Book Critique - Lost Souls (New Orleans # 5)

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 Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: Bone-chilling thriller with the touches of romance, lust and twisted minds - a perfect medley to enjoy the read despite the shivers it leaves in the reader's spine.

Lost Souls is the fifth  book in the New Orleans series by Lisa Jackson with Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya published in April of 2008. This time around Lisa has Rick Bentz's daughter Kristi Bentz in the center of the plot which begins approximately a year and a half after the fourth book Absolute Fear ends.

At the end of the book Absolute Fear, Kristi Bentz wakes up from coma with visions of seeing death around her father. She somehow unlocks her ability to see people at death’s door. After a year and a half of recuperating and trying to get back to her full strength Kristi expected her visions to go away. Instead they simply keep coming back. Finally to get away from all of this Kristi enrolls herself into a Winter semester at All Saints College in Baton Rouge  - same college where she had done her undergrad. And she hoped that she hone her skills to write a true crime.

Little does she know that the college where she was going would give her one such case to write about. Four girls from the campus have disappeared in less than two years and no one were being serious about it. Kristi takes it upon herself to investigate the same and finds herself getting deeper and deeper into a dark world of blood and gory. Only person who believes her was her ex-boyfriend Jay McKnight. But will he help her to solve the missing persons case and also save her from being a victim of this dark world? Or will he repeat history and leave her? How will Kristi survive all this and more is what the rest of the book Lisa spins for the reader.

The book was written after the events of Hurricane Katrina, so there are a lot of references of the aftermath of it all through the book. Being so far away from New Orleans or the hurricane or the aftermath, it is hard to imagine how lives changed after Katrina for people living there. Lisa brings all that out through her characters who are going thru the motions, giving the readers a close glimpse of what people faced. However, the dark mood that left New Orleans in its wake is a perfect setting for this dark and sinister world of the plot. I think Lisa has her timing right.

Considering the disappearances happen in Baton Rouge, I did expect new detectives to be involved with in this plot. True to that we meet Detective Portia Laurent - who is convinced there is foul play, Detective Del Vernon - her colleague who has a completely opposite view and Detective Raymond "Sonny" Crawley - a ruthless homicide detective. We see less of Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya, but the case definitely pulls them in. 

With so many novels I read about Carpathians and Vampires in the Dark Series by Christine Feehan, naturally when Lisa centered her main plot around vampire culture, it brought quick attention to me. However, while Christine dealt with fictional vampires and immortals, Lisa shows us the darker side of human mind and soul that believes in the very existence of vampires and puts that culture into practice. As much as Christine's books give me shivers, they give me pleasure to read as well about immortals. However with Lisa's plot I couldn’t stop shaking when thinking about vampires.

Lisa also brings one of her past book into this plot. There are references to the case solved by Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya in the first book Hot Blooded in this plot. Lisa uses that plot as a case study for Jay McKnight in his class "Introduction to Forensics". I knew that Lisa would bring back Father John - the antagonist of that plot - somewhere in future as a main subject considering she had left a hole at the end for Father John. But bringing him just as a reference didn’t satisfy my appetite. I can't wait to read the remaining books to really see the end of Father John.  Dr. Samantha "Sam" Leeds also continues to be a presence in this plot as the radio psychologist and whom we met in Hot Blooded for the first time too.

Lisa also brings back a witness from one of the cases involving the Our Lady of Virtues Mental Asylum. Ophelia, one of the student at All Saints College appeared in the third book Shiver.

The plot is intense and filled not just with crime with the very darker and insane side of human brain. There is real chemistry between Kristi and Jay, so nothing wrong there. But the whole making of Kristi Bentz character irked me a little. Having gone through life-threatening situations in previous cases, she still doesn’t confide to her father or Jay her plans completely. Trust is something that doesn’t come natural and she has a penchant to attract trouble. Shouldn’t she be more prudent, safer and trusting with the only ones who were looking out for her?

I also don’t like when women use their charm to get their way when that way is clearly the wrong one. Perhaps going thru what she went Kristi could not trust anyone but herself but I was hoping she would learn her lesson after one or two incidents, which I didn’t see happening until the very end.

She has multiple sub-plot going along-side her main plot just like her previous books, and she keeps the reader on track efficiently. However, unlike her previous plots, the detectives are a bit late to spring into action despite the gravity of the situation. As always the language is impeccable, description of the scenes and scenarios are spot on.

Another bone chilling thriller with a touch of romance, love and human emotions that a killer normally doesn’t understand. Not a read for faint hearts but for those brave ones who can read it while sitting in a corner in a darkened basement too. If you are one, I would say go for it.

Spoiler Alerts:

 1. Plot Reveals:

a. There is mention of Bela Lugosi - the Hollywood actor who was famous for his portrayal as Count Dracula. There is also mention of the 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula here. Although I have seen Bela Lugosi's movie, I havent read the book yet.

b. Considering that one of the top crime TV shows in 2008 were CSI and its spin offs, I wasn’t surprised to see them mentioned by Lisa as the plot centers on crime scene investigation and the science of forensics.

c. The story of Elizabeth of Bathory that Dr. Grotto asks the students to read upon is indeed real. I hadnt heard about it till now but seems to be Elizabeth supposedly bathed in young women's blood to keep herself young. More about this bizarre and cruel woman from history here.

       d. Lisa Jackson ends the plot with referencing to Jennifer Bentz being alive, at least in the form of spirit. Going by the way she writes this series, I would say the next book would be around Jennifer Bentz and the past that Rick Bentz has been trying to get off his back for twelve long years.

2. Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character / Geographical Errors:

a. On Pg. 10, Lisa mentions that Olivia Benchet Bentz - Kristi Bentz's step-mom - and Kristi didn’t get along very well. But again on Pg. 12 she mentions they got along fairly ok. So did they get along well or didn’t? Seems like a misrepresentation of the relationship Kristi and Olivia shared.

b. On Pg. 33, Lisa mentions that two days after Kristi moved in, she lands a job. But the scenes played after that and through the entire chapter looked like it was as if two hours after she moved in to the rented apartment she lands a job. Perhaps it was two hours and not two days, an error by the author apparently.

c. On Pg. 42, line 18, it should be "...Sooner or later she'd found out…"

d. On Pg. 341, Lisa calmly delivers the shocking statement through her character Jay that Kristi's room is bugged. However the steps leading Jay to that conclusion were not so clear in her chapters before this page. I wonder if a chapter or a few pages were removed by the editor to reduce overall length of the book.

3. Sub – Plots:

a. In Hot Blooded, Dr. Samantha Leeds brother Peter Williams disappears from their lives more than ten years ago. Detectives couldn’t find anything about him either. Will Lisa Jackson bring him back in a future book?

b. Although the case is closed, author Lisa Jackson leaves a big door open with regards to Father John’s character in Hot Blooded. Was he truly vanquished by the Detectives or will he re-appear in a future plot by Lisa is something we have to wait and see.

c. Norm Stowell – an FBI profiler – and Andre Navarrone – ex-cop at Houston PD - appear briefly in Hot Blooded. However they left me with an impression that they might come back as major ones in a future book. Have to wait and see if Lisa would resurrect them.

d. What will the fate of Sarah Restin and her no-good husband Leo Restin be? These characters appeared in Cold Blooded.

e. Unanswered questions about Bernadette and Reggie from Cold Blooded also perhaps will be answered in a future book.

f. Jennifer Bentz - Rick's ex-wife - has been murdered. Her character background is shown in both the first book Hot Blooded and second book Cold Blooded. But there is enough left off to make me feel that Lisa Jackson would bring her back in some book in future.


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