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It happens. You start a book with high expectations for whatever
reason --- the inside cover summary, a friend's recommendation or,
heaven forbid, some nebbish reviewer --- and you're disappointed.
The converse also happens, however. You're not expecting much when
you crack the binding on the book and the next thing you know
you're halfway through the story before you even think about
putting it down --- kind of like being abducted by aliens, without
the probes, if you will.

That's the sort of out-of-body experience I encountered when I
picked up NINE by Jan Burke. I wasn't really familiar with Burke's
previous work, more by accident than by design, so I approached
NINE with a tabula rosa impression, an impression that is now
indelibly etched into my memory. NINE is as complex and gripping a
thriller as you may well read this year.

The premise of NINE revolves around an unknown perpetrator or
perpetrators who are dramatically and theatrically murdering the
individuals listed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List. The first, a
drug kingpin who executed a potential witness against him, along
with the witness's family, is strung up and left to die with his
lifeblood draining from him. The mourners who attended this
gentleman's demise could be counted on the end of one stump. The
unknown individual who hastened his journey to the other side of
the veil is quickly heralded as a hero. As the remaining
individuals on the FBI's list are dispatched with efficient and
creative rapidity, the public is enthralled. Detective Alex Brandon
of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is not among the
cheerleaders, however. The executions bear an eerie resemblance to
the murders carried out by a serial killer, now deceased, some ten
years previous; they appear to be done for the purpose of carrying
out a taunting message to Brandon. As his investigation continues,
Brandon becomes more and more certain that The Executioners, as the
media has dubbed them, are actually targeting him. Burke almost
loses her way at the end --- the ending almost seems a bit
contrived --- but she ultimately manages to pull things off, coming
back in a satisfying epilogue to tidy things up quite neatly and

NINE will introduce Burke fans to a whole new cast of characters.
While the main focus of the book is Detective Brandon, the
supporting characters are so interesting that they ultimately come
close to high-jacking the book away from him. While NINE functions
quite nicely as a stand-alone, independent work, it would seem a
shame for Burke not to utilize Brandon and his supporting cast of
characters in future novels. Whatever Burke might choose to do,
however, NINE will undoubtedly bring a legion of new readers to her

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

by Jan Burke

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket
  • ISBN-10: 074344454X
  • ISBN-13: 9780743444545