Review: Mortal Fear by Greg Iles

Mortal Fear (Mississippi #1)

Give Greg Iles credit–he never writes the same book twice.

By day, Harper Cole is a self-employed commodities trader. By night, he’s a system administrator and participant in the erotic on-line community EROS. Populated by highly successful and affluent people, the EROS offers discreet on-line connections for those seeking something or someone different.

Married to his high school sweetheart, Harper has his own sets of secrets–not just related to his communications on EROS but also to his personal and relationship history.

When Harper notices a pattern of women disappearing from the EROS boards and ending up murdered, he deduces a serial killer is targeting the group. Informing the authorities of this, Harper and his long-time friend and co-system admin Miles become the prime suspects in the murder. Harper is forced to help the authorities try to draw out the killer, leading him to take greater and greater personal and professional risks to try and smoke out the person or persons committing the crimes.

While some of the technological aspects of Mortal Fear are a bit dated (transmission of pictures across the Web is a new thing in the novel), the suspense and psychological depth of Mortal Fear are not. Harper has his secrets and things in his past he’d rather keep buried–things that will all come to light during the course of the story. Harper isn’t necessarily the cleanest of heroes, but Iles does a nice job of getting us to root for Harper even as we recognize that the seeds he’s sewn are beginning to bear fruit.

It helps that Iles keeps the story moving forward at a near relentless speed. In many ways, this is the book equivalent of a good Hollywood thriller movie–it rockets along, not slowing down to allow you to question too much of the logic or motivation of the situation. Characters in the novel make some spectacularly bad decisions during the story (Harper’s attempt to flush out the killer by adopting personality traits from his sister-in-law to create an on-line profile, for example), but a lot of them come from characters not thinking through the consequences of their actions, as could and would happen in real life.

As with other works by Iles, this isn’t one to start reading late at night because you’ll find yourself saying, “Just one more chapter” until it’s three in the morning and you realize the alarm will buzz a lot earlier than you expected.

Another winner from Iles.

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