Title: The Next Best Thing
Author: Wiley Brooks
Narrator: Garrett Michael Brown
It’s hard not to like Joey Jackson. He oozes charm to go with his good looks. Young women are especially taken by him. Right up until he kills them. Ex-CIA officer Mason Ray plans to find him and stop him. For good.
In his debut novel, Wiley Brooks weaves a character-rich story through exotic locals in Malaysia. The year is 1987. It’s prime time for young backpackers from around the world to discover the beauties and mysteries of the long-time British colony. If you like a good thriller about a serial killer, you should buy The Next Best Thing today.
A grieving, angry dad hires Mason to track Joey down. Mason, though, is soon falling apart himself. The ex-CIA officer had committed a horrible act out of revenge years before, for the violent death of his fiancée. His barbaric actions didn’t bring his Sylvie back, but it was, as he liked to say, the next best thing. He had killed the “high value target” who ordered the bomb that took her life.
Mason hasn’t thought much about the ugly things he did that day over the years. He did what he had to do and moved on. Something about this case, though, strikes too close to home. He doesn’t see it coming. Images of the innocent lives he took that otherwise beautiful day come rushing back. They jolt him awake most nights and plague his thoughts most days.
These problems don’t stop Mason, a first-rate investigator, from doggedly pursuing Joey. Turns out that Joey isn’t even his real name. And he’s far from the young man people think he is.
Joey is a serial killer. All of Joey’s victims are young American women traveling alone in Malaysia. All blonde. All 19 to 22 years old. Joey’s smart. He never kills in the same place twice, and he spaces his victims months apart.
One day, Joey realizes that his days bedding and killing young women can’t go on forever. Already, he can see small age lines in his face. There will come a time, he is sure, when the young, free-spirited women – girls, really – that his scheme relies on will no longer invite him back to their rooms.
Joey decides he needs to do one last big hit that will set him up for life. He had been making enough off the girls’ cash and belongings to live well, but there was no future in it. Joey comes up with a plan to set him up for life. To make it work, he needs to find a slightly older woman with money in the bank back home.
He finds her in Jessica Stone. She’s a 33-year-old widow from Seattle. But Jessica is nothing like the 20-year-old girls Joey has wooed in the past. Smart, beautiful, and looking for an adventure to help restart her life. A fling with an attractive younger man? Bring it on!
Joey uses all of his charms to win the redheaded beauty’s trust on a private tour of Malaysia. In many ways, she finds him irresistible. And the sex? It’s great! All the while, though, Joey is plotting how to get to her cash and the ways that he will kill her once he does.
Mason presses on, as his demons close in. He draws closer to Joey and Jessica, day by day. Will he corral those demons in time to save Jessica? Will Jessica ever see Joey for who he really is?
If this story piques your interest and you’re not put off by a dollop of steamy sex and a little violence, buy The Next Best Thing today.
Joey is a murderer, but he hasn’t always been. At first, he was just a purse snatcher. Once he realized the value of passports and traveler’s checks, he upped his game. With the help of a partner, Joey targeted young blonde American women traveling alone. When things start to get risky, Joey crafts the idea for one last hit. The biggest yet. His plan is to woo an older woman with money and take her for all she has before he does away with her at the last moment. When he meets Jessica, he is very intent to move on that plan. Except he’s never felt this way about a woman before. Will he be able to go through with it when the time comes or is this the beginning of a fresh start for the serial killer?
Suspenseful and immersive, this was definitely one of those books that hooks you and keeps you. Joey’s character was so well-crafted from his looks down to his background and finally his personality. On the outside, he’s a charmer, but the inside is filled with darkness. It was definitely an interesting character.
As far as background is concerned, I think the author did a fantastic job of setting the scene in Malaysia from sights to sounds to food. Putting the reader into the lives of American backpackers overseas was an interesting change of pace from similar books I’ve read to this one.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on more works from the author.
The narrator did a fantastic job.
This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.