9 October 2016
Title: Bare Girl
Series: Erin Bond Mysteries
Designation: Book One of Series, Full-Length Standalone, NO Cliffhanger
Author: Bella Forrest
Genre: #mystery #suspense #psychologicalthriller #crimefictiondrama #serialkiller
Reading Platform: Kindle Edition
My Rating: Five Riveting Stars*****
Move over Lizbeth Salander, V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, there's a new player in town, and her name is Bond...Erin Bond! lol... I couldn't resist inserting a little humor. All jokes aside, Erin Bond may not be a super spy like James Bond, but she is a super sleuth...a modern day female gumshoe, and in her case, she doesn't need the brawn because she has the brain. If you're unfamiliar with the name references in my opening comment, all three are women portraying strong-willed, tough-as-nails private investigators in either a movie, television or book series. Lizbeth Salander is the fictional character created by Swedish author Stieg Larsson in Larsson's award-winning Millennium Series and most memorably featured as the brilliant, enigmatic hacker/investigator who wobbled precariously between psychopath and savior in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Kinsey Millhone is the fictional character created by Sue Grafton and featured as the eccentric female private investigator featured in Grafton's Alphabet Mysteries. And I'm sure everyone is familiar with V.I. Warshawski, the fictional fiercely independent female flatfoot created by Sara Paretsky in the V I Warshawski Series which was later made into a film starring Kathleen Turner. Now imagine the most notable qualities of all three and you have Forrest's Erin Bond character who proves to be the perfect combination of intelligence, self-reliance, selflessness, bravery, grit, resilience, and determination.
For anyone who has followed my reviews in the past, it's no secret that I'm a diehard Bella Forrest fan and have been for several years. I've followed Forrest's international bestselling young adult paranormal/fantasy romance series, A Shade of Vampire, since it was first introduced almost four years ago, and became completely smitten with her newest action/adventure young adult romance series, The Gender Game, when it was released only two weeks ago. Never one to rest on her laurels or past success, Forrest has surprised me yet again with a suspenseful new novel in another new series, but in a completely different genre. Bare Girl is the riveting first offering in The Erin Bond Mystery Series, and she totally blew me away....AGAIN! As the title of the series indicates, this is a mystery but it's also so much more. Forrest has never been a writer to limit her work strictly to one genre or classification, and that aspect of her writing has never been more apparent than with her latest release, Bare Girl which appears to be a part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part crime fiction drama. Unlike the two aforementioned series, this book is a full-length standalone novel and does NOT end in a cliffhanger. From what I can determine, each subsequent release will deal primarily with a 'new' case, but it does appear there will be an interconnected underlying plot thread running throughout the series which actually may relate back to Bond's own childhood abduction case. I guess we'll have to wait and see, but we won't have to wait long since Write, Edit, Kill, the second book of the series, is due to be released December 1, 2016.
As usual, I digress, so let's talk specifics about this story. Bare Girl is a riveting, fast-paced, imaginative, exceptionally well-crafted and edited dark psychological thriller filled to the brim with mystery, suspense, danger, drama and murder. It gives us a chilling look into the mind of a psychotic serial killer along with an insightful glimpse into the events that led to the creation of such a monster. The narrative is beautifully written in the third person with primarily two perspectives, one from the victim, beautiful megastar Isabel Morales, and the second from the heroine, pragmatic private investigator Erin Bond. There is also a third person point of view from the antagonist where we're introduced to 'The Sculptor' but it appears only in the prologue. The dialogue is smart, tight, easy to follow, well executed and flows effortlessly. Yes, the plot is contemporary, edgy, dark and fascinating but it's the characters who capture your imagination as well as your heart. I was immediately drawn into this story by Erin Bond, the protagonist, and Isabel Morales, the victim. These women are vastly different yet in some ways the same, both highly driven, determined to succeed and each in their early thirties. Their paths would probably never have crossed had it not been for this case, but both would soon discover they had much more in than either could ever imagine. Forrest once again demonstrates her talent as a gifted storyteller along with her skill as a master wordsmith in this superbly written suspenseful whodunit. Did I like this story? No, I LOVED it! Would I recommend it? You bet and I am but only for adults. There is no profanity nor sex in this novel, but there is implied violence and dark psychotic themes so I would rate it seventeen and over. Will I read this author again? Absolutely! Just as soon as she releases her next book. Was I entertained? Completely! I loved it! Fabulous entertainment and an awesome read!
