After reading many paranormal novels, I decided to take a break and read another of my favourite genres. ‘A Presence in Russell County’ is a crime thriller that is generally a full and interesting novel that is easy to read and has a nice collection of characters. As I wasn’t sure what to read I chose this book for the title and because the description of the story sounded like it was just right up my street. I love crime thrillers and this appealed to me as after watching programmes such as ‘The Shield’ and ‘The Unit’ this book combines the two for me. It’s almost like sending in the ‘The Unit’ guys to crack down on the Strike Team from ‘The Shield’, with an extra twist of the Organization.
The police are corrupt. Stealing, drug running and murder are only some of their crimes. And after being harrassed by one of them in particular, Samantha Biggers opens up to a man that she has only knew online but for a couple of years. He happens to be ex-military and when times become more intense for Sam she leans on him for support. As he realises the extent of the corruption surrounding the police in Russell County with the help of the Organization, of which he is part of, they begin to obtain as much evidence as they can against the police.
The Organization is generally unheard of by the public, however if in any way corruption is brought to their attention they seek out the culprits and with evidence, are able to carry out a proper trial in which the defendant could be found guilty and detained very quickly. Without the evidence there is little they can do and if the defendant is found innocent they are free to go. It works almost identical to the system already in place, however it is quick. Within days a defendant could be imprisoned if found guilty. The people that make up The Organization are from all walks of life, however they appear to mostly be retired military.
An interesting character of the book is a journalist, Cap Finch. He becomes involved early on when a policeman is shot and he arrives at the hospital ready to make notes for a story. However, whilst there he begins to find reactions a little strange. There are hardly any police there, the ones that are present are walking down the corridor laughing and joking amongst themselves, not acting in the least bit bothered that one of their fellow officers has been shot and could probably die at any moment. The officers’ wife is sitting alone, waiting for doctors to let her know how her husband is doing – there is no one comforting her. This is unbelievable to Cap Finch.
As the story unfolds Cap Finch finds other odd actions of the police, however his editor has told him he cannot publish these stories. He knows deep down that something isn’t right and as he comes across other stories and people that have been affected he almost falls into the lap of the Organization. Towards the end of the book we are left wondering whether he will go on to work for them and whether he will write a novel based on what he has been a part of. The idea passed through my mind whether this was the case in SJ Sprague. Has the author came across information in which they could not act upon and therefore used it loosely for the novel? Is Cap Finch another side of SJ Sprague?
The whole novel was quite exciting. When it comes to Sam’s lovelife however, I was a little confused towards the end. After becoming a widow she had been online with John Hollingsworth and over two years she had a very close on-line relationship. This seemed to grow naturally and when meeting him in person and becoming more intimate with him I thought that it was happily ever after for them. However, the last few chapters see her engage a little more with Crogan, John’s closest friend. I’m not quite sure what the reader is to make of this.
Also, during the last few chapters I felt that the story was a little rushed. The trial seemed to end abruptly. I was reading intensely and then the following chapter moved on completely and I wondered whether I’d missed something out. I was a little disappointed about this. However, the story and characters in general were really good. If it wasn’t for the ending I would have given this book five stars. I will be reading the following novels and I am hoping the series goes from strength to strength.
I apologise now for a scatty review. This novel is one I would have loved to have read in one go. However, other priorities came up and therefore I read this book very sporadically. I am hoping to read the sequels much more quickly than this. I cannot wait to read ‘Mulberry: The Organization Book 2’. If you would like to contact SJ Sprague you can e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker