The Jack Stratton novels, by Christopher Greyson

It’s a rare treat to discover an author and a series of books I enjoy very much, and which I can recommend to our readers almost without reservation. But that’s the case with Christopher Greyson and his Jack Stratton novels.

Jack Stratton, the hero of the series, is a cop in a South Carolina town. He’s a good man, but wound tight. As a boy he was abandoned by his prostitute mother, but found refuge in a loving mixed race foster home before being adopted by a good family. As a young man he served in Iraq beside one of his foster brothers, Chandler. He saw Chandler die, and because of survivor’s guilt he hasn’t contacted his foster family since.

That’s until Replacement invades his life. “Replacement” is the nickname of a young woman who grew up in his old foster home, though after his time there. She shows up in his apartment and tells him Michelle, a foster sister to whom he was always close, has disappeared. She’d been studying in a local college, but supposedly transferred to a California school. Only she hasn’t gotten in touch with her family, and she wouldn’t do that.

With Replacement as his uninvited assistant, he starts looking into Michelle’s life, and discovers troubling things.

That’s the premise of Girl Jacked. After that story comes Jack Knifed, in which Jack and Replacement look for his birth mother and investigate the long-ago murder of his father. In Jacks Are Wild he looks for a former lover who has disappeared, and in Jack and the Giant Killer he and Replacement try to find the owner of a stray dog, only to turn up the trail of a serial killer.

Jack Stratton is a perfectly good action/detective hero, but it’s Replacement who makes the books special. She’s Jack’s perfect foil – bubbly and girlish where he’s grim and single-minded, optimistic where he’s pessimistic, and a moderating force when he gets obsessive. Their developing romance is one of the best things about the stories. The sexual tension between them is extremely high, and for a wonderful reason – they’re chaste with one another. Christians will question their living arrangements (they live in the same apartment, and often share the same bed, but do not have sex), but there’s genuine innocence here, which is refreshing in a modern story.

As an added bonus, they both pray. Always before meals, and often when they’re making decisions. It’s not a preachy thing – it’s just treated as a normal part of life.

There are plot flaws – I thought the villains in Girl Jacked were kind of James Bond-ish and improbable. But the writing is good, the characters are excellent, the language is mild, and I enjoyed the stories from beginning to end. Another book is in the pipeline, I understand, and I’m awaiting it eagerly.

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