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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer, and the Son of Sam are all back. OK, well maybe not technically, but someone is out there killing in the same gruesome fashion as these notorious serial killers. With the murders happening across the nation it soon becomes apparent that they can-not possibly be the work of one killer, that there is a greater evil out there. An evil all to familiar to Taylor Jackson. The Pretender has returned.

With this book taking place immediately after The Immortals ends, there is not one second for Taylor to stop and catch her breath, to deal with her emotions after having shot and killed a young man, or to process what happened to Fitz and figure out what is going on with Baldwin that he isn't talking about. But she needs to push all of that aside and once and for all take The Pretender down. She is over knowing that he's out there, waiting for her. She is sick with the thoughts that until The Pretender is caught, everyone she loves will be at his mercy, and there is nothing she can do about it. Will she be able to let others help her? Or will she find herself seeking her own kind of justice? Can she do what needs to be done? Can she protect the ones that mean the most to her against the one person that hates her the most? And when the ultimate betrayal comes who will be left standing to deal with the repercussions?

So Close the Hand of Death is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series. The book can definitely be read as a stand-alone, but to get a deeper understanding of Taylor, her G-man fiance Baldwin, her medical examiner BFF Sam, and the rest of her team, you should read them in order (All the Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss, The Cold Room, The Immortals). I'm keeping this review, as vague as possible to avoid any spoilers. If you pay close attention, virtually everything that happens in this story is a clue about what has happened in the terrifying past, and what's going on in the intense present and what will happen in the explosive near future. There is no doubt J.T. Ellison is a master at her craft. Just when you think her last book is her best yet, you read the next one. And you realize just how wrong you were. So Close the Hand of Death is an edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckled, can't-turn-the-pages-fast-enough thriller that will have you clutching the book as you turn pages almost faster than you can read them, in a desperate desire to find out what comes next.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon February 24, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Across the United States copy cat serial killers of dead or jailed psychopaths surface. Law enforcement is stretched way too thin as the homicidal frenzy is from sea to shining sea. The media adds to the taut situation demanding underpaid and understaffed cops do their jobs.

Nashville police homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows who the mentor of these crazed killers is. The Pretender has returned with a horde of trained deadly predators imitating the worst murderers of society. She also knows his personal target is her as she has been for quite a while (see The Cold Room, for instance). The apprentice killers are just background noise to isolate her from support and to break her mentally with what happens to those who remain close to her. The Pretender is coming for the woman he cherishes and loathes for cherishing her.

So Close the Hand of death is an exciting Taylor Jackson police procedural (see All The Pretty Girls) that grips the audience with suspense as fans anticipate the Pretender coming close enough to Jackson to either kiss or kill her. Fast-paced and tense from the onset, fans of the series will appreciate the latest case though wonder whether Jackson is a modern day Typhoid Mary as anyone who befriends her throughout the six books is in jeopardy from a serial killer.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 5, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson should be happy. She is engaged to the love of her life, Baldwin, and they are getting ready to marry. But the life of a homicide detective is rarely peaceful, and Taylor's is no exception. Her life turns upside down when a serial killer decides that she is his next target and that he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.

The killer, nicknamed The Pretender, attacks on two fronts. He has a cadre of assistants who have fanned out across the country and are killing in homage of famous past serial killers such as Zodiac, Son of Sam and The Boston Strangler. While the police are putting those puzzle pieces together, he acts on the main front. He and his team start to attack those close to Taylor, her friends and co-workers, inching ever closer to the main goal, putting an end to Taylor's life.

This is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series. Those who have read the others won't be disappointed in this fast-paced, gruesome tale. Those who have not read any of the other books in the series can easily pick this one up and read it as a stand-alone, although that plan comes with a warning. Once a reader discovers the Taylor Jackson series, they will want to go back immediately and buy the five prior books to feed their new addiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 22, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series, and picks up several threads of earlier books. At the end of the prior book, "The Immortals," Dr. John Baldwin, Supervisory Special Agent and Taylor's fiancé, was about to attend a hearing into a case from his past, held at FBI headquarters at Quantico. The aftermath of that hearing resulted in his [hopefully temporary] suspension. But the tentacles of that prior case extend well beyond that, to threaten Taylor's career and, indeed, her life and that of those nearest and dearest to her. As the book opens, one of those is immediately apparent as Pete ("Fitz") Fitzgerald, Taylor's dear friend who has been nothing less than a father figure to her, has seen the love of his life, Sue, murdered, and now lies in a hospital bed, grievously wounded [something apparently called "enucleation," but you'll have to look that one up yourself]. Taylor, a six-foot tall Metro Homicide Lieutenant in Nashville, Tennessee, vows to prevent further fallout.

A serial killer, the self-styled "Pretender," learned his deadly craft at the feet of another character from past books, the Snow White killer, is responsible for 26 known deaths as the tale begins, and has in turn amassed several acolytes of his own, who at his behest have now begun killing sprees across the US mimicking famous, or infamous, serial killers of years past: the Boston Strangler, the NY killer known as the Son of Sam, and the Zodiac Killer. This is all part of a deadly cat-and-mouse game on his part, the ultimate prize being Taylor Jackson. His identity, and the motive behind all this, is the biggest mystery, beyond the fact that it is very, very personal.

