Death Benefits is the second book in Becton’s Southern Fraud Thriller series I read the first book, Absolute Liability and loved it so I’ve been waiting impatiently for the follow up. The Southern Fraud series centers on Special Investigator Julia Jackson who works for the Georgia Department of Insurance, and just like in Absolute Liability I found it easy to identify with Julia. She’s smart and capable, but she doesn’t try to be super woman and solve all the world’s problems on her own. She’s also flawed and more than slightly obsessed with her own personal quest for justice, but these character traits serve to make her more likable and understandable to readers.
And then there’s Julia’s new partner Mark Vincent. We were introduced to him in the first book, and in the first chapter of this book it gets confirmed that they are going to be partners at the DOI for a longer period, that they’re working together on the last case wasn’t just a fluke. Cue the hallelujah chorus from thousands of Vincent obsessed Becton fans. Let me tell you…Mark Vincent is hot. Like, “serious and for reals” hot. Whenever he and Julia are “on screen” together they burn up the page. Without giving too much away. Becton has created heaps and heaps of sexual tension between two characters who are not (currently at least, we all have big hopes for the future) romantically involved. And yet there relationship is more about respect, trust, and some really amazing moments of tenderness, then it is about that tension. And…Vincent is hot. (just in case you missed that earlier in the paragraph).
The case that Julia and Vincent are working in Death Benefits is actually pretty disturbing. The sections written from the killer’s point of view are spectacularly creepy. This was true in the previous book as well – the glimpses inside the criminal’s mind in both of the Southern Fraud books feel extremely realistic to me. This particular case involves a body in a burned out car, and a Death Benefits claim made 15 minutes after the widow of the supposed deceased is informed of his demise. The reader, and the investigators, are pretty quick in their guess this is a case of fraud – but who is the person in the car? Where did this body come from. The answers to these questions are both fascinating and kind of brain warping. There is one particularly well written and very visually described scene near the end of the book which has literally broken my brain. I may never be the same. I do not suggest reading that section of this book at 4 am unless you really like to be creeped out.
Even though it is the second in a series, I think that a reader could pick up Death Benefits and jump right in without having read the first book (although I suggest that you do). There are several carry over story lines, but Becton gives enough of an explanation of them to ease in new readers, but not so much that returning readers would feel they are covering similar ground.
Update: The first book in The Southern Fraud Series – Absolute Liability – is now FREE for Kindle on Amazon! Go download it now and get into this great series!
I’ve linked this post up to the 2012 Self- Published Reading Challenge. If you haven’t joined yet, you should!