“Field Of Graves” by J. T. Ellison, the first book in the Taylor Jackson series, is a great read. Those who have never read this series will enjoy a gripping story with well-developed characters. Fans of this series will learn about the characters’ backstories, sometimes seeing them in a different light.
The story has two characters facing their demons, Lt. Taylor Jackson and FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. They both must overcome the psychological scars of killing their co-workers, either directly or indirectly. Forgiveness is a major theme where they have to forgive themselves to survive. They work together to help each other recover and to find a serial killer who is murdering Vanderbilt college students in Nashville. Part of the team is medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, a friend of Taylors.
Ellison takes readers on a journey with Taylor’s team, the Murder Squad, as they attempt to find who is responsible for the killings. As the story notes, “The Murder Squad” is not based on the Scotland Yard detectives in the Victorian era, but high elite Nashville homicide detectives whose closure rate was 83 percent.
What makes the story so compelling is the interaction between the characters. Anyone following the series will see how they have grown and changed over the past decade. Samantha is still blunt and a sister-like best friend to Taylor, but they have seemed to change roles. While Samantha is happy and carefree, Taylor is tough, smart, likeable and has a troubled edge. Her kindred spirit is Dr. John Baldwin, someone she saved emotionally. He is nothing like the person in the later novels, behaving tough as nails. Together they have unconditional love and make each other whole.
Ellison writes Taylor as being very black and white, without any grey. She came up with the character because she wanted a female homicide detective “with a moral compass who is half cop, half rock star and someone who loves her town of Nashville. I did not want her to be this tortured female who did not have the respect of her peers. But rather, someone good at what she does and is accepted for her intelligence and ability. I wanted to make sure my heroine was not a victim. I would describe her as Athena, the warrior-goddess of Nashville.”
A loveable supporting character is Jade the cat that adds to the storyline.
“Jade is my muse. She is real,” Ellison said. “I had lost a cat and was unemployed when I found Jade. I adopted her and after taking her to a vet I found a job there. I actually hurt my back picking up a dog, and while recovering decided to become a crime writer like John Sandford. I chose the Nashville setting because I wanted to learn more about my new town. The world knows it as the home of country music, yet it’s a much more complex, dynamic city than it first appears, and has a cosmopolitan air. We have the old South rubbing elbows with newfound fame and fortune. We have a serious dichotomy between the upper and lower classes, and a lot of crime.”
She writes three series. Her latest is “A Brit In the FBI,” with legendary author Catherine Coulter. The next book, out in March of next year, has the FBI delving into the history of the Ark of the Covenant. Because of the popularity of her character Dr. Samantha Owens she started a spin off series. Yet, many times the Taylor and Samantha series overlap characters, which is the case with the next book, “All Fall Down,” a continuation of the stalker serial killer story in “What Lies Behind.” Those readers who want to understand more of these characters can read “All The Pretty Girls,” which is being re-published this July.
“Field Of Graves” is a compelling and captivating novel. The characters are realistic and interesting. Anyone who reads this book will want to read all the books in the series.