I’m a little late to the J T Ellison party, mostly because she doesn’t appear to have an Australian publisher. To be totally honest, I’ve been reading some rocking crime lately, and this one didn’t quite cut it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a great debut. Thankfully, she’s written four more since, and one more is due in 2011. I’ll definitely give her another crack, because she has a weird and twisted mind and her storylines sound fantastic.

Ellison’s protagonist is a female lieutenant, Taylor Jackson. She is currently in a relationship with FBI Special Agent John Baldwin, and they are both currently located in Nashville. A serial killer dubbed the Southern Strangler is wreaking havoc across the country, killing seemingly random girls across numerous state lines. The Strangler kills the women, then severs a hand… and leaves a hand from the previous victim near the newest victim. It’s weird, and it’s twisty, and just downright grizzly.

Their story intertwines with a reporter named Whitney Connolly and her twin sister Quinn. The Connolly’s are a wealthy society family, and both sisters have made a name for themselves. When the Strangler starts communicating with Whitney, she is surprised as to why he/she has targeted her. She pieces the crimes together, bit by bit, and is terribly distressed at the conclusion she comes to. A family secret, dead and buried for 20 years, comes alive again in the most terrifying of ways.

There were a lot of good things about All the Pretty Girls, but there were a couple of things that didn’t sit well with me. First of all, the whole severed hand thing is never properly explained. I felt a little cheated… why on earth was the Strangler taking the hands? Did he have a hand fetish? Was it a personal message? I suppose we’ll never know. Second of all, there is a secondary crime that Taylor is working on, and it feels as though it’s being built up to be something massive, but it was a fairly lacklustre climax. I suppose what the Strangler case has for wow-factor makes up for it a little.

Overall, in stars rating, I’d say 3 out of 5. A solid 3 indeed. But I will definitely give Ellison another go.

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