In this novel the reader discovers that Baldwin has unsuspected baggage that is about to complicate his and Taylor's lives, but the emphasis is, of course, on identifying and stopping the serial killer who has targeted Taylor and those she loves, with the suspense increasing as the inevitable confrontation comes closer. I felt that the book could have benefited from some judicious editing, but nonetheless found it a very enjoyable summer read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"So Close the Hand of Death" is another superb crime thriller by best-selling author J.T. Ellison. Fans of her earlier novels will not be disappointed with the trouble that heroine Taylor Jackson finds herself in once again. The book is full of surprising plot twists and solid writing. The psychological cat and mouse game that goes on in the novel sets you at the edge of your seat and has you trying to guess what is going to happen until the very end. Ellison's characters are very rounded and built upon a strong background from her previous novels - which helps the reader to understand and sympathize with them all the better. "So Close the Hand of Death" is a wonderfully written, taut crime thriller that will make readers eager for the next adventures of Lt. Taylor Jackson.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2011
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
As a Tennessee native I love reading stories set in familiar setting, especially novels that pop like J.T. Ellison's Taylor Jackson. In this installment the Pretender is back with a vengeance and no one is safe. I love how Ellison fleshed out the Pretender's story and provided the back story for why he became such a violent, psychotic man. I was a little disappointed that some of the story seemed somewhat predictable but that didn't hurt the story at all especially when you throw in the wonderful Taylor, Baldwin subplot that was more than enough to overcome any obvious plot devices. Overall, it is a wonderful addition to the Taylor Jackson series with a swiftly moving plot and plenty of action and even the introduction of who is sure to be the next killer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was recently offered the chance to read and review J. T. Ellison's novel So Close the Hand of Death. I was a bit hesitant as it's part of a series of novels based on the Taylor Jackson character, and coming into the middle of a series isn't always a good idea. But I haven't had much recreational reading of late, and a good crime novel is always appreciated. So Close was an enjoyable read and after finishing the book, I think I'll be going back to read the prior books in Ellison's series. There's enough mystery and prior backstories alluded to in this book to make me interested in the characters and how they came to be at this stage.

In So Close, Taylor Jackson gets a message from someone in her past, someone who wants her dead. A serial killer going by the name of The Pretender has three protegees committing copycat killings based on The Boston Strangler, The Son of Sam, and The Zodiac Killer. They're all moving towards Nashville, towards Taylor, and towards a final "play date" where The Pretender will be able to finish off his quest to kill her as payback for what he thinks she's done to him. Taylor and her fiancee, both in law enforcement, are drawn into this web of killings when commenters on a crime reporting website start to fall victim to the copycat killers. Taylor knows how she wants the end game to play out between her and Pretender, but she has to make it look like it was a justified shooting. In reality, she wants to murder him before he does the same to her. As the killings get closer, it turns out that the Pretender is a lot closer than anyone expected, and he has her close friend as bait for a final showdown. Does she do this "by the book", or does she allow herself to mete out the justice that she knows is the only way it can end for her?

As I mentioned, I enjoyed the read. I know I missed some of the nuances of the story, as it is tied to a kidnapping and assault of one of her mentors (who is the person who has to deliver the message from The Pretender). I'm assuming that story is told in an earlier novel, as well as the story behind a subplot involving the past of her fiancee and a secret he hasn't told her. But the action in So Close stands up well on its own, and it didn't significantly detract from the experience as a first-time reader.

I'll be adding some J. T. Ellison books to my reading list, and I'm glad I had the chance to discover another author who spins a crime novel with plenty of dark twists.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Those who have followed J.T. Ellison's Taylor Jackson series from its inception will greet SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, the sixth and latest installment, with great anticipation. Events documented in the first five books have been leading toward the ultimate confrontation between Jackson and The Pretender, her ultimate nemesis. The strength of the new novel is dual-edged, for Ellison not only nearly ties up and together the seemingly discordant threads the previous volumes have presented, but does so in a presentation that is palatable and understandable to readers who are encountering her work for the first time. Remarkably, she is able to do this without sacrificing the storyline and the pacing, both of which are ingenious and first-rate.

There is much that could be given away here, and I am extremely loathe to do that. While Ellison makes the coming together of the myriad paths and connections look easy, it is the type of work that does not come together by happenstance. It simply is not fair to reveal all or even a little of what occurs here, in a few sentences, thus unraveling what has transpired over five previous books and over 400 pages of a sixth. I accordingly will be somewhat general.

The Pretender is the psychopathic and brilliant serial killer. The fiend has crossed swords before with Jackson, who is a highly regarded Nashville police homicide lieutenant. In SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, The Pretender has chosen to bring matters to a conclusion. In order to effectuate this, he has initiated a contest pitting three serial murderers in a race against each other, beginning at opposite ends of the country with a finish line in Nashville, where the demise of Taylor Jackson is to be the tiebreaker. Jackson is on The Pretender's trail, in large part to wreak vengeance for the injuries inflicted upon her mentor, Pete Fitzgerald, and the murder of his girlfriend. The seemingly meaningless attack on Fitz, however, leads Jackson to some unexpected and important clues concerning The Pretender's background and identity, putting Jackson and her FBI lover, John Baldwin, on The Pretender's trail, one that leads back to Nashville. Baldwin is still under suspension from the FBI and remains not entirely honest.

