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on July 5, 2011
I love Jennifer Becton's work, so when I heard she had a mystery out, I bought it immediately for my holiday reading. Mysteries are hit or miss with me--more often than not, the supposedly quirky heroine is only annoying or daft. Cozy mysteries leave me wanting a little more edge, and thrillers keep me up at night. The plot is either way too predictable or the ending is such a surprise that it doesn't make sense looking back. Despite all this, I trusted Becton to navigate the perilous waters to deliver a worthy tale. She did not disappoint.

Julia Jackson's story grabbed me from the opening paragraph. Julia is an insurance fraud investigator who ran out for a cup of coffee. On the way back to the office, she learns she's been abducted. The mystery then focuses on who wanted to abduct Julia, with a suspect list pulled from her current cases. Her employer, the Georgia Department of Insurance, assigns her a partner to finish those pending investigations.

I have to agree with a previous reviewer. Mark Vincent is hot. He's a reserve Naval enlisted man whose specialty is personal defense. Since it doesn't take a genius to see that Julia was obviously the intended target of the abduction, Mark's presence makes sense. The two of them work well together, and there's also a fair amount of chemistry.

Or maybe it was just hot in there--after all, Absolute Liability is set in the South during summer. Becton's setting details were as exquisite as they were subtle. I could feel the heat without being told it was hot. I actually wanted my own glass of sweet tea to cool myself down.

So how did Absolute Liability stack up against my list of typical complaints?

1) Julia was a fantastic heroine. The story is told in first person, which allows the reader to learn things about her that she doesn't actually share with anyone. Her background and her dysfunctional family go a long way to establishing who she is, so it was important to learn that upfront. Beyond that, she's clever without being a know-it-all, funny without being slapstick, and flawed without being annoying.

2) I wouldn't classify this as a cozy, but it also wasn't a heart-racing thriller. There was definitely an undercurrent of danger--our heroine was the target from the first page. Somehow though Becton managed to convey that element of suspense without making me double check my locks before I went to bed.

3) The solution to this case was twofold. I figured out one half on my own, but the second was an absolute shock. After I thought about it for a moment, it made perfect sense. It also solidified my hunch regarding the other half... which did turn out to be correct. That's the perfect blend of logical solution and suspenseful whodunit.

Absolute Liability was the best mystery I've read in ages. I'm so glad it's the first of a series.
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on July 17, 2011
I often buy books thinking they will be really good, but somehow I don't get around to reading them soon and they add to my pile of To Be Read books. Absolute Liability sounded interesting and I was intrigued by the contrast between Becton's previous book, Charlotte Collins, a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

The story is fast paced and the reader is plunged into the lead character's life quickly, but naturally. Julia is someone from a dysfunctional family caused by her sister's rape in high school, and Julia is determined to find her sister's attacker, a determination which led her to the police academy and into a brief job as a policewoman. Lay-offs changed her course, but she now works as a fraud investigator for an insurance company, a job which still uses some of her police skills, but does not risk her life or require her to carry a gun...or at least that is what she thought.

Becton's characters are finely drawn and reasonable (there is nothing that irritates me more than a woman who decides to go investigate a biker bar...alone...when a person of reasonable intellect would take someone with them, or, better yet, call the police with her idea or clue. I detest having to tell stupid characters to "Don't go in the abandoned house! DON'T GO INTO THE ABANDONED HOUSE!!!!") Becton manages a brisk and believable read that is well paced and if her characters are not totally fleshed out it is because this is the first book of a six book series and I am sure we will get to know the characters at a leisurely pace as the series progresses.

Read this book on the front porch with a tall glass of sweet iced tea and enjoy, then try to curb your impatience for the next one! Oh, but you may not want to read this at bedtime, as I did. I was up until 1 am finishing it!
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on July 4, 2011
I love a good mystery. I was spoiled on Agatha Christie and Anne Perry on account of my mother when I was growing up. I was introduced to author Jennifer Becton when I read her debut novel Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Pride and Prejudice so it was with mild surprise that her next published book was a thriller, but hey if Georgette Heyer can write Regencies and then mysteries then so can Jennifer Becton.

