been committed over a period of years.  When they dig deeper, the detectives find evidence of police misconduct and a cover-up involving the phenomenally wealthy Kincannons, a duplicitous and dysfunctional family with some ugly secrets.  Adding to Carson’s troubles, his girlfriend, reporter Danielle Danbury, has become romantically involved with the handsome and influential Buck Kincannon, who promises to use his considerable clout to promote her broadcasting career. 

Jack Kerley has a brisk writing style, and his colorful dialogue, dark humor, and vivid cast of characters contribute to this book’s considerable appeal.  The author effectively depicts the grueling lives of homicide detectives, who routinely put in many hours of tedious work, often with little to show for their efforts. 

Frustrated by their slow progress in the Franklin case, Nautilus and Ryder pull out all the stops to catch Taneesha’s killer.  Not only do the detectives interview any witnesses who may have relevant information, but they also make good use of such varied resources as a talented sketch artist, a “digital cowboy” who can enhance videotapes and trace emails, a forensic expert, and a sleazy street informant.

This intelligently constructed novel is like an intricate jigsaw puzzle with many oddly shaped pieces, in which subtle clues and misdirection keep the reader off-balance until the entire picture is eventually revealed.  In addition, there is a poignant subplot about Carson’s emotional involvement with the sensitive Clair Peltier, a forensic pathologist who is eleven years his senior.  A Garden of Vipers is a suspenseful, harrowing, and engrossing thriller about the corrupting influence of money, status, and power.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from A Garden of Vipers at author's website

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About the Author:

Jack KerleyJack Kerley worked in advertising and teaching before becoming a full-time novelist.

Jack is married with two children; they live in Newport, Kentucky. Jack also spends a good deal of time in Southern Alabama, the setting for his Carson Ryder series.

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