Little girls never forget their butterflies-in-the-gut first crush. Sophie Ever’s crush turned into a lifelong obsession fueled by the dangerous voice in her head, driving her to do whatever it takes to get her man to love her back. J.D. Allen’s first book in a new series 19 Souls (Midnight Ink) brings us face to face with a woman on the edge of sanity who tricks Private Investigator Jim Bean into locating the object of her desire, Dan Hodge, who’s gone off the grid in hopes she never finds him.
The book opens with tension and continues to build it even though we are immediately aware of who the villain is. The noir style and Las Vegas setting give the book a distinct hard-boiled feeling, and the voice in Sophie’s head doubles down on the deviant femme fatale trope. Allen does an excellent job with dialogue, description, and making Sophie fallible enough that we can’t completely hate her.
As Bean tracks her movement through a trail of dead bodies we readers get up close and personal with her inner critic, almost rooting for Sophie just to spite the psychopath in her head. The story oscillates between Bean and Sophie perfectly, giving the reader opportunity to learn more about both characters without it seeming like an information dump.
Fans of female antagonists will devour this mystery, as Allen found the recipe for creating a villain both vicious and vulnerable. The body count clicks higher without gratuitous gore, making for a great guilty pleasure weekend read.
Allen is a graduate of Ohio State University where she earned a degree in forensic anthropology and a creative writing minor. 19 Souls is her first full-length mystery.