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Mystery / Thriller

  • The Slithy Toves

    by Ryan Scoville

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot: While the plot does make use of genre tropes, what makes it interesting here is the tension the author builds and the fast-moving pace. The prologue will grab readers and keep them turning pages.

    Prose: The prose is tight and clear, especially in the prologue—and the style changes each time the author goes into the head of another character, which helps create unique voices. However, in some places, there is more telling than showing.

    Originality: The plot is not original and will be familiar to fans of the genre. What gives this novel a freshness and captures reader attention is the well-developed tension and conflict.

    Character Development: The characters in this novel are decently etched, though there is an abundance of secondary characters, which may confuse some readers. Still, the character voices are distinct and believable.

  • Goodnight Irene

    by James Scott Byrnside

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot: Byrnside delivers a classic, historical murder mystery that maintains focus and tension up until its satisfying conclusion. 

    Prose: Prose effectively serves the story, yet does not always shine. Dialogue is generally vivid, witty, and allows readers to easily differentiate between characters.

    Originality: The highly original backdrop of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, greatly enhances Byrnside's storytelling, while infusing the narrative with historical resonance. 

    Character Development: The author crafts a lively cast of unpredictable characters with secrets, peculiarities, and potentially nefarious intentions.

  • Plot: Gibson’s The Urge is a fast-paced installment in her “Devil’s Rule” series, masterfully drawing upon fear, suspense, dread, and revulsion to propel the eerie storyline. The plot-weaving improves as the book progresses.

    Prose: Gibson’s prose is meticulously detailed and rife with intense passages that slowly unravel characters’ secrets. Gibson capably captures the horror of discovering that a trusted coworker, friend, or partner is a sadistic pedophile.

    Originality: Gibson’s novel shows restraint when it comes to gore, but chilling details abound. The storytelling will gratifying fans of the horror genre, as the killers begin to inevitably face their karma. The author’s idea of basing each novel in the series around one of the seven deadly sins is morbidly creative.

    Character Development: Gibson’s characters are bred from genre stereotypes, yet develop more fully as the story progresses. The author is careful and successful in revealing the inner workings and emotions of violent perpetrators, while still emphasizing the vileness of their deeds.

  • Cooper's Moon

    by Richard Conrath

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: The author delivers an immediately compelling premise with a child’s mysterious abduction, the impact on the parents left behind, and the hunt for a culprit.

    Prose: The novel's prose is plain-spoken and clear-eyed. The author successfully raises tension with gripping descriptions and emotional dialogue.

    Originality: Conrath’s murder mystery is not unique, but lovers of the genre will find much to keep them engrossed.

    Character Development: Characters are fully developed and believable. Readers will root for Cooper in his search for victims and the identity of a ruthless and mysterious killer.

  • Anna: A Story About A Crime

    by Tess Tobias

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: Tobias's narrative is a well-plotted mystery surrounding the murder of four-year-old Anna, the daughter of vulnerable and chronically-abused young mother, Maple. A newly-minted detective challenges assumptions about the case as well as the old guard within the police force.

    Prose: Tobias’s prose is clear, but sentences can lack variation and the expressiveness that the storyline deserves.

    Originality: This whodunnit relies on a number of familiar plot elements. Despite the degree of predictability of setup and storyline, the author establishes some novel characteristics, including an unexpected conclusion.

    Character Development: Tobias’s characters are deeply flawed and wounded human beings. While Tobias doesn’t offer them particularly unique circumstances, she uses their past traumas to convincingly convey their frailties and fears.

  • Plot: A serial killer of men with a curious M.O. is at the center of this brisk and satisfying thriller.

    Prose: The author writes in clean, pragmatic prose that effectively details the mystery's procedural elements. Beckett infuses the story with simmering tension.

    Originality: The roots of many violent crimes can be traced to familial dysfunction, and the killings in Beckett's story follow suit. Novel elements come in the manner that characters plainly and vividly express their seeds of contempt.