Meanwhile, a blogger with a tragic tie to previous events in the series uncovers the connection between murders that are suddenly taking place throughout the country and The Pretender, little knowing that she herself possesses a tragic link to him as well. Surprises, mayhem and twists start almost immediately and don't stop until the book's explosive and unexpected conclusion.

SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH presents an ending as well as a beginning of sorts to the series. While most of the primary plot threads that have been building over the past several installments are resolved, one or two are still hanging fire. And as far as the ongoing characters are concerned, I will tell you this much: not everyone walks away intact. And of course, there is Nashville, which remains a wonderful backdrop in Ellison's hands. One cannot help but be tempted to spend a day or two visiting places in the city where tableaus, violent and otherwise, from this and other books in the series are played out. You absolutely must put SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH on your reading list.

--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 17, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
For fans of police procedurals and those who enjoy a 'nice' serial killer thriller, Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson is back for the sixth book in the series and this time just one serial killer is not enough!

On the same night, in several places across the country, gruesome murders take place, each committed, seemingly, in the 'style' of a famous serial killer. The Son of Sam, the Zodiac killer, the Boston Strangler appear to be back...but behind them all, it soon become apparent to Jackson, is one evil mastermind, The Pretender, protege of the Snow White killer. The Snow White killer, who we met in 14, may have been defeated by Jackson, but that was certainly not the end of the story. No, once again, even as the bodies fall and the chase is on across the nation, stretching police resources to the point of breaking, it seems that the killer's real motive is very personal and that Jackson, and all those closest to her, are the ultimate targets. Yes, The Pretender, psychopath extraordinaire, is back, Taylor is his target, and this time he has a lot of helpers.

Taylor is not alone in the battle either, because back once again are all the great characters from the previous books in the series. We have her now fiance, FBI profiler John Baldwin, who is dealing with several problems of his own, both professional and personal, her father figure Sergeant Pete Fitzgerald, and her best friend and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Loughley. But those closest to her are in terrible danger and even as she hunts down the Pretender, she must distance those closest to her, both to protect them and to keep her secret. Because Taylor has a plan, a plan for the Pretender that she can not share with anyone.

Ellison is a great writer and this is a real page turner, from the shocking opening pages, through some great, surprising twists and turns, to, as always in Ellison's books, a great conclusion. Both Jackson and Baldwin are flawed yet with deep resources of strength, as befits all great thriller characters, and The Pretender is as creepy and evil as all 'good' serial killers should be, with a last minute twist that took me by total surprise.
I will admit that I am not always a fan of thrillers where the central characters, especially if it a detective or police officer, is the target of the killer. I think it is usually a weakness if the story becomes too personal, that a bit of distance is best. And I must say, when we discover what is behind the Pretender's hatred of Taylor in this book, I was a bit let down. But that being said, Ellison pulls it off in this book, once again.

Now, can this be read as a stand-alone book? Perhaps, since Ellison does attempt to explain the relevant backstory. But quite honestly, I think many readers would be rather confused and certainly for maximum enjoyment, it would be best to go back and read the previous book. Yes, I know...another series...how can a reader ever catch up? But you better hurry, because the next Taylor Jackson book, Where All The Dead Lie, this time set in Scotland, will be released October 1
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a ten-year resident of Nashville, it's always fun to read books set in this surprisingly interesting and diverse city. Ellison has done so with style and suspense, but here she really pulls out the stops. (And yes, I know at least one reviewer says it's been done before, but that's called fitting within in a genre, and Ellison gives it her own unique spin.)

"So Close the Hand of Death" gives us the continuing story of the Pretender, a serial killer who has carried out many dark and evil deeds since his own dark childhood. Now, he has raised the bar by creating a contest, a chance for similar sociopathic minds to show their abilities and aim to have their own killing techniques put to use in the dispatching of tough-as-nails, heart-of-gold Taylor Jackson, who works for the Metro Nashville Police Dept. As Taylor and her fiance, Baldwin, track the quickly nearing killers, they dig up unsettling truths about friends close to them, about their foe, and about the lengths they themselves will go for justice. Taylor also continues her own soul searching, leaning on the advice of a witch and others from previous cases. It's a small part of this story, but I guess it was much larger in her last book "The Immortals," which I haven't read.

Ellison leaves no one safe in her fast-pace story. Yes, she weaves in a lot of threads from previous stories, but I haven't yet read some of those, and I still had no difficulty following the main threads of this particular plot. In fact, I was impressed by her ability to juggle these various aspects without making things too confusing.

In the end, Taylor Jackson meets her match. She must not only face the Pretender but her own dark side. And, as the book ends, we are left wondering how she will rise from that darkness. It's a fitting and believable ending, with enough twists to keep us guessing. It's hard not to root for Taylor and Baldwin, two flawed but likable characters plopped down in such a fantastic setting.
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