First Stone – Gary Ballard

As the author explains, First Stone is the first episode in Season 1 of a serial-like collection of stories titled The Stepping Stone Cycle starring Jack Carter, forensic psychologist. The opening scene depicts a man rousing from a coma-like state, opening his eyes to discover himself in the mental hospital, where he has been for months. This is Jack, and he is told that he was missing for close to a month before being found, and that his wife is still missing. The authorities want to know if he killed his wife. He remembers absolutely nothing.

This is the overreaching thread that will bind the episodes together, the master conflict that will define Jack’s perspective of the world and create a cloud of doubt about him and his motives, no matter what he tries to tell anyone else.

First Stone in particular leads down some incredibly dark paths, taking the reader on a deep and emotional investigation of a serial killer in West Virgina. All of the evidence indicates the killer, but the man accused is an alcoholic, dead-beat, unemployed hick living in a trailer on the mountainside – hardly a suitable profile – and he doesn’t remember a thing about murdering anyone.

This story quickly draws the reader into the plight of the characters, main and supporting, and builds a new reality worthy of being put on screen. There is a careful balance of story and action, shock and confusion to keep the reader interested and challenged. The clues come in many forms and details and point to intriguing possibilities. Who or what is affecting Jack? When will he learn the truth and what is he going to find?

5 Stars – Worthy. Well-written, captivating, intriguing.FS-GB




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