This week marks the release of The Fourth Victim, the fourth book in the Chapman Files series by bestselling author Tara Taylor Quinn. The series centers around the figure of Dr. Kelly Chapman, a noted psychologist and nationally recognized expert witness. These books chronicle cases from her files as well as events in Kelly’s life. In an unusual but highly effective choice, Chapman’s sections are voiced in first person, which provides an intimate connection between Kelly and the reader, putting one right into the center of her thoughts and feelings. While each of the stories is capable of standing by itself, the richness and complexity of the stories is best enjoyed when read as a series, as characters and callbacks link the four works intimately together.
The First Wife (September 2010) unravels a complex story of bigamy, domestic abuse, murder, and an unexpected pregnancy. Here, Kelly Chapman makes her debut as an expert witness in a murder trial and, along the way, also demonstrates why she is so successful as a psychologist and as a friend. But the central story is that of Jane and Brad, and whether love really can heal all wounds. As is her fashion, Quinn challenges traditional themes by incorporating tough and unexpected topics with deft storytelling, leading the reader through complex psychological issues and poignant, heart-breaking moments of discovery and understanding. The final scenes left me in tears.
The second Chapman Files book, The Second Lie (October 2010), touched me in an entirely different way. Having grown up in a small Midwestern farming community, Quinn’s depiction of the farming town of Chandler, Ohio, was dead-on, complete with a range of characters who, in lesser hands, might have been stereotypical. Here, however, I felt as though I were meeting older versions of people I grew up with, as real and quirky as old friends, and I was transported back to a small-town way of life, but one faced with very modern problems. The issues are not minor — meth super-labs, drug-running, pedophiles, prostitution, murder/suicides, and even modern bio-agriculture and genetically-engineered corn– and show a wealth of background research. And Chandler just happens to be Kelly Chapman’s hometown. In addition to the suspenseful drama of the drug ring and murder, the story of long-time lovers Kyle and Samantha must resolve itself via emotional self-discovery and confronting challenging family issues. Kelly’s role is no less difficult, as she takes on a new patient in fourteen-year-old Maggie, whose story will crack open the hardest of hearts.
In the third book of the series, The Third Lie (November 2010), Quinn moves the series onto a broader international stage by centering the story on a covert agent, used to the secrecy of international espionage, and a defense attorney, questioning the current state of her career and her life. Intrigue, suspense, questions about the “rights and wrongs” of life choices, and intense characters kept this reader up well into the night. Secrets unravel, many times over, and nothing is ever as it seems. Rick is mysterious and charming, and as the story progresses, the reader, much like Kelly Chapman, has doubts about whether Erin should trust him. How that plays out, with all its bends and twists, is suspense written at its best. And through it all, Kelly’s growing relationship with Maggie grounds the reader as they struggle to become a family.
The Fourth Victim (December 2010) is Kelly’s story. Simply put, it’s stunning. The immediate dilemma for the author is to craft a romance when the heroine goes missing early in the book, and the hero’s job is to find her. With layer upon layer of suspenseful possibilities, the story unfolds, teasing the reader with multiple possibilities for the ending. Kelly’s scenes render her distress, at times in just a few lines. Clay’s growing attachment is contagious, and those who liked Kelly in the first three books will come to love her as well. Not only does The Fourth Victim begin the story of Kelly and Clay, it pulls together the series into a rich, harmonic quartet. While it brings the original series to a close, it leaves the reader hopeful for more from Kelly Chapman and her files.
The series by itself is a phenomenal undertaking, but the effort to make a difference in real-world issues is also an important part of the story of the Chapman Files books. Beginning with the release of The First Wife in September, Quinn began a four month long, international blog tour. Her posts have covered topics including friendship, gratitude, domestic abuse, customer service, motherhood, and a myriad of other issues, including some that are deeply personal and highly emotional. But each one is part of her very personal and public effort to help raise awareness and financial support for the issue of domestic violence. In addition to requesting support for Strengthen Our Sisters, the first battered woman’s shelter in the U.S., Quinn is donating a portion of her proceeds from The Fourth Victim and has organized events and occasions to help as well. The big events occur this weekend –the first annual Tara Taylor Quinn Charity Skate/Walk, and a dual physical and online book launch party– both happening this Saturday, December 4, 2010. Details on the events and on how you can support this effort are available on Quinn’s website.
As a long-time fan of her writing, I have been spoiled these past four months by having a new Tara Taylor Quinn book to savor and enjoy. But without question, the Chapman Files series highlights the strengths that Quinn is best known for, including intense suspense, emotional and psychological depth, and cutting-edge, challenging topics. As with all of her books, the characters find what I term a heart-and-soul love — transcending and encompassing passion and friendship, it’s the soul-deep, forever kind of love that great romances are all about. If you haven’t read the Chapman Files, please do so. And look for more amazing stories ahead from Quinn in 2011, including her own true-life romance.