Mystery / Thriller
by Helen Starbuck
Plot: The plot unfolds steadily, at a purposeful pace that provides the perfect balance of background, detail, and action.
Prose: Artfully written with polished prose, this story flows beautifully. Starbuck is a gifted writer with a strong knack for storytelling.
Originality: While mysteries can be fairly formulaic by nature, Starbuck does an admirable job of making her work distinctive. Her heroine is not connected with any law enforcement group but is instead a nurse, a regular person who is drawn into what becomes a dangerous situation as she learns the truth about her friend's illness.
Character Development: Starbuck does an excellent job of character development. Her heroine, Annie Collins, is sharp, likable, and rational. Readers will find her believable as a nurse turned medical detective, and she is sure to develop a league of faithful followers.
Blurb: Suspenseful and entertaining, this absorbing mystery captivates readers from the very beginning. An outstanding debut!
by John Leifer
Plot: The author crafts a tightly-woven, expansive thriller that offers readers substantial detail, without overwhelming the story’s momentum.
Prose: The author writes in engaging, rich prose, and demonstrates clear awareness of present day geopolitical conflicts.
Originality: Leifer’s novel stands out among others that address terrorist attempts to launch nuclear and biological attack weapons on the U.S. Intelligent discourse, verisimilitude, and a full humanization of characters, provide the novel exceptional depth and dimension.
Character Development: Characters are made distinct through the inclusion of their personal histories, which provide powerful insight into their motivations, behaviors, and roles in the storyline.
by Kelly Jameson
Plot: Jameson delivers a sophisticated mystery that includes a titillating breadcrumb trail of clues and doesn’t refrain from horrific crime scene descriptions. There is no “downtime” for Ann Yang and her steadfast team—or for a bloodthirsty and creatively deranged murderer. Past lives and a very creepy ancestral histories are presented through a series of illuminating flashbacks and journal entries that inventively serve to reveal the facts of the case.
Prose: Alluring detail and morbidly hilarious moments fill this voice-driven mystery; Jameson’s writing is sharp, witty, and evocative, while the integration of journal entries offers rich narrative texture.
Originality: Jameson gifts readers with an art history-infused narrative that breaks the mystery genre mold as a mad painter descends into darkness. The riveting novel will appeal to both mystery moguls and history buffs alike.
Character Development: Jameson fleshes out the novel’s characters with meticulous focus, whether they are agents in the field or behind-the-scenes, corpses on the table or in the history records, or a killer establishing a cryptic legacy. Readers are exposed to a multitude of unique backstories that contextualize the criminal acts at the heart of the story.
Blurb: Kelly Jameson’s A Lady and Gentleman in Black is a riveting, blood-curdling mystery, replete with exciting red herrings, that will appeal to both fans of the genre, as well as those intrigued by art history.
by Tom Kenny
Plot: The plot of this book is tight and well constructed. The pacing is fast and the storyline is compelling and interesting.
Prose: The prose is one of this book’s great strengths. The writing is smooth and clear. There is enough detail to paint vivid scenes, while the pacing is spot-on.
Originality: Although this book touches on familiar topics, it feels fresh and original. And, the story will resonate with readers because of the current threat of terrorism.
Character Development: The characters in this novel are vividly drawn. They are developed in such a way that readers will cheer for them, especially Aidan. The dialogue is near perfect.
by A Van Wyck
Plot: After a curious start, the narrative quickly gains momentum and stays at full speed: the apparently insane Jean Dupont escapes from a mental facility, encounters monsters and gangsters, and makes a disconcerting self-discovery with regard to superpowers. The plot twists are numerous and the pacing excellent.
Prose: Uniquely smart, sardonic, and wickedly funny prose helps to sustain the fast pace.
Originality: The term “utterly original” is too weak for this book. While there are existing novels about insane asylums, including ones from the point of view of patients or doctors, this book's additional elements of magic, gangsters, and superpowers gained through pharmaceutical drugs make this feel exceptionally fresh.
Character Development: Jean has a singular personality: sometimes irritating but oftentimes heroic and sympathetic. All other characters are crisply defined, including the gangster's daughter Natalie Gravois and the sorcerer Michel Zabat.
Blurb: This rapid-fire blast through the life of an apparent madman is dangerously and addictively intoxicating.
by Matt Coleman
Plot: While the general plot of this novel will be familiar to genre fans, the author makes the storyline feel fresh and intriguing. Readers will be hooked from the very start.
Prose: The prose is smooth and often downright brilliant in its simplicity. The writing never distracts readers from the story or slows the pace of the book.
Originality: The mix of graffiti and murder is unique and grabs the reader. The fast pace of this novel is strengthened by original storytelling.
Character Development: The characters in this novel are well-developed with strong individual voices. They are diverse and believable. The reader will identify with them and cheer them on.
by Rosa Fedele
Plot: Fedele’s book spans the fast-paced and quickly deteriorating events surrounding the mysterious circumstances and happenings at The Seminary and its surrounding community. The well-planned plot reveals the universe the author has created and will keep readers turning pages.
Prose: Fedele’s book is written in a comforting, informal narrative voice that lends readers a false sense of security as eerie happenings begin to surface at The Seminary during the construction project that seeks to transform it. The author pays attention to small details that reveal a lot about the characters and their motives, desires, and fears.
Originality: The storyline focuses on a different character’s perspective in each chapter, bringing to life their individual dilemmas and goals. This formatting is enhanced by the overall story arc continuing without a hitch and the interspersed illustrations and quotes that flesh out the characters and their backstories.
