Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Elle Gray has been dishing out novels at a record-setting pace since her entry onto the literary scene, and with the recent publication of The 7 She Saw, Gray began her second series, the Blake Wilder FBI Mystery Thriller books. The story introduces us to Wilder, an FBI agent tasked with investigating the murders of three women in Briar Glen, an affluent and idyllic coastal town in Washington.
Table of contents
Elle Gray Raises a Town of Monsters
Working for the FBI is often portrayed as glamorous work demanding sacrifices but yielding immensely rewarding results for all those involved. Many seem to omit the aspect of the job which forces one to stare into the abyss for decades on end. However, for FBI agent Blake Wilder, in The 7 She Saw by Elle Gray, the blackened void in her life is a longtime companion and guiding hand.
Marking the first entry in the Blake Wilder FBI Mystery Thriller series, the book begins by introducing us to the titular agent, a woman whose parents died under strange circumstances and whose sister was taken away when she was just a child. Growing up, she decided to join the Bureau in Seattle, hoping to find some clue to help her make sense of a nonsensical past.
Unfortunately for her, such hopes are a fair distance away, and for the moment all she can do is focus on the work in front of her. Most notably, she has pinpointed the small town of Briar Glen as having an unusually-high murder rate, enough to rival Seattle itself.
With her faithful partner Astra by her side, Blake sets out to the seemingly idyllic and wealthy coastal town, beginning her investigation by unravelling the truth behind three female victims. Though the puzzle seems coherent at first, slowly but surely the FBI agents begin to find cracks in the quiet and peaceful facade put on by the inhabitants.
The closer they get to the truth at the centre of it all, the more it becomes apparent nobody can be trusted in a town built on the blood, sweat and suffering of the unfortunate. Monsters in human form make their presence known, and it starts to feel like the right question to ask isn’t who’s guilty, but who isn’t?
The Darkness of Blake Wilder in The 7 She Saw
Generally-speaking, when authors begin writing book series, especially in the psychological thriller genre, they tend to spend a bit less time on characterization. They remain content with simple yet solid archetypes who serve to advance the story more than anything else. In The 7 She Saw, it felt to me like Elle Gray placed a healthy amount of focus to make Wilder stand out from the crowd of FBI protagonists.
As a matter of fact, the story starts off relatively slowly, with the first thirty or so pages being spent in Wilder’s head. The narrative is told from the first-person perspective, and we have right to a fairly long meditation giving us an overview of her past and personal struggles.
Though many authors wouldn’t be able to maintain my interest through such a long and introspective introduction to their story, in my opinion Elle Gray was quite successful in keeping it captivating. She consistently maintains a sense of mystery by bringing up more and more questions which, we can only hope, will get answered as the series moves on.
From time to time there are also breaks during the main branch of the story during which Blake reflects on her past some more, but they are far and few in-between when compared to the chunk of it we get at the very beginning. Nevertheless, they offer some welcome breaks in a pace which sometimes borders on frantic… but more on this a little further below.
As a protagonist, I think the author hit the perfect balance between making her believable and capable. While she does have her specialty as an FBI agent and a healthy confidence to boot, she does have her limitations and baggage holding her back. We learn quite a bit about her, and Gray still leaves a good amount of room for development in future novels.
The Sword of Investigation
Once you get past the opening of the book, it doesn’t take long for the pace to pick up as Wilder is essentially fast-tracked into Briar Glen to begin her investigation. Barring the previously-mentioned interruptions here and there, the main plot is what the author focuses on all the way until the end.
Thankfully, and I can’t stress this enough, Elle Gray understands the tremendous benefit of maintaining a small cast of characters for us to follow. Rather than having a million suspects to confuse us with, she instead has us working with only a few, but very well-defined and developed people we can easily remember while trying to unmask the villains, so to speak.
As is dictated by the nature of the genre, there are more twists than I can count, with the amount of action also picking up as we get closer to the end. Though we obviously know Blake herself will survive the ordeal (her name is, after all, in the title of the series), the question of her ultimate success always remains wide open, as well as the price to pay for it.
Along the way story regarding Blake’s past does develop a little bit here and there, giving us a couple of hints, just enough to get the imagination going. I do feel like this aspect of the book might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you’re just here for the main plot, but it is written well enough to be interesting and not out of place.
|276||Independently published||Dec. 24 2020||979-8586047816|
There is one last thing I cannot afford to omit from my review: there are a few typos and grammatical errors to be found. They’re not nearly frequent enough to have any meaningful impact in my opinion, and they don’t deter from the story the author is trying to tell. Nevertheless, the proofreading was obviously done a little too quickly, and it’s something a reader must know before heading into it.
The Final Verdict
The 7 She Saw by Elle Gray is, by all means, an impressive psychological thriller with a well-developed and interesting protagonist unravelling a complex web of lies and deceit while also trying to uncover the truth about her past. It does have a couple of flaws, but I strongly believe they’re worth overlooking for the sake of the overall experience. If you enjoy fast-paced investigative mysteries taking place in limited locations with a small, well-defined pool of suspects, then this book will be right up your alley.
Elle Gray is an American author who made her debut on September 25, 2020 when she published I See You, the first entry in the Arrington Mystery series. They were closely followed by Her Last Call and Woman in the Water. At the tail end of 2020 she gave birth to the Blake Wilder FBI Mystery Thriller series with The 7 She Saw.