Thirty-one-year-old Brit-born Erin Bond has spent the major portion of her life living in the United States after choosing to leave Britain with her father as a child when he accepted a teaching position in the English department at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She was all too eager to leave her home and past in England behind. Here in the United States, she was just Erin Bond, non-citizen permanent resident and private investigator, but in England she was still the woman who had been left unattended by a drunken mother in a supermarket and kidnapped as a five-year-old child, then suddenly reappeared eleven months later wearing the very same too small clothes she'd worn on the day she disappeared with only vague fleeting memories as to who had abducted her and no clues save one...the number thirty-one written with a black marker on her left hand. When found, she was completely incoherent but blood tests revealed she had been given sleeping pills over a long period of time which had erased most of her short and mid-term memory. Apparently, she'd slept through most of her abduction. The only conclusive finding was that she was still a virgin. The press had gone into a nonstop feeding frenzy causing worse problems between her parents. Their marriage had been unable to withstand the media storm and they soon divorced. Her father, Professor Alan Bond, left England soon thereafter with his daughter to begin a new life in American. As a result of years of therapy after her ordeal, she became interested in psychology, so she chose a double major in college, psychology and criminal justice. Since she was not a naturalized citizen, her career choices in law enforcement were somewhat limited and decided to become a private detective. After a few years working for an agency in New York, she opened her own firm and had become a successful and highly sought-after investigator. She now devoted her life to helping law enforcement, solving cases and finding missing or kidnapped victims. She may never be able to solve the mystery of her own abduction but she could help others resolve theirs.
In Bare Girl, our story begins with the disappearance of thirty-four-year-old supermodel and pop star Isabel Morales. The beautiful megastar had been kidnapped in broad daylight during a press conference at Trump Towers after a stunt on Wall Street sent the media around the globe into a tailspin. Using the ruse of a staged fashion shoot for Glitz Magazine, Isabel had stripped naked and bared all with the cameras rolling right in the middle of Wall Street in an effort to reclaim her body from the greedy male-dominated world of capitalism that saw her only as a product to be used for their financial gain. Morales had been trying to bring awareness to the rights of women around the globe. Unfortunately, it backfired and she'd failed. Celebrity kidnappings were extremely rare because they usually had bodyguards and heavy security surrounding them everywhere they went. Occasionally, people became celebrities as a result of being kidnapped...like Erin. Morales had received death threats and hate mail since the beginning of her career but after the incident, it had become even worse. The police had almost no clues and the kidnapper had not released a statement or ransom demand which was somewhat strange...unless he intended to use the dead body of Isabel Morales as his statement. But what was even more strange as well as surprising, she had just been contacted directly by Morales' manager and personal assistant, Sergio Cruz. He said she'd been highly recommended and wanted to hire her to aid the police in finding his celebrity employer. Who in the world could have recommended her to someone like Cruz? Certainly not the police! She had managed to alienate almost every police official on the East Coast and none worse than the police commissioner of New York City. In her experience, the higher profile the case, the more she angered the local officials along with anyone else who stood in the way of her solving the case. She did love her job! Yes, Sergio Cruz had been correct. She was the best in the business...and this was just the kind of case in which she specialized. With suspects coming out of the woodwork and motives surfacing at every turn, would Erin be able to solve the case and find Isabel Morales before it was too late? But more importantly, could she navigate the danger without sacrificing her own life in the process? We'll see!