Friday, July 1, 2011


Author: R.J. Ellory -Reviewed by Fran Lewis

So, you think you exist- maybe you don’t! Imagine having your life, your entire identity obliterate. Imagine four women killed and no sign, clue or identifiable print left, no family to contact, vital records have no information on them or anywhere on the net to help find their killer. Detective Robert Miller is thrown into the investigation which her would rather pass on. After having been acquitted of murder, being cleared by the court but not public opinion, he finds himself as the lead detective in this high profile murder case. But sometimes the choice is not yours.

Four separate homicides yet one MO. All the victims were suffocated, strangled, badly beaten and left with different colored ribbons tied around their necks and a non descript toe tag attached to each ribbon- devoid of a name and telling the police that each victim, according to the killer was nameless, invisible and not worthy of recognition. Almost like: you figure it out if you can!

But, when Catherine Sheridan, victim four was killed the killer decided to taunt the police, make sure she was found and what better way then calling in a pizza, leaving the door opened and the end result you can imagine when the delivery man discovers the body and gets more than just an unpaid pie.

There is much more. Intermingled and intertwined within the chapters and dealing with the investigation author R.J. Ellory allows John Robey- sadistic killer to speak to the reader taunting you with privileged information about each victim. But, is he the real killer or just someone who wants the world to know he exists? John Robey was a CIA operative- maybe that’s how he knows so much or maybe not! Flashing back to the Iran-Contra scandal we learn about the entire clandestine actions and incident, which began in 1985 during the Reagan Administration where weapons were supplied to Iran to secure the release of hostages, held in Lebanon by Hezbollah terrorists. Not sanctioned by Congress or the Reagan administration, definitely a covert operation, where the U.S. took millions of dollars from these weapon sales and gave guns to the rightwing Contra Guerillas in Nicaragua. How does this play into the plot? Meet Natasha Joyce and the back-story about her boyfriend, his drug addiction and his final murder will explain that.

As the investigation proceeds and Miller becomes embroiled and enveloped into finding the answers, the killer he reads tons of reports, paperwork and much more up driving on several dead end streets.

Remember: Four Victims- each with an identity at the time they were found gut when SS, vital records and their birthdates needed to be verified: No history was found, none existed- ingenious to say the least. As the investigation moves along more things about it disturb Miller as the birthdates do not match up and one phone call adds to the mystery as Darryl King’s death comes front and center with one anonymous phone call, one little girl’s observation and one mother who would like to hide her past but cannot. How does he come into play and what link does he have to our John Robey and his story plus the drug operations wait and see you won’t believe it. Coming through loud and clear are John’s inner thoughts, his life before dealing with the CIA, his father’s influence on him and his relationship with Catherine Sheridan. But, the hidden back-story involves the Contra Scandal and somehow Darryl King ties in as the author allows the reader to learn that he was an informant working to take down a major operation. Unfortunately, it cost him his life and much more.

Author R.J. Ellory weaves a plot filled with intrigue, twists, surprises that will keep you glued to the page until the end. Where will this investigation lead Miller and just how does Darryl’s death intertwine with the other four victims that still remain to be seen. Added to the mix is the fact that all four seem to have hidden identities that the bureau of records which deals with birthdates, Social Security information, phone records and much more seem to have no history of. With no DNA, fingerprints or any physical evidence left at any one of the scenes except the last, Miller and Roth are becoming quite frustrated but definitely will not give up. A newspaper clipping dating back to the Contra Scandal, a photo found at the scene are their only clues. But, Miller seems to feel that the four women have something in common as people but he has yet to figure out what. The plot thickens and the suspense builds up and this reviewer will continue reading until she gets the answers everyone is waiting for: Who is John Robey and who is the killer? But, since I don’t want to be next, I won’t give out that information. You will have to find out when you read this novel yourself.

As we get to know John Robey in depth we learn about his affiliation with the CIA, how he came to be indoctrinated in their ways and the truth behind his meeting with Sheridan. He and Sheridan did not meet by accident, it was preplanned by him and he and the higher ups wanted to make sure she could be trusted, thereby their strong alliance. But, when he realizes exactly what is expected of them his life would drastically change and turn him into a cold-blooded killer with little if any remorse. Added into the mix his the entire history of both the Iran Contra scandal and the U.S. affiliation with the Sandinistas spanning the two decades the early part of a third. His job was to gather intelligence, watch and listen to people, evaluate their positions and report to Langley.

But, just when Miller and Roth think they came to the end of their long rope with no beginning or end, someone identifies the man in the photo and they question John, but things take a different turn as another body turns up beforehand, Natasha Joyce. Linking him to Sheridan, Joyce, the three other murders, the missing police officer and Darryl King would require some heavy police work and much more. Will anyone else pay the ultimate price? Why did they let him walk when they had him? Who would be next? Photos under the carpet, newspaper under the mattress, wrong dates for documents, wrong addresses and just about any link to a person fabricated including their names, who was behind the subterfuge, the CIA, FBI or someone else? But, Robey is clever and taunts Miller and Roth with his lies and deceits hoping to get caught and then spouts off his personal biography, job descriptions and evades answering the main question as to where he was when Sheridan was killed and telling Miller he’s asking all the wrong questions.

Just who is behind this plot you will not believe. Miller and Roth are racing the clock to find this killer before the body count goes up even more as the attempt to catch Robey but find another body this time of one of their own. The ending will not only surprise you but make you wonder what is really going on behind closed doors of our government agencies. This is one novel that will give the reader much pause for thought as once again best selling author R.J. Ellory creates a plot so filled with history, truths, surprises and twists that you will stay glued to the printed page, keep turning as fast as you can to see who wins.

As you learn the truth and the end comes full circle does anyone really win? The reason behind this devious plot I cannot reveal. The truths behind what Robey knows and his final fate you have to learn for yourself. Who committed the murders? Who comes out standing on firm ground at the end? Robert Miller: honest, smart, perceptive and yet dragged into a web of lies, deceit and betrayals that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Catherine Sheridan’s death: A Simple Act of Violence or something else? You decide when you read this five star novel. Just why did Robey find Miller so fascinating? This reviewer cannot divulge as the file is sealed and locked away.

R.J. Ellory is right up there with Clancy, Berry, Connelly, Patterson, Kellerman . This is one book everyone needs to read. A Simple Act of Violence is anything but simple.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Tune in on October 19. 2011 at 3 Eastern on Blog Talk Radio when I interview the author.