Title: The Sex Club
Author: L J Sellers
Publisher: Spellbinder Press 
Length: 347 pages
When a bomb explodes at an Oregon birth control clinic Detective Wade Jackson investigates. However, he’s soon pulled of that case when the body of a 14-year old girl, who had been a client of the clinic, is found in a dumpster. Both Jackson and a nurse from the clinic, Kera Kollmorgan, wonder if there is a connection but the cases are treated separately. Kera has information she can’t share with police for confidentiality reasons but she does look into a teen church group that several of the clinic’s clients seem to have been a member of and discovers they’re not meeting for bible studies at all.
This debut novel quite ambitiously includes several separate threads which intersect because the same group of people seem to be connected to both. The two mysteries, the bombing and the murder, are handled differently with one culprit being known to readers all along while the other is not revealed until the end of the novel. This kind of complexity could easily have led to disaster but the book is well plotted and satisfyingly wrapped up and even has a few surprises. There’s a good pace to the story and it’s a testament to the writing that I finished the book within a day (and night).
The ‘goodies’ in the novel, Jackson and Kera, are provided with back stories that explain their present-day goodness and are generally well-rounded characters. Soon-to-be single dad Jackson in particular is the kind of nice bloke with a handful of personal problems that can easily sustain interest. But the rest of the characters, both the ‘badies’ and even the victims are pretty one dimensional and not particularly credible. I know there are rabid right-wing religious conservatives in the world (I’ve seen Jesus Camp) but I never really believed the ones in this story, especially not the woman whose point of view we see about a third of the book from. I needed a bit more back story to explain how she got to be the way she was and believe the things she believed. When combined with Kera’s self righteous moral high-ground this made some parts of the book feel too much like a polemic against religious conservatism and, regardless of how much I may agree with the point of view, I don’t like being lectured to in my fiction. After all it’s only preaching to the converted as I can’t imagine too many people who need to read something that exposes the lunacy of their point of view would actually pick up this book.
Overall though this is a well told story and I think the Detective Jackson character has the potential to form the backbone of a good series. Sellers writes well and has demonstrated that she can handle the kind of complex story that makes interesting reading. For my taste future books would need to back off the lecturing but I will certainly give another book a chance. And on the never ending question of whether or not a book should be judged by its cover I have to say the cover of this one is quite exquisite: it’s so good to see a departure from dripping blood or silhouetted running men.
My rating 3.5/5
The second book in the Wade Jackson series, Secrets to Die For, will be released (in the US at least) in September 2009