Joanna Penn is an extraordinarily productive entrepreneur, indie-author, blogger, podcaster, public speaker and more. Her effervescent personality manages to be both endearing and encouraging to other writers. Just the kind of person you’d love to have over for tea.
Then there’s the “dark side” of her character. Under the name J.F. Penn, she writes religious thrillers, and has also produced the “London Psychic” trilogy.
Desecration is the first book in the London Psychic trilogy, and it’s amazing. When Penn’s not plucking the reader’s heart strings like a mandolin, she’s grossing us out with medical/surgical gore, white-knuckling suspense, and intense psychological stress.
In other words, Desecration is a great read!
Detective Sergeant Jamie Brooke has the most heart-wrenching of all possible back-stories. A single mom working a high stress job at all hours, she attempts to solve a brutal murder case while her beloved teenaged daughter, who suffers from a horrifically debilitating disease, gasps out her last painful breaths in a hospice.
Jamie’s unlikely and occasional ally is a gifted/cursed psychometrist (psychically picks up images from the past when touching objects) who has been traumatized by a childhood filled with verbal, physical and religious abuse. He’s the “London Psychic” of the subtitle, but his role takes a distant second place to Jamie’s nightmarish ordeal.
The book has elements of a police procedural, and Jamie is well aware when she is breaking protocol. It’s just that things become so personal and so out of hand so quickly, she must make extreme choices, and can’t wait for the bureaucracy to catch up. She’s really out on a limb for most of the book, though her partner does provide helpful backup and vital information.
Ultimately, this is a personal quest for Jamie as she faces not just the worst thing imaginable, but also unspeakable, unimaginable horrors related to corpse-stealing, human experimentation, the ongoing legacy of Nazi Dr. Mengele’s atrocities, conspiracies, human sacrifice and more.
If you become squeamish around murky jars of mutated fetal specimens, watch out. It gets much, much worse. I couldn’t pull away. J.F. Penn puts the “gross” in “engrossing.”
Only by facing her darkest fears and deepest pain can Jamie hope to prevail against the perversion of human dignity, the obscenity of death and the nonchalant insanity of evil. We’re rooting for her all the way, and she metes out justice with broad strokes.
The character of the damaged psychic will no doubt be developed more fully in subsequent books.
This is Jamie’s story, through and through. And a thrilling story it is, too.