James Byron Huggins Serves Up a Modern-Day Jack The Ripper Thriller: My Review of Maggie Magdalene

When a young nun is brutally murdered, an Assistant District Attorney (herself a former nun) teams up with a brilliant FBI agent and a crusty police detective to hunt down her killer. Their hunt for a modern-day Jack the Ripper turns into a race-against-time as the murders escalate, secrets long buried begin coming to the surface, and an innocent child is caught in the cross-fire.

James Byron Huggins’ thriller Maggie Magdalene is full of mystery, suspense, pulse-pounding action, and high stakes. Those stakes become all-too-real and painful for Maggie, the novel’s central character, requiring her to confront her deepest pain and worst fears. In the words of the book’s official Amazon description: “Maggie defiantly descends into the depths of a darkness that seems only one red mask after another until Maggie finally confronts the true face of Evil in a fight that will take her to the edge of her sanity and soul … and beyond.”

Of course, high-stakes, action-packed stories are James Byron Huggins’ bread-and-butter. And it’s why I usually enjoy his writing. I discovered James Byron Huggins many years ago while looking for a good novel to read at Reston Regional Library in Northern Virginia. The book I checked out that day was Leviathan — Huggins’ third published work. His first, Wolf Story, is an allegorical novel featuring wolves. His second, The Reckoning, is an action-packed thriller that fans of Dan Brown will probably enjoy. He’s written several since. Most of his novels fall under the Christian fiction genre, though not all. Hunter was secular and was later optioned for film rights. Nevertheless, most contain Christian themes with Christian (usually Catholic) characters. Of all Huggins’ works, my favorites thus far are Cain, Nightbringer, and Rora – the latter being among the best historical fiction titles I’ve ever read.

Maggie Magdalene is perhaps Huggins’ darkest novel. While all of his novels are full of action (and, sometimes, graphic action), this one takes things to a new level. The novel opens with the police investigating the grisly homicide of a young nun. The first sentence of the novel sets the tone: “He gazed over what was left of the nun.” If you’re squeamish, you won’t want to read any further than that. While I personally can handle some violence, even graphic violence, in a novel, the dark themes of this story were rather heavy. The dark and often gruesome tone of this book makes it my least favorite of Huggins’ thrillers.

The dark tone of the book isn’t its only problem. Maggie Magdalene contains several typographical and grammatical errors that sometimes distract from the story. It also is a little too predictable at times, with the Big Baddie being revealed (at least in my opinion) way too soon. The love story is a little too quick and the choices made by some of the characters seem, at times, a little contrived. The book frankly seems rushed. But…

Huggins is still a great writer. And, if you don’t mind some of those issues, Maggie Magdalene is an enjoyable read. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers, I suggest you give Maggie Magdalene a try.