About a year ago, Stephen White announced that he would be ending the Alan Gregory series. He told fans that Line of Fire would be the penultimate book in the series, and that the series would end with book 20. He explains his decision on his website, under the book description for Line of Fire. My first thought? That sucks. I’ve been a long-time fan of the series, mysteries featuring clinical psychologist Alan Gregory. I enjoy reading psychological mysteries in general, and this series, more Jonathan Kellerman than Val McDermid, had a nice guy protagonist who made you feel comfortable even as you were reading about disturbed individuals. I also like White’s cast of characters — like Alan’s DA wife Lauren who has MS, and detective Sam Purdy — all with their quirks yet all so well-rounded and fleshed out over the past eighteen books. So it kinda sucks that the series was coming to an end.
That being said, if the series does have to end, what a way to end it! Line of Fire is such a fitting book to begin the end — White ratchets up the tension, brings together a lot of series characters, and fearlessly takes his beloved characters to dark, unpredictable places. If this book is any indication, the Alan Gregory series will end with a flourish. Well done, Mr. White.
Line of Fire begins with an idyllic scene — Alan Gregory at a Sunday night family dinner — yet, even there, White gives us an undercurrent of tension with a conversation about Boulder’s Red Flag Warning, which basically cautions residents about the possibility of a major fire. Alan’s life then proceeds to become even more complicated. His close friend Diane fears her marriage is falling apart and seems on the verge of emotional collapse. He has a couple of new patients who seem linked in some way to his life beyond work. Finally, a secret he and Sam have kept is in danger of being exposed, which could mean the end of their respective careers and both their families being taken away from them.
The stakes are high, and the twists keep coming. At times I thought Alan Gregory’s investigating was just making things worse — I wanted to tell him to listen to Sam and leave it alone — but that often happens in books like this to keep the protagonist involved and the story going. Alan had to deal with a whole lot of knotty problems, and I like how a lot of seemingly disparate plot points came together.
The ending, I admit, shocked me, as did the actions of a series character. White has never been one to hold back on how he treats his major characters (I still remember how I felt about what he did to Adrienne), but what he did here was just balls to the wall, nothing left to lose, let’s end this. I thought the twist was a bit contrived — too convenient, too orchestrated — but it still did have its desired effect. I have no desire to see the Alan Gregory series end, but after this book, I definitely want to see what White has planned for book 20.
Thank you to the author’s website manager for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.