Thrilled to Death
by L.J. Sellers

Echelon Press Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1-590-80727-9.
Reviewed by Susan Ideus
Posted on 07/01/2010

Fiction: Mystery

In the space of three books, I've become a big fan of L.J. Sellers. The first Detective Wade Jackson book, The Sex Club, I read at the behest of a friend who, like me, is a mystery fan. I liked it a lot. The second in the series, Secrets to Die For, was even better, richer in detail and story development. Sellers' latest, Thrilled to Death, is the best yet, presenting more characters, an unrivalled plot, and enough twists to keep the reader hooked. Although I know I have a long wait, I'm already eagerly anticipating number four.

Why have I become such a fan? To begin with, Sellers has developed her main characters in such a way that they are familiar to the reader. Wade, Kera, Katie, and a variety of detectives play key roles. We know them, their backgrounds, their quirks, their issues and I like this. Far from being boring, this allows the stories to flow smoothly—no going back a few pages, wondering, "Now, who was that?" In addition, this permits Sellers to introduce new characters, and flesh them out in great detail. We know the main actors; now comes the supporting cast in each story.

Another selling point for me is that Sellers confronts current social issues from abortion clinics to homosexual relationships to single mothers and more, making them critical elements of her stories. She gives facts and figures and enough background that the reader can form their own opinions and will hopefully come away more well-informed, and perhaps more curious and wanting to learn more.

Sellers' attention to detail, both in police procedurals and plot details suggests a great deal of background work and study, lending credibility to the plots. Her imagination in the creation of the details fascinates me. Nothing is everyday ordinary, down to the diseases and disorders suffered by some of the characters and their varied professions. Sellers' creativity and factual details are a unique hallmark of this series.

In Thrilled to Death, Jackson and his cohorts are investigating the disappearance, on the same day, of two young women. On the surface, they have nothing in common. One is a spoiled, "bad" girl from a wealthy family, often in the headlines and often in trouble. The other is a new single mother, struggling to keep her life together, barely making ends meet. Both could be runaways, one vying for attention and one escaping overwhelming responsibilities. The cops in Missing Persons seem ready to write off both cases, but that doesn't set right with Detective Jackson. The socialite's mother asks for Jackson, whom she knows to be the best investigator, to take her daughter's case, as she knows this instance is "different". The young mother is the daughter-in-law of Jackson's love interest, Kera, who cannot quite believe that the young woman could just abandon her darling Micah.

As the investigation proceeds, clues come to light at an alarming speed. Some make sense, some are far out, but all mean something. The story unfolds with bizarre turns and peculiar characters. Just when something starts to make sense, another element is thrown in the mix. This is a crazy ride for the reader trying to get a handle on the characters and their relationships, the details of the myriad clues, and how they all play out. Sellers masterfully guides the reader through the maze. What at first seemed evident is cast aside for a new truth and what seemed to be crucial is in the end interesting but trivial to the outcome. The pace remains frenetic, and it is not until the last few pages that it all comes together. No wasted space, no fillers—this is all story all the way to the end. I could not put it down until I was finished.

If you like fast-paced stories, believable characters and bizarre plot twists, I suggest you give this series a try. I know you won't be disappointed.

L.J. Sellers, an award-winning journalist, a freelance editor and a novelist, lives in Eugene, OR, also the setting for her Detective Wade Jackson Mystery series. She is also a stand-up comic. When she's not writing, she loves hanging out with her family, cycling, reading crime mysteries, gardening and social networking. Find out more on her website.

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