Taylor Jackson, the butt-kicking heroine of J.T. Ellison’s throwback thriller, Field of Graves, has barely slept in months. Ever since that terrible night when she was attacked in her own home by a crooked fellow cop (and former lover), she’s been grappling with the emotional and professional fallout. The worst aftereffects are the ghastly nightmares she has every single night: “Bodies, everywhere bodies, a field of graves, limbs and torsos and heads, all left above ground. The feeling of dirt in her mouth, grimy and thick; the whispers from the dead, long arms reaching for her as she passed through the carnage. Ghostly voices, soft and sibilant. ‘Help us. Why won’t you help us?’”
One bleary morning after yet another night of too many nightmares and too little sleep, her phone rings. The body of a woman has been found at Nashville’s Parthenon, and Jackson—head of an elite investigative team dubbed “The Murder Squad”—is called to the scene:
It might have become a perfect late autumn morning. The sky was busy, turning from white to blue as dawn rudely forced its way into day…. The sky would soon shift to sapphire the way only autumn skies do, as clear and heavy as the precious stone itself. The beauty of the morning was lost on Lieutenant Taylor Jackson, Criminal Investigation Division, Nashville Metro Police. She snapped her long body under the yellow crime scene tape and looked around for a moment. Sensed the looks from the officers around her. Straightened her shoulders and marched toward them.
The body is naked, staged, and scattered with various herbs—a scene that emanates a disturbing whiff of ritual. That the deceased is quickly identified as a Vanderbilt student means the case is bound to make headlines in a hurry. And when a second body turns up immediately on the heels of the first, Taylor and her team are confronted with the entirely terrifying, and increasingly likely, possibility that a serial killer may be at work.
Taylor’s best friend, Samantha Owens—Sam, for short—is a Nashville medical examiner who shares more than a career in crime-solving: “Unlike many of the women she and Taylor had grown up with, Sam didn’t join the Junior League, have beautiful babies, and lunch at Bread & Company. Instead, she spent her time perched over Nashville’s endless supply of dead bodies, a position she was in much too often.”
John Baldwin, a renowned FBI profiler, rounds out the team. Baldwin is back home in Nashville nursing some pretty serious psychological wounds following an operation turned deadly, an outcome he blames on himself. Knowing how precariously he is teetering on the edge of life-threatening depression, Baldwin’s boss has called in a favor to his old buddy at Nashville PD—can Baldwin come on the case as a consultant? What the boss doesn’t know is that more than a renewed sense of purpose is what’s tempting Baldwin back to the land of the living—the pretty face of an old high-school classmate, a certain Lieutenant Jackson, proves persuasive, as well.
Together, Taylor, Sam, and Baldwin—along with the rest of their motley crew of crime-solving cohorts—work every angle they can think of to crack the killer’s twisted code, one that appears to include strains of paganism, apocalyptic Christianity, and plain old psycho killer.
Field of Graves features a dynamic cast of well-developed characters, a thrilling plot that leaves the reader guessing at every turn, and an unlikely love story simmering with sexual tension and genuine romance. Fans of J.T. Ellison’s dynamic crime-fighting duo Taylor Jackson and Samantha Owens will welcome this page-turner of a prequel for the new backstory it reveals about her beloved characters.
Kathryn Justice Leache is a freelance writer who lives with her family in her hometown of Memphis. Her life among books has included work as a librarian and stints as a bookseller at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis.