“TH1RT3EN” By Steve Cavanagh is a mystery that starts on the cover. The title is not the number thirteen, but a cryptic representation of that number, suggesting a password, a code, or a hidden meaning, and readers soon find out that this is exactly what it is.

The book opens with Joshua Kane sitting, waiting, disguised as a homeless person, and readers learn a little about him. He is not like other people; his mother told him that. He is special; he is different. Readers soon learn how correct his mother was; there was no one like him. He collected names and addresses, and then he killed the mail carrier.

The narrative changes to a first person account by Eddie Flynn, lawyer in Manhattan Criminal Courts. Hotshot lawyer Rudy Carp offers him the opportunity to take the second chair in the biggest murder trial the city has ever seen; Robert Solomon, the movie star, is on trial for murdering his wife and an associate. Carp declares that Flynn is the one person who can prove that Solomon is innocent.

“See, Bobby Solomon is innocent. The NYPD framed him for the murders,” said Rudy. “Really? Can you prove that?” I said. Rudy paused. “No,” he said, “But I think you can.”

Despite Flynn’s misgivings about the defendant, he agrees to look at the case. The story continues with the point of view changing in alternating chapters.  Readers see what Flynn sees; “We both looked at the bloodstain on the bed.” Hear what he says; “How do I believe anything you say, now?” Know how he feels; “I felt sick. Like I’d swallowed a fully inflated balloon that I couldn’t bring back up.” Discover the clues as he finds them; “This hadn’t been in the papers.” And, follow his thinking “What’s the best way to get away with murder? Make sure the cops aren’t looking for you.”

Kane, meanwhile, continues on his path of murder, destruction, and deception. Readers know what lawyers do not know ….yet. While Flynn struggles to put together his case, Kane prepares to be part of the jury; the living breathing beast that he is preparing to tame. The tension is palpable as the trial continues. Readers know what the defense has learned and what it has planned, but readers also know about Kane, the unidentified factor, cryptic code, the enigmatic message…for a while at least. Just as readers approach insight and information, the narrative changes to the alternate point of view, leaving questions, and only hinting at answers.

“TH1RTE3N” is fast-paced and intense. Chapters identify the day and heighten the apprehension. Cavanagh takes readers down unexpected paths, cultivates tension, and brings danger bubbling to the surface. He expertly creates a sense of urgency through methodical planning. Readers know something is coming but are not sure exactly what it will be until the shocking and unexpected finish.

I received a review copy of” TH1RT3EN” from Steve Cavanagh, Flatiron Books, and Macmillan Publishing. It is powerful, compelling, and exciting. The structure of alternating chapters increases the tension page by page. This is a book that readers will find hard to put down.