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Mystery / Thriller

  • This riveting novel, set in the 1920s, focuses on the tragedies in the life of IRA member Frank Kelleher, who, must leave Ireland when he is accused of a crime he did not commit. The tumultuous nature of 1920s Ireland is brought vividly to life and the characters are well drawn, though the story drags somewhat in the middle of the novel.

  • No More Illusions...

    by Daniel Babka

    Rating: 6.75

    Detective Dylan Blake, nearly murdered while investigating a mysterious California highway death, perseveres even as events lead him toward hypocritical, self-righteous Utah billionaire James Kilmer. Babka builds on the book's energetic beginning, with Blake's commitment and decency inspiring such colorful characters as vampish Kathryn Winslow and her despairing prostitute daughter Allison to confront their own secrets.  Repetitious tirades against the self-serving wealthy make Kilmer predictably one-dimensional, but lively former Mafioso Tony Mariano underscores the dialectic about true justice that resonates throughout. The too-neat ending wrap-ups do not diminish the reader's satisfaction.

  • Triple Barrel

    by Jeff Norburn

    Rating: 6.75

    This overly complicated but promising novel tells the story of paramedic Ana Marshall -- and what happens when she responds to a call from a home invasion only to discover that the two victims are her brothers. The plot, while unrealistic at times, is well constructed. Unfortunately, the author provides a large number of characters and gives equally lengthy descriptions of each. In addition, there are too many subplots -- these could be cut in favor of a focus on strengthening the more vital plot threads.

  • Madness: A No Sin Mystery

    by T. M. Raymond

    Rating: 6.75

    Raymond's offbeat mystery, set in 1928, about a man's disappearance from a sealed ship cabin and a murderer in San Fransisco during Prohibition is a slow starter -- the plot simply takes too long to develop and hook readers. However, the book features a zany and engaging gallery of characters, an interesting premise, and sustained suspense. In the end, the book's idiosyncratic action works to outweigh the too-long development.

  • The Eighth Day

    by Joseph John

    Rating: 6.75

    A stranger informs Shawn Jaffe, newly arrived in New York City in 2041, that he is not the person he thinks he is.  From this intriguing beginning, John develops an engrossing mystery that unfolds a technologically dystopian future and offers provocative riffs on the nature of identity and humanity. The relationship between Jaffe and detective Sam Harrington takes sharp turns that advance the plot in shocking ways. Even the heavy use of retrospective comments to clarify background details fails to detract much from this original and somber glimpse of what could be.

  • Dark Seed

    by Lawrence Verigin

    Rating: 6.75

    In Verigin's thriller, Nick Barnes and Morgan Elles work to uncover the malicious deeds of a huge conglomerate that spreads toxic genetically engineered food and peddles pharmaceuticals to cure the diseases caused by that food. Nick and Morgan’s attempts to evade pursuers from that company are exciting and well plotted, although their journey is a bit too long. The characters’ choices are often based on premonitions, which makes for some too-pat narrative outcomes, and the message that genetically engineered foods are bad is a bit heavy handed at times.

  • The Snake (Jake Wood Series Book One)

    by Jonas Saul

    Rating: 6.75

    Saul's incredibly imaginative series kickoff pits Ontario detectives Jake Wood and Kirk Aiken against a chillingly drawn serial killer. An accident introduces a sinister corporate villain, but also leads to Wood's acquiring bizarre new powers. Saul deftly controls the implausible plot and skillfully reveals information, suggesting unlikely cross-connections. The piling on of outlandish events will repel readers seeking realistic action, but the imaginative wealth of the narration suggests that intriguing developments will occur in future volumes.

  • An Angry Orange Sky: A Gordan Hudde Novel

    by Mark Hudson

    Rating: 6.75

    This violent, cinematic second entry in the Gordon Hudde Novel Series shows promise, with its surprisingly original plot, and despite a dauntingly large cast of characters. Gordan Hudde is a reclusive former soldier and CIA operative seeking to put his battle-scarred past behind him when he meets Isabella Santiago a beautiful woman who works at a Mexican beach resort restaurant. Their tender romance, ultimately shattered by street gangs and drug cartels, proves to be the most compelling storyline. The author’s over-reliance on Mexican stereotypes, however, borders on offensive. 

