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Mystery / Thriller

  • Best of All Possible Worlds

    by Gary Anderson

    Rating: 5.25

    Plot: An extension of Voltaire’s Candide, the plot of Anderson’s Best of All Possible Worlds has a paint-by-numbers quality. While there are engaging and amusing moments, the plotting does not stand out as exceptionally compelling.

    Prose: Anderson’s prose cultivates an authentic voice of the past, though the language is inefficient and frequently passive, stunting the emotional reach of the characters' feelings and experiences.

    Originality: Best of All Possible Worlds is similar to other offshoots of classics, and while at times fun, the book will likely not make a strong impression on readers.

    Character Development: The characters in Anderson’s novel are inconsistent and could be more vivid. Scenes don't do enough to build the characters.

  • Plot: This mystery-thriller about an addict in hot water offers an entertaining blend of dark humor and high stakes action. The cycle of Bobby's debauchery followed by confessional Addicts Anonymous meetings begin to wear thin, and the tone can shift unevenly between drug addled anecdotes and serious commentary. However, Swamp has a knack for keeping readers invested.

    Prose: Swamp's prose, while at times hamfisted in its descriptions, feaures organic dialogue and forward momentom. The cynical tone of Swamp's narrative slowly builds its way to hopefulness.

    Originality: Swamp offers some genuinely intriguing twists on a familiar storyline with an underdog hero who must curtail his wildly self destructive tendencies when a loved one is in danger. 

    Character Development: To the author's credit, Bobby is an exasperating and pathetic loser who is, ultimately, rather loveable. Though some aspects of Bobby's progression strain believability, his rock bottom to redemption story is a gratifying one.

  • Dead End Street

    by R.L. Herron

    Rating: 4.25

    Plot: The tension in Dead End Street operates at a slow sizzle, and the author writes with a capable command of the storyline and a structurally sound narrative. The novel relies on readers' familiarity with the previous books in the series; as a result, the story arc comes across as largely incomplete, leaving readers without a deeper understanding of the previous circumstances that have impacted present ones.

    Prose: Herron's prose is readable and solidly crafted yet too often offers summary in place of illuminating detail and description. Shifts in perspective between chapters can be jarring. 

    Originality: Herron's story has a handle on the suspense genre and brings to it a distinctive focus by centering on a particular group of friends and the circumstances that have both connected and divided them.

    Character Development: While allusions are made to the characters' individual histories, they would benefit from further detail as well as meaningful interactions that would lead to a greater understanding of their identities both independently and in relation to one another. 


  • Snack Van: The novel

    by Jay Saph

    Rating: 3.75

    Plot: The idea of ordinary people driven to desperation is a solid premise, but this suggests tension that begins early and mounts steadily. Pacing is slow for the first two thirds of the novel, with a lot of quotidian details. Things hot up in the last 50 pages, but the escalation feels abrupt after the slow start.

    Prose: Short chapters and a stream-of-consciousness quality lend immediacy to the writing. But they also feel disjointed at times, slowing down the narrative momentum. The alternation between more elevated descriptive language and conversations heavy with slang can be a bit jarring. Occasional incomplete sentences or unusual idiomatic expressions can also confuse or slow readers.

    Originality: Variations of this plot idea and structure (ordinary people under pressure/multiple story strands coming together) have certainly been done before, but they are still effective. And the setting of the banking world and a quiet English suburb works well for tensions boiling beneath the surface.

    Character Development: Multiple characters heading for a climactic collision creates a good working structure, but also scatters the emotional focus, making it hard for readers to connect. Because characters are dealing with problems that are minor or of their own making for most of the novel, they can come off as self-absorbed and shallow, making it difficult for readers to sympathize with them or invest in their fates. Also, while surprising plot twists are exciting, they can be problematic if they undermine earlier character development.

  • Cameron's Quest

    by David Carraturo

    Rating: 3.00

    Plot: Carraturo’s episodic novel meanders between numerous plot points (family saga, coming-of-age story, the mob)—and unfortunately the plotlines do not coexist comfortably or come to together en route to the book's somewhat disappointing conclusion.

    Prose: There are some beautiful passages within the novel, and the historical setting is well rendered. However, the text as a whole is marred by grammatical errors, awkward sentence structure, and the use of the passive voice, all of which disrupt the flow of the narrative.

    Originality: While the setting offers a space for an interesting exploration of family bonds, college life, and the mob, the narrative never rises to the challenge, instead clinging to the genre tropes.

    Character Development: The author devotes much space to the introduction and building of characters. Unfortunately, there are so many characters it is difficult for readers to keep track of them all. A focus on and further development of fewer characters would allow readers to better engage with their story.