A Hole in the Head

James Strait Mysteries Book 3

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
699 Pages
Reviewed on 02/23/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

A Hole in the Head (James Strait Mysteries Book 3) by John Eidswick is an out-and-out action thriller that takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of action, excitement, and emotion. When retired F.B.I. Special Agent James Strait’s estranged brother is murdered, the day after he had sought help from James and been refused it, the former law enforcement officer is stricken with pangs of guilt. Forced to leave his partner and their troubled, teenage foster daughter behind in the small northern Arizona town of Pine River to travel to Tucson to formally identify his murdered brother, James has little idea of the chaos and mayhem he is about to encounter and his own family secrets that he will uncover along the way. James will find himself not only caught up in a massive manhunt for the man who killed his brother but also a serial killer guilty of murdering scores of illegal immigrants who have crossed the Mexican border seeking freedom, asylum, and a better life. James, with his immense bulk and height, plus his history with the F.B.I., is considered by many to be a true American hero but this adventure will test all his physical skills as well as put his emotions through the wringer.

As a professional reviewer, I read hundreds of books a year but few have captured my absolute and undivided attention as much as A Hole in the Head did. Author John Eidswick grabs your attention from the very first paragraph and never lets you get even the slightest bit distracted from the compelling narrative he is spinning. The author’s plotting skills are second to none and even I struggled to pick some of the intricate plot twists he throws in along the way. I particularly enjoyed that this was a substantial story and one that, once started, was impossible to stop. He did a superb job of not only narrating the violent and graphic action scenes in the story but there is also a significant amount of time and effort that went into character development and analysis of James’s motivation and his emotional state. I did appreciate that the story was incredibly timely with the current political situation in America and the state of illegal immigration, especially across the Mexican border. What the author highlights perfectly in this book are the incredibly entrenched viewpoints that seem prevalent across all aspects of American society these days. There are no grey areas anymore, it seems, no middle ground, just two firmly delineated sides to every argument, both of whom appear incapable of empathizing with even a smidgeon of the other’s opinions or beliefs; understanding and compromise are things of the past. This is the third book in the James Strait Mysteries and if this book is to be used as the benchmark, I definitely want to read the first two and indeed any more iterations that this author pens. This is a fantastic story, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and I can highly recommend it.

Jamie Michele

James Strait has a world of issues as the former FBI and deeply flawed protagonist in A Hole in the Head by John Eidswick, book three in the James Strait Mystery series and preceded by book one, The Rabbit Skinners, and book two, When Moths Burn. The story begins with a young boy named Ernesto who awakens to a horrific crime he narrowly survives, but loses everything else in the process. Strait, a troubled man with a complex history, finds his estranged brother has been murdered just as Strait has cobbled together a family of his own with his minister girlfriend Jessie and their foster daughter Amanda. They all live in the real world where racism abounds and social justice requires a hearty amount of courage. When Strait is hired to help find his brother's killer, the layers of deceit start to peel back and what Strait isn't being told is revealed. As for that hole in the head...it is far worse than what anyone could imagine.

The strength of protagonist James Strait is found in the levels of weakness he has in A Hole in the Head. Strait has the rare disorder Meniere's disease and suffers from vertigo, which can have him incapacitated on the ground at any moment. He also has a relentless intolerance for the intolerant. There's a backstory here that is traversed in John Eidswick's first two novels but gets touched on in this one and is an easy follow. Readers who love a good guy with a gun, a conscience, a short fuse, and an inclination toward heavy-handed justice will find all of those packed into Eidswick's lengthy tome. The writing could be cleaner and a generous reader might describe it as substance over style, but the dialogue is bang-on and witty. There isn't a single character who knows Strait that does not also know he is a man who operates on the wrong side of the law. The sense that he lands on his feet and on the right side of the law could also be true. He is a dirty former agent-slash-law enforcement officer but in a different way than the dirty, racist, corrupt officers in the novel. An anti-hero that is likable in a book that gives him loads of opportunities to prove it.

K.C. Finn

A Hole in the Head is a work of fiction in the crime, mystery, and thriller subgenres, and was penned by author John Eidswick. The work is intended for the mature adult reading audience owing to the presence of derogatory language, hate speech, graphic violence, and the use of explicit language throughout. The third novel of the James Strait Mysteries book series, this epic and in-depth mystery tale sees us back with former FBI agent James Strait, who receives a call from his estranged brother claiming that his life is in danger. When James gets involved, this is just the first step to uncovering a much more sinister plot. One which involves a vicious and villainous murderer who has the blood of eleven immigrants on his hands.

Author John Eidswick knows how to keep an audience in the palm of his hand in this superbly crafted mystery novel. Although there’s plenty of adult content and dark theming, the overall pace and attitude of the work keep it from getting too dark or depressing, letting the action race forward and always giving us hope that James, and justice, will prevail. I really liked James as a central character, balanced well between the FBI special agent training that gives him many of his capabilities, but also the emotional turmoil he’s been through, and how this trauma teaches him to be smarter than the evil he’s facing. I also really liked the way that family issues were dealt with, including what it means to be family, whether that’s by blood or not. This central theme gives the novel an emotional core that really raises the stakes, especially as it draws to a nail-biting conclusion. Overall, I would certainly recommend A Hole in the Head for anyone seeking a mystery novel with a lot of meat on its bones.

Vincent Dublado

A Hole in the Head is the third book in the James Strait Mysteries by John Eidswick. This time, you witness how FBI Special Agent James Strait is dealing with the responsibility of foster parenting Amanda, who has turned thirteen. The petition to Arizona Child Welfare for Jessie and James to become Amanda’s temporary foster parents has been approved. Ricky, James’s long-estranged brother, suddenly phones and asks James to help him. Ricky tells James that somebody is trying to kill him. James brushes him off as memories of the past come back where Ricky had neglected their cancer-ridden mother. His refusal to help his brother, however, results in a series of events that forces him to face family secrets and the dramatic capture of a monster that killed eleven immigrants.

A Hole in the Head is a powerful and well-crafted crime story. It seems that it has become a badge of honor for detective or law enforcement protagonists to carry a personal burden that tends to get in the way of performing their tasks every now and then. Life for a fictional character can be hard, and John Eidswick sure knows how to explore this. In a job that immerses characters in engaging with violence and corruption, you can count on the mettle of the main character to see how much he can stand. Agent James Strait’s world is dangerously near to spinning out of control, but he knows that there’s a war out there that only the likes of him can fight. Eidswick has created a character that truly taps into the vibrating awareness of the position where he is placed. It is fascinating the way the plot works. It is a crime thriller on one level, while on the other level it examines the feelings that we fight hard to suppress. This is a must-read for anyone who loves a unique and dramatic crime story.