  • The Blow-Up Man

    by Nina Blakeman

    Rating: 6.75

    Annette Dolce dominates Blakeman's disturbing tale of romance gone awry and unbalanced hatred. The straightforward narrative leaves her villainy unambiguous, but her abuse of her children and of kidnapped Faye Davis is genuinely unsettling. While Annette drives the action, her romantic partner, Angel Maya, is portrayed effectively as partially a weak victim of circumstances. Faye's final revelation is melodramatic, but the mounting emotional intensity of Annette's scenes overshadows this flaw.

  • The Missing Target

    by Keith L White

    Rating: 6.50

    White provides taut plotting and crisp dialogue as black private investigator Michael Talent is hired to investigate the disappearance of best-selling author David Clayton. San Francisco-based Talent's ability at repartee and his undemonstrative competence sustain interest. Obtrusive plot contrivances detract from the story, but the characters are well rendered and lifelike.  Readers who can keep track of the over-abundant shadowy characters will find the resolution rewarding.

  • The Torch is Passed: A Harding Family Story

    by Bill Powers

    Rating: 6.50

    Powers provides a straightforward tale of family loyalty as recent Princeton graduate Andrea Harding takes charge of Harding Industries after attempted hits on her father and uncle.  A discussion between forceful Andrea and elderly aristocrat Cordelia Southington over the unimportance of condemning slavery injects a tone of realpolitik consistent with Powers's themes of confronting evil and defending family.  Although quixotic Deirdre Southington overshadows Andrea as the plot develops, the explication of loyalty and betrayal provides a message that resonates more successfully than the sometimes soap opera-ish confrontations with stage villains.

  • DEADLINE: A Phantom Force Tactical Novel (#1)

    by Jessica James

    Rating: 6.50

    James's patriotic mystery features solid prose and moves at a rapid pace that will grab readers. Reporter Caitlin and homicide detective Blake are likeable and well-drawn characters. However, the crime elements of the story sometime take a back seat to the characters'  budding romance, which may be an issue for some mystery fans. Still, this is an entertaining tale that tries -- and almost succeeds at -- straddling genres.

  • Window of Exposure

    by Roccie Hill

    Rating: 6.25

    Hill pits covert operative Capt. Kate Cardenas against both personal demons and al-Qaida operatives in this starkly written, gripping page-turner. Leading a mission to rescue kidnapped American businessman Hank Cullen, Cardenas is seized and held hostage. Hill's characters are at times predictable and Cardenas's dedication sometimes stretches plausibility, but the book's action never falters. The somewhat saccharine relationship between Cardenas and Ben Cullen, Hank's half-brother, detracts little from the narrative, and readers will find themselves racing toward the dramatic conclusion.

  • A More Deadly Union

    by Gayle Carline

    Rating: 6.25

    In this engaging fourth title in the Peri Min­neopa mys­tery series, one case turns into two for the the stubborn, marriage-wary private investigator. While tracking a series of stalking incidents involving her friends, several clues lead Peri to the gang members who killed two police officers and injured two others — including her comatose longtime boyfriend, Skip Carlton. Despite some contrived dialogue, small plot holes, and a few too many characters, the story reaches a complex and compelling crescendo. Fans of the series will find a lot to like here.

  • The Enigma Gamers - A CATS Tale (Volume 7)

    by Breakfield and Burkey

    Rating: 6.25

    This latest series entry successfully shoehorns abstruse techno-thriller issues into a not-too-serious mystery format.  As CATS founders Juan and Julie deploy against cyber-ransom demands which shut down businesses and cities worldwide, debate rages whether to pay or resist. The authors defuse the tension with self-parodying acronyms and cute dialogue, along with a medley of oddball characters.  The humorous overtones prevent this from becoming an exercise in geekishnes.  This work has much to offer to those who wish to savor the Technological Disaster Lite genre

  • The Patricide – A locked-room mystery

    by Kim Ekemar

    Rating: 6.00

    This clever whodunit set in 1935 France introduces a winning pair of sleuths, Inspector Jean-Claude Rimbaud and his savvy aunt Emilie Beauchamp, who probe the death -- behind a locked door -- of Patrice Lafarge, whose heirs had gathered at his country estate to learn of a change to his will. As in many Golden Age puzzle mysteries, the plot is the key, rather than deep exploration of the wide cast of characters. Readers who enjoy pitting their wits against that of the author will find themselves satisfied by the surprising solution.