Character Development: Fedele’s characters are developed in extreme, intricate detail, from their memories and backstories to their current issues and adventures. Special focus is placed on the interwoven story arcs between characters and the strong relationships they hold, both positive and negative.
by D.M. Barr
Plot: An unusual and entertaining mystery, Barr's narrative is built like a hedge maze, with every twist and turn suggesting additional possible outcomes. Lost in this intriguing maze, the reader is as eager to find the answers as investigative reporter Camarin Torres.
Prose: Barr's writing is packed with dry wit and tongue-in-cheek humor that adds levity and serves to balance the seriousness of the murder case. The dialogue is generally a treat to read although it can occasionally feel as if the character is performing a monologue rather than speaking naturally.
Originality: Unlike many modern mystery-thrillers, Barr ensures that her story moves beyond cliched dialogue and cheap plot devices. The strength of Barr's narrative resides in its exploration of what it means to be a modern North American woman—to grapple with the socially-conditioned pressures they face to have a "perfect body." It is this angle that gives her story such immense power.
Character development: Barr gives character and dimension to both her heroes and villains. However, Barr's abilities are most brilliantly showcased in her depiction of Camarin Torres—the protagonist's "broken beauty" giving her a depth that makes her relatable to readers.
by t.g. brown
Plot: Brown successfully plots a well-crafted and engrossing thriller. From the opening sequence to the last jaw-dropping moment, readers are kept in suspense. Brown also successfully weaves a romantic storyline throughout the novel.
Prose: The narrative is believable and consistent. Atmospheric descriptions are smooth with palpable eeriness and will prove enjoyable for any thriller fan.
Originality: Traditional elements of a thriller are at play. However, Brown gives them new twists to create a fresh take on the genre.
Character Development: There are many fascinating characters in this book. Josh Ingram is given a full backstory, and readers are treated to colorful and meaningful descriptions of smaller characters.
Blurb: Thriller fans rejoice, Josh Ingram is back in this fast-paced mystery that will have readers guessing until the very end.
by James Musgrave
Plot: The fast-moving plot consists of many twists, turns, and red herrings that will keep readers invested and surprised. The use of real locations lends an air of authenticity to this work of historical fiction.
Prose: Musgrave’s novel brings to light very relevant social issues of the time while also using language infused with feelings of eerie foreboding that will both thrill and chill readers.
Originality: In some ways, this book will remind readers of classic thrillers like those of Agatha Christie. The simultaneously overlapping and clashing subplots of the suffragette movement and spiritualism make this book even more intriguing.
Character Development: The stand-out element of this novel is the meticulously detailed, intricately crafted cast list. Musgrave’s protagonist is an admirable, intelligent, determined female attorney. Each of the characters in the novel has a distinct and memorable personality
Blurb: A thrilling adventure, perfect for whodunit fans and historical fiction buffs.
by Joseph Mujwit
Plot: This charming novel is skillfully plotted and wholly enjoyable. The story moves along smoothly and the narrative will have readers turning pages until the very end.
Prose: The prose is one of this book's great strengths. The writing is effective, clean, and engaging.
Originality: This novel is original, fresh, and very appealing, especially to animal lovers.
Character Development: Both Todd and Zip are well-developed, realistic characters with whom readers will identify. Supporting players are also skillfully crafted.
by W. L. Patenaude
Plot: This novel is well plotted and moves along at a good pace. The use of a priest as the protagonist adds an original element of spirituality to the text.
Prose: The sentences flow well and the language is simple and to the point. There is no overwritten prose to distract readers from the intense story.
Originality: From casting a priest as the protagonist to the intelligent printers, this novel feels fresh and original.
Character Development: Father John Francis McClellan is a well rendered, multi-dimensional character. His development is near perfect and his flaws feel real and make him more human.
by I. James Bertolina
Plot: This suspenseful and tightly plotted thriller follows a special agent’s quest to locate the missing nephew of a U.S. senator in Baghdad’s Red Zone.
Prose: Writing in clear, confident prose, the author also integrates engaging and dynamic dialogue. Frequent repetition of key points and concepts distract from the novel's otherwise smooth storytelling.
Originality: The author takes care to develop a distinct sense of place, relying on particular historical and geopolitical details to achieve verisimilitude.
Character Development: Bertolina deftly builds key characters as they individually face heightened professional and emotional conflict, as well as threats of physical violence.
by Matson Sewell
Plot: The author deftly jumps between locations and characters, tying the action-packed story together seamlessly. Readers will be captivated until the very end.
Prose: This novel is well crafted. The author makes effective use of foreshadowing and suspenseful chapter conclusions.
Originality: Data mining and individual privacy questions are compelling additions that leave readers with plenty to consider.
Character Development: Sewell deftly unravels information about the characters, adding depth and authenticity to each one.
by Dale Brandon
Plot: This well-plotted book features terrific pacing, effective suspense, and strong forward movement. The ending could wrap things up more fully, but readers will nonetheless be entertained throughout.
Prose: The prose offers a clear narrative voice that competently guides readers through a story with facets that could otherwise be dry or complicated. The tension is sustained with action, dialogue, and character ruminations written in a contemporary and conversational style.
Originality: This book boasts a unique blend of finance and homicidal suspense, while also tapping into love, family, and even a bit of off-road adventure.
Character Development: Though the protagonists and antagonists are somewhat typical, they are nonetheless clearly drawn and sympathetic. Secondary characters are nicely textured.
by Shawn Scuefield
Plot: This is an enjoyable collection of stories. Each one of them feels original and features a strong plot line.
Prose: Scuefield writes well; the dialogue rings true, and matches with the eerie quality of the stories.
Originality: While the stories have a Twilight Zone or Dean Koontz feel to them, they stand well on their own and feel fresh.
Character Development: Scuefield excels at character development. In each story, the main character is solidly developed.