    Character Development: The characters are generally well drawn, though physical descriptions at times are given unnecessary weight. The story's villainous characters act in manners that are not always sufficiently justified within the narrative.




  • The War Within

    by H. A. Pell

    Rating: 6.50

    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.

  • Race Music

    by Mark Herder

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot: Herder's novel is fast-paced, packed with twists and turns, and anything but predictable. This is a mystery that will keep readers on their toes.

    Prose: Herder's prose is solid, at times even raw and dirty—and this suits the tale the author is telling.

    Originality: Although Race Music doesn't stand out as a truly original tale, fans of the genre will find a lot to like here. The unspooling of the mystery will keep readers captivated until the very end.

    Character Development: The characters are fully developed and believable. However, some of the connections between the players are vague or explained too late in the novel.

  • 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.

  • Last Tracks

    by Susie McKenna

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: McKenna's plotting is marked by solid pacing and ample tension. However, some aspects of the plot feel too convenient.

    Prose: The prose here is solid and suits the material. The author succeeds at creating atmosphere throughout.

    Originality: While some aspects of the story will be familiar, McKenna adds a few twists to keep readers guessing.

    Character Development: Deana's evolution is well-developed and believable. However, some of the secondary characters come off as a little stereotypical.

  • Deadly Delivery: A Cruise Ship Cozy Mystery

    by Hope Callaghan

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: Callaghan´s tale of murder onboard a cruise ship earns its cozy moniker. The light whodunnit will keep readers engrossed as the clues slowly come into focus.

    Prose: Callaghan writes in an easy prose style that smoothly carries the narrative forward, building tension and introducing new potential suspects.

    Originality: This addition to a long-running series relies on conventions of its genre, but the story’s cruise ship setting is great fun and the blend of levity and intrigue feels fresh.

    Character Development: Protagonists are sympathetic and warm; relationships between characters are effectively developed through crisp dialogue and clear interiority.

  • Plot: Life Without Shoes is a well-plotted mystery with strong forward momentum and a scrupulous focus on police procedural elements.

    Prose: Cyrus's prose is solidly engaging with realistic descriptions and a clear sense of place; dialogue, however, can be lacking in expressiveness.

    Originality: Cyrus's novel is well anchored in classic works of detective fiction; while there are familiar elements at play, her narrative features freshness through its carefully crafted details.

    Character Development: The story's plot-driven focus can leave readers with an indistinct sense of the characters' emotional and psychological states, though they otherwise operate soundly within the narrative arc.


  • Plot: Alvarez has crafted an interesting tale with a lot of promise. As it stands, the book feels overly long with too many shifting allegiances and plot twists. A more streamlined plot would increase reader engagement and increase the pace.

    Prose: The prose in ADX Florence is workmanlike. There are some sections that feature awkward phrasing and others that make use of cliches.

    Originality: ADX Florence boasts an enjoyable and original story. Some readers, however, may feel that the plot features too many twists and turns.

    Character Development: The characters here are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are decently developed while others feel somewhat stereotypical.

  • Final Moment

    by Mark Cowan

    Rating: 4.75

    Plot: This compelling thriller features a sound central premise (connected to a real-life case), strong pacing, and gratifying plot developments. The lack of tidy resolution for individual characters provides nuance and verisimilitude.

    Prose: Cowan writes in clear and economical prose that effectively evokes tension. 

    Originality: As a police procedural, Cowan's novel follows a familiar trajectory, yet details relating to how law enforcement--and perpetrators--use modern technology to their benefits, offers an intriguing element.

    Character Development: Cowan offers convincing dialogue and a female protagonist who displays tech savvy, guts, and emotional depth. In contrast, the central adversary is not always convincingly presented.



  • Sin & Redemption: The Pink Elephant Connection

    by James McCarthy

    Rating: 4.50

    Plot: The setting and premise of this novel are promising. However, there isn't a clear story arc—the book's plot feels more like a series of events than a fully formed narrative.

    Prose: The writing is clear, but there are some small grammatical errors that can be