Absolute Liability: A Southern Fraud Thriller is the first in what will be a six part series from author Jennifer Becton. I loved every minute of this book. It is a great weekend or beach read and I didn't have a clue who the killer was until practically the end. I found this book to be in the vein of Gemma Halliday another mystery writer who I adore.

The heroine, if you will, of Absolute Liability is Julia Jackson and she investigates insurance fraud. Julia is extremely likable. She can handle herself and yet she still has her vulnerabilities. In the course of her investigations she is abducted---or rather someone abducted what they thought was Julia----which brings out a sense of responsibility and justice in her. So the hunt to unfold the mystery begins. Who really wants Julia Jackson gone?

Throw in Tripp, an ex-high school sweetheart who is just a friend and a cop and a hunky and extremely mysterious Special Agent, named Mark Vincent, sent down especially from Atlanta to partner with Julia and the south just got a bit hotter. I really just want to talk about Mark Vincent. I think I drooled just a little when he was introduced. Mark Vincent was intriguing because he's so mysterious and we don't know much about him. I do hope he turns up again. Yum!

The mystery of the abduction is solved by the end, but there are some unanswered questions in the book in regards to an incident with which happened in the past. There are also some more opportunities to explore Julia's family dysfunctions. This is to set up the rest of the series. Miss Becton has a great series on her hands. She wove a fantastic mystery/thriller and I look forward to book two in the series.

Final Recommendation: If you love a mystery where you are guessing till the end who did it.

FTC Disclaimer: ARC ebook provided by author
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on August 19, 2011
Absolute Liability (A Southern Fraud Thriller)was an excellent read. Jennifer Becton has hit on an original scenario: an insurance fraud investigator who gets a case where those involved are more determined not to get caught than the usual white-collar criminal.

The plot gets off to a flying start when Julia Jackson hears on the radio that she has been abducted. From there, the plot moves along well, and the reader is kept involved and entertained throughout. The whodunnit is more rational and less contrived than in many mysteries. This book is "fair" in the sense that, if you pay attention, you might solve it at about the same time as the characters do. The investigation of the crimes is portrayed well, and the outcome is satisfying.

Julia is an appealing heroine. She has a lot going for her, but is also a real human with flaws and emotional pain from the past. The author nicely avoids the extremes of fictional heroines-- Julia neither too stupid nor too sensational. There are two male protagonists, a policeman and a fellow insurance investigator. The first is an old flame, the second a potential new boyfriend. The relationship of each to Julia feels realistic.

The narrative is first person, from Julia's viewpoint. So the reader is privvy to her inner thoughts and feelings. The writing style is impeccable: highly readable and very clear. The tone is generally light, with some persistent tension and a few times of high anxiety/terror. There's one action scene that I consider to be a little too optimistic.

If I could give 4.5 stars, I would have. This book rates high on my list of mysteries, and I'll be watching for other works by this Ms. Becton. I recommend it for mystery fans.
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on July 26, 2011
I stumbled across this book by accident and I have to say--I found it highly entertaining and the characters so well rounded I was sucked in from the first page. Julia is a funny, fierce, compassionate woman who just wants to do what's right without getting herself killed in the process. Her familial demons add another layer to her character and I suspect those threads of life experiences will be woven throughout this series. Lots of clues to keep you guessing and tension on every page. Readers will especially appreciate the portrayal of a female protagonist with a backbone of steel.

A gem in the mystery/thriller genre and an author to be watched. Looking forward to the next one!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon August 10, 2011
This is a very enjoyable mystery with appealing and well-drawn characters. For me the mystery is good but better is the personal interest story around the main protagonist Julia Jackson, former Mercer Police Department officer and now a fraud investigator with the Georgia Department of Insurance. Julia has a family with personal problems that have affected her life and her personal and career decisions and the first person POV allows us into her thoughts and concerns.

