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Obsessive Quest

Russ Melrose Author Interview

Russ Melrose Author Interview

Finding AJ follows FBI Agent Jules as she searches for a serial killer through a zombie apocalypse. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from book 1 and what was a new direction you wanted to take in book 2?

The themes were quite different in Jacob’s Odyssey and Finding AJ. While the main theme in Jacob’s Odyssey was centered around Jake’s internal journey, the main theme in Finding AJ was Jules’ obsessive quest to find the serial killer known as the Calligrapher. However there is a common theme that runs through both novels, and that has to do with the incredible beauty of nature that surrounds us, yet the human race seems bent on self-destruction. At one point in Jacob’s Odyssey, Jake comments on how he’s always thought of the mountains surrounding the Salt Lake Valley as being as “eden-like” as any place on earth. There are beautiful descriptions of nature in both novels.

The town of Gideon is one of the last remaining towns in the apocalypse. How did you imagine a town would come together and survive in a time like this?

The only way the people of Gideon, or any other post-apocalyptic setting, could survive is by working together to solve any problems that came up. “Working together” is the key. Gideon had good leaders and the people there were willing to do their part in order to survive.

Jules is a determined FBI agent, but faces some tough decisions. What were some obstacles that you felt were important to her characters development?

The personal obstacles Jules needed to overcome had to do with her tendency toward being a self-reliant lone wolf. She generally doesn’t connect with or open herself up to others. She has difficulty giving her trust. She doesn’t let anyone in. It isn’t easy for her, but eventually she opens herself up and begins to connect with others. And she has to “trust” someone if she’s going to find the serial killer, and toward the end she finally does.

Will there be a book 3 in the Apocalypse Journeys series and where will that take readers?

There may be a 3rd novel. I’m not sure yet. It depends on how well Finding AJ does. Simple as that. If there is a third novel, it will combine characters from the first two novels. They will be at the underground government complex that is mentioned in Jacob’s Odyssey. This is the same complex where the virus was developed, and there are still experiments going on there. The conspiracy will be revealed, and virtually everyone (Jake, Sarah, Becky, Jules, Caleb, and others) will be in danger. Lukas Melzer will, of course, be there, as well as the new president of the United States. And deep in the complex are a host of grays (zombies), including the alpha called Eve. And don’t be terribly surprised if the Swimmer from Jacob’s Odyssey makes a return. He’s the baddest alpha around. Can’t leave him out.

Author Links: GoodReads | FacebookWebsite

Finding AJ (Apocalypse Journeys Book 2) by [Melrose, Russ]The world has fallen apart, the FBI gone, but former Agent Jules Vandevelde won’t stop. She can’t. She’s driven to find the psychopathic serial killer known as the Calligrapher.

Her search leads her to Gideon, Utah, a small town in the southern part of the state. There, amongst the 116 survivors, a serial killer hides in plain sight. There’s only one clue to his identity. Using a scalpel, he inscribes the letters AJ into the abdominal area of his victims–postmortem–in an ancient Chinese text called Tsao, the lettering precise and artistic.

Jules knows the key to finding the Calligrapher lies in discovering the identity of AJ. If she can find AJ, she can find the Calligrapher. But the Calligrapher knows who Jules is. Jules must survive the infected and find the Calligrapher before she becomes his latest victim.

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Finding AJ: Apocalypse Journeys 2

Finding AJ (Apocalypse Journeys Book 2) by [Melrose, Russ]We meet the protagonist of Russ Melrose’s Finding A.J.: Apocalypse Journeys 2 as she sits on the side of a gravel road in the Mojave Desert, head in her hands. Jules is not the crying kind, but that’s exactly what she’s doing. The tough FBI agent pulls it together despite the crumbling world around her to work on a case that she can’t let go. A tough case for this tough agent is made tougher by the apocalyptic state the world is now in. The dead, also known as “grays” or the “infected”, walk the streets hunting for their next meal while Jules goes from town to town hunting for a serial killer whose case she hasn’t been able to solve.

Finding A.J. stands alone as a book even though it is part of a series. You do not need to know anything more than this book provides to understand the plot of this book. (But, I’d like to go back and read part 1 now!)

Jules is an independent, no-nonsense kind of girl. She is more than self-sufficient. She seems like she could be a loner and wouldn’t mind keeping it that way. However, she doesn’t stay alone for long. She finds a teenage girl in desperate need of her help and rescues her from her captor. Addy, the girl she rescues, then becomes sort of a foster daughter to Jules despite Jules’s objections. Addy would likely have been a loner too, but with the world falling apart and her recent captivity and abuse she needs to cling to someone. She needs someone to trust. That someone will be Jules.

Jules and Addy make an eventful trek to the town of Gideon. That is where most of the story plays out. Gideon is a town that is still hanging on, even if by a thread. There is still a mayor and policemen, which is more than can be said for many post-apocalyptic towns. A large chunk of the population has been infected and died, but anarchy hasn’t quite reached Gideon yet. The townspeople cling to any semblance of normalcy they can even while they are uprooted. Readers will get to know many of the people in the town. They will also be suspicious of everyone they meet. The townspeople all have jobs and duties to perform for the sake of self-preservation. The dead are walking, there is a killer among them, and all they have is each other.

Parts of the book reminded me of scenes from The Walking Dead. Tasks as simple as grocery shopping become major undertakings with the “grays” wandering around. Supply runs put many characters in danger. Every seemingly menial task becomes exceedingly difficult. You will breathe sighs of relief as plans come together, and hold your breath when they don’t.

The book is very well written. It is not hard to follow, and the plot flows well. Characters are well developed and enough backstory is given to assist with that development. As the events of the story play out, you will question each character.  No one can be trusted. You will hang onto the edge of your seat waiting to find out who the serial killer is and if Jules can catch them.

Pages: 336 | ASIN: B07CZ4VS2R

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