Catechism (Nick Ballard #1), by Anthony Steven

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Anthony Steven for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Eager to try something new with religious undertones, I turned to this debut thriller by Anthony Steven. A little police procedural with a peppering of psychic intervention, Steven seeks to carve out his own niche in the supersaturated genre. Nick Ballard is a former television psychic who all but lost everything when his wife died. Now, he has these odd visions that put him in the body of murder victims, allowing him to feel their pain the moment of their deaths. When Ballard goes to the police, DCI Kate Garvey is not sure what to make of it. At first, Garvey suspects that Ballard might be involved, as he seems to know too much with details not released to the public. However, she begins to see that he might know something useful and could be an insight into the actual killer. With a killer who leaves biblical references at the crime scenes, Garvey can only wonder if this is a man on some sort of cleansing mission. Seeking help with his psychic abilities, Ballard reaches out to someone who might be able to explain it, though it is by no means the answer he expected. When the killer’s rampage continues, things take a horrifying turn and Garvey must risk it all and trust in Ballard to help bring things together before they come crashing down around everyone. A decent debut with some great action, Steven does well to make his mark. Recommended to those who like their police procedurals from a different approach, as well as readers who need something quick to pass the time.

I stumbled upon this piece, unsure what to expect. While I was not blown away, Anthony Steven did keep my attention throughout, enough that I powered through this piece in a single day. There is a great deal going on in here, particularly with the two main characters. Nick Ballard has been gifted with his psychic abilities, though they have been a curse for him since he was a lad. Able to read minds and happy to share what he sees, Ballard has found himself in more trouble than the talent seems worth. With some interesting backstory, Steven tells of Ballard’s struggles before it all came crashing down, leaving the protagonist to fall into a bottle as he tries to drown the pain. His interaction with Susan Carter is an interesting part of the novel, a character Steven promises to explore more thoroughly in a free novella available on his website. DCI Kate Garvey has her own story that flavours the piece. Building on her single mother backstory, Garvey is trying to do it all while holding down a senior position within the Metropolitan Police. Her work comes first, though she tries to find time for her adult son who is all but ready to disown her. She is sceptical about Ballard, but must trust him to some degree if she wants to make progress and remove her head from the proverbial noose. In a story that mixes religious messaging with psychic undertones, Anthony Steven spreads himself a little thin and dabbles a little in both, diluting what could have been an even more powerful and edgy piece. While the narrative is saved with quick chapters that push things along, I sought more ‘creepy’ factor to really get to the heart of the matter. I hope the aforementioned free novella offers a little more, as I can only wonder what the second full novel in the series (listened on Steven’s website) will become without some added pep. I will continue with the series, but want more action and deeper connection to the characters. There is a definite plot pathway, but something to pull me and leave me hungering for more.

Kudos, Mr. Steven, for this debut effort. I need more, though I found myself wanting to keep reading repeatedly throughout this one-day adventure.

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