In addition to family members, we meet some of Julia's professional friends and acquaintances. Foremost are Tripp Carver, longtime friend and former boyfriend, who is a detective with the Mercer Police Department in the violent crimes division, and new acquaintance Special Agent Mark Vincent, with the Atlanta Division of the Georgia Department of Insurance, who has been sent to Mercer to work with Julia. The case they work on together begins with the abduction of a young female intern who was mistaken for Julia. So Julia and Mark Vincent and detective Tripp must figure out why someone wanted to abduct Julia and must find the mistakenly abducted intern. To do this, Julia and Vincent look into her fraud investigations on file to find out if the clues are there.

It all makes for an interesting mystery, a great introduction to Julia and the books to follow, and, for romance lovers, there's the hint of the possibility of something which could develop between her and Vincent. (Unless Tripp comes back into the romance equation, making a triangle like the Stephanie Plum-Morelli-Ranger confusion in Janet Evanovich's series.)
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on August 23, 2011
What a great mystery! (And a quick read too)! To be honest, I was not sure how I would like this considering that Becton writes novels in two different genres (historical fiction & thrillers). However, this is a must read for any mystery lover. Becton's characters are true to life people one could picture in their town or amongst their acquaintance. The reader is left wondering who committed the crime until the very end! In addition to the great mystery, there is also some sexual tension between the two main characters, Vincent and Julia. This tension also keeps the reader engrossed because one desires to know what will become of the two.
Just like Iris Johansen has Eve Duncan looking for her daughter Bonnie's body and killer in each book, Becton has Julia on a decade-long search for her sister's rapist. Will Julia ever find her sister's rapist? At the end of the book, the reader is left with many unanswered questions that will hopefully be answered in the subsequent novels.
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on July 1, 2011
I love mysteries and thrillers. I was raised right, which means on a healthy doses of Columbo and Murder She Wrote. I am very picky about my mysteries/thrillers because so many authors either try to hard (the wise-cracking lead comes off more like someone who missed a career in standup as opposed to someone whose just quick on their feet), or don't try hard enough (I know who dunnit by chapter 4). When I find a really good mystery I cannot put it down and that is the case with Absolute Liability, which I read straight through as fast as I could.

Julia Jackson is a really believable lead character. She's funny without being annoying, she's vulnerable and insecure enough to not be a superwoman, and she yet she is clever and dedicated enough to keep me interested and rooting for her.

Her new partner Mark Vincent is, um . . . hot. Yes, I said it! But he's got layers and layers that I so want Julia to start unraveling. I love the chemistry between them and I cannot wait to read more about these awesome characters.

All in all, I say two thumbs up! Five stars! I vote this as one of my "super satisfying summer reads," and I highly recommend that you read it.
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on July 24, 2011
I have to say that I was skeptical about buying a book from a new author in the mystery/thriller genre- especially when you throw a little physical attraction in the mix- the relationships usually progress way too fast for my liking. I have to say I was curious that everyone who left a review; absolutely loved this book. So I took a chance and I am glad that I did!

I could not stop reading this one...I am not kidding- I finished this book in one day. I loved it so much I have re-read it 3 times in the last 4 days, just because I have to wait for the next book in the series to be released :( I highly recommend this to anyone who likes to be pulled into the story.

I love the way Julia is not a super macho I can do anything kind of heroine. She has her weaknesses and strengths just like the rest of us. She is confident enough to know when she needs help and accepts it willingly. I also love that when it comes down to it, she is very capable of taking care of herself- even if she doesn't want to be put into that situation.

I hope that J.W. Becton does many more books in this genre- I am going to get them all.
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on January 25, 2012
Looking at the cover of this book, I was expecting a light-hearted story that was equal parts mystery and romance. I quickly discovered that this was not the case; this was darker and much deeper than what I expected. While there was some romantic element in the story, it was minimal.

What I liked most about this story was the heroine. While she works in a traditionally male job, she does not attempt to out-macho other guys; she is a good mix of toughness and vulnerability.

My only gripe with this story was a minor one, I think the villains are revealed a little too soon. But other than that, this was a good story, I look forward to the next one in the series.
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