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CRUSH is Alan Jacobson’s second book in his Karen Vail
series, which began in 2008 with THE 7th VICTIM. The new novel
picks up within a month or so of the events of its predecessor,
offering a change of locale to a deceptively quiet setting that
soon becomes anything but.

CRUSH finds Vail, an FBI profiler, and Robby Fernandez, her
police detective boyfriend, unwinding from the events of THE 7th
VICTIM in California’s Napa Valley area, a place about as far
removed from their native Virginia as one can imagine. But a
seemingly peaceful vacation goes awry when a body is discovered
while the couple is taking a tour of one of the area’s famous
wineries. When another body is found soon afterward bearing
similarities to that of the first victim, it appears that a serial
killer is on the loose. Local law enforcement reluctantly accepts
Vail’s assistance. Her abrasive, no-nonsense manner does not
help her make friends initially, but her abilities and canny
instincts win over her unsure colleagues, particularly Roxxann
Dixon, who partners up with her during the course of the

All the while, the killer appears to be an invisible yet
omnipresent figure, constantly observing and seemingly able to exit
and enter scenes and places --- including the police station --- at
will. Jacobson’s explanation for this is plausible
(it’s wonderful, actually), but the real attraction of CRUSH
is Napa Valley, particularly the wine industry.

Jacobson did yeoman’s work in researching the
“hows” and “whys” behind the magic of
transforming grapes into wine and turns what would be a mundane
topic in less capable hands into a fascinating, even mesmerizing,
process. He works a similar magic with --- are you ready for this?
--- Windows Office 2007, which, during the course of CRUSH, becomes
a forensic tool that leads to the revelation of the identity of a
brutal killer. Jacobson’s way with words is so magnificent
that he is able to transcend the normal software program that we
too often take for granted.

While giving his audience lessons on these topics, Jacobson does
not sacrifice the action or the suspense, which builds throughout,
culminating in a 50-page climax that will leave readers with their
hearts in their throats. There is just about everything you could
want. It is somewhat reminiscent of the chase scene from the
film… No, I am not going to tell you, but CRUSH should come
wrapped with a sticker to the effect that “No one will be
admitted during the final 60 pages without a doctor’s
release!” Indeed.

The conclusion to CRUSH will remind you of the season finale of
your favorite television drama: Jacobson resolves storylines, but
leaves a number of fascinating ones dangling so that the wait for
the next installment of the Karen Vail series will seem
excruciating. There are also two quotations from Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle at the beginning that, in my opinion, the reader should take
to heart while reading the book (and its successor as well) as
Jacobson promises that all will be revealed. As an added bonus,
there will be some website surprises awaiting those who finish
reading, making this novel a truly multimedia experience. The best
part of it, however, is the novel itself, which will keep you
reading non-stop.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 28, 2010

by Alan Jacobson

  • Publication Date: August 3, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vanguard Press
  • ISBN-10: 1593155964
  • ISBN-13: 9781593155964