Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow (Iris Ballard #1)

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When I started to read Beautiful Maids All In A Row, I was quite skeptical. I’ve never heard of this author before, and let’s face it, the title could be also taken as something funny or satirical, and not in a genre I usually read. But I dove in. And soon all my misgivings about the book, title, author and everything else were gone. This book rocks.

It is one gory, gritty serial killer thriller that will keep you on your toes while reading. It is exactly the type of book I enjoy reading most.

Dr. Iris Ballard is an ex-serial killer profiler who is now just a shadow of her former self. Something happened in the past that made her leave the FBI and retreat to a remote place busy with her solitary drinking, watching infomercials and just being alive, but not really living.

Seeing your spouse get murdered tends to do that to a person, and let’s face it, 2 years might be just a drop in the ocean when it comes to healing from such a tragedy, especially when there is a feeling of guilt mixed in with grief as well.

All this changes, however, when her ex-partner Luke Hudson asks for her help in profiling a sadistic serial killer who after murdering his victims – all single moms, dumps their bodies somewhere in the woods.

Initially Iris refuses to help and sends Luke away, but once she sees the case files, she realizes that the profiler in her is still very much alive and she can’t let go of the job so easily.

I realized early on that there was once something more between Iris and Luke back in the day, because there was a strange tension between them that was very palpable. Soon we learn that indeed they had a one night stand while she was still married. After all these years it seems that some sort of feelings are still there between the two.

The serial killer is called the Woodsman, and we learn relatively early in the story who he is. We are not left guessing about his identity. We are, however, drawn into his mind and get to learn why he does what he does. And then the cat and mouse spiel between Iris and the Woodsman starts. And boy, what an electrifying and terrifying game that is.

The Woodsman is a person who is a control freak, not to mention a sociopath who takes pleasure from hurting others. Sadly he has everyone, including the FBI fooled, so even Luke believes that the threat is gone, despite Iris believing he is still out there, looking for his next target. And it seems he now has his sights on Iris and would like nothing more than make her feel some serious pain.

After reading the book, I’ve realized that it was the author’s debut novel, which she actually wrote at the age of 19. In the meantime Jennifer Harlow has written several other novels, however none in this serious thriller genre. Her other books are all paranormal mysteries and urban fantasies, so here I am hoping that Iris Ballard will get a sequel, because she definitely deserves another chance to be read, and so does Luke.

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