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 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 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 M. A. Florence
Plot: Florence’s book moves along ferociously fast. The disturbing ebb and flow of the effects of Mem-G and its addicting nature are mirrored in the plot structure.
Prose: Florence’s prose is clean, flows clearly, and feels poetic at times. However, occasional grammatical errors can be distracting, especially those concerning tenses. The dialogue and narration also contain more than a slight tinge of foreshadowing.
Originality: Remember Me is a unique thriller that offers a fresh take on the scientific-experiment-gone-wrong trope. While some aspects of the book may remind readers of the works of Michael Crichton, the novel is well put together and quite a page-turner, with relatable and sympathetic characters.
Character Development: The cast of characters in this novel is relatable and will make readers feel compassion, resentment, and perhaps personal affinity.
Blurb: A deliciously twisted thriller.
by Margie Miklas
Plot: While Miklas’s novel makes use of genre tropes and contains excessive foreshadowing, the novel provides a fast-paced, exciting, and suspenseful storyline. New and continued mysteries abound, and the book metamorphoses into so much more than just a whodunit.
Prose: Miklas’s prose is clean, clear, and flows well and quickly. And while some sections have an almost academic feel, the author turns in a gripping story.
Originality: Though aspects of this book will be familiar to genre readers, Miklas manages to put a fresh spin on things. The addition of medical care corruption to the storyline expands this book beyond the typical mystery novel.
Character Development: Miklas’s characters begin as genre types, but eventually evolve into emotionally complex characters that readers will root for.
Blurb: Margie Miklas’s dramatic, page-turning hospital mystery will have readers truly invested in her relatable characters, familiar settings, and shocking surprises.
by Theresa Janson
Plot: Janson offers a fast-paced, gripping multiple murder mystery with an intense storyline that smartly reveals the protagonist's past personal traumas and present-day conflicts. Janson enriches this detective story with humor and sizzling romance.
Prose: Prose is clear and often poetic, with well integrated foreshadowing and authentic details relating to the work of an FBI agent and criminal profiler.
Originality: Readers will be easily emotionally invested in Janson's unique, character-driven mystery that integrates questions of cultural identity and deftly explores the lasting impact of violence and abuse.
Character Development: Janson's cast is comprised of contemporary, diverse characters as described through her protagonist's witty and discerning voice. Two polar opposite love interests will keep readers entertained, while the protagonist herself is a strong and inspiring survivor of personal trauma.
by Alan Johnson
Plot: This is a well-plotted novel. Murder, love, and death in a small town underscore special bonds of enduring friendship that will have readers reaching for their box of tissue on more than one occasion.
Prose: Johnson’s prose is simple and unpretentious, peppered with regional colloquialisms and southern charm.
Originality: While the premise is hardly an original concept, the intrigue of a murder and some great characters put a refreshing spin on things.
Character Development: The main characters in Johnson’s book are fully developed and will remind readers of people in their own lives.
by A.B. Alvarez
Plot: Alvarez’s novel is meticulously plotted and moves at a fast pace. There are plenty of twists and turns that flow organically, compelling readers to keep turning pages to find out what comes next.
Prose: At the beginning, the narrative jumps around a bit, making the storyline somewhat difficult to follow. However, the narrative soon settles into a rhythm. Alvarez’s voice is appropriate and believable.
Originality: Although readers will find the book’s tone and style similar to other books in the genre, the characters here elevate the novel and make it seem fresh and new.
Character Development: The characters here are well developed, fascinating, and engaging. Readers will definitely care about Anna and her story.
by H. Max Hiller
Plot: Hiller creates a compelling context for this mystery novel set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Issues of disaster recovery, gentrification, and local politics are explored in tandem with criminal intrigue. A somewhat convoluted conclusion muddies the otherwise well developed storyline.
Prose: While Hiller's prose is generally clear and smooth, character motivations and backstories are often conveyed through exposition, rather than through organic storytelling, while dialogue can be stilted and less than realistic.
Originality: Hiller brings a particularly human element to this mystery by focusing on the lives of New Orleans residents and the divisions between the wealthy and poor, which become more stark in the aftermath of disaster.
Character Development: At times, character development is secondary to Hiller's intriguing setting and the nuanced perspective on post-hurricane New Orleans. Readers may struggle to gain clear insights into the protagonist, while side characters can seem archetypal.
by M. Jonathan Jones
Plot: This dramatic, fast-paced novel is well organized. The author creates a vivid environment of devastation and destruction.
Prose: The prose is compact and concise, although some of the invented words can be a bit clunky. Additionally, the prose occasionally becomes overly dramatic and slightly purple.
Originality: This is an original story that manages to capture interest and maintain a furious pace while intentionally leaving out the "before" details.
Character Development: The characters are well crafted and strongly developed. Readers will definitely care about them and their story.
by H. A. Pell
Plot: This is an ambitious work of military suspense. But at more than 92,000 words, the book is far too long—the suspense and pacing are often impeded by ill-placed backstories.
Prose: Pell’s prose is quite solid, with his transitions between narrative and dialogue done well.
Originality: Unfortunately, there’s very little in Pell’s novel that sets it apart from other books in a crowded market.
Character Development: The character development here is solid. The author provides insight into character motivations and renders the relationships between the players well.
by Mark Hudson
Plot: This novel offers intrigue, conflict, and conspiracy at the top levels of government; Hudson knows his way around a political thriller, with a well-plotted premise at hand.
Prose: Hudson writes in a clear, descriptive prose style with solid dialogue and vivid action sequences.
Originality: While Hudson's novel is more noteworthy in terms of its timeliness than its originality, the author explores political turmoil from a fresh angle.
Character Development: Hudson effectively integrates a broad cast of characters into the narrative. While readers may not gain an intimate sense of the protagonists' psychological states, they are distinctive enough to serve the story.
by B.A. Sherman
Plot: Sherman tells the story of a father and son who both serve in Afghanistan. Focused on imperfect families, war, and revenge, the story delivers a satisfying narrative arc.
Prose: Sherman capably captures a sense of place through vivid description, yet the prose is otherwise weakened by awkward and overly long dialogue, clunky sentence construction, and repetition.
Originality: Sherman's decision to focus on two generations of marines impacted by the same war is a novel one.
Character Development: Sherman's characters develop most significantly through moments of personal reflection, rather than through interactions and dialogue. Readers may not gain a clear sense of the protagonist beyond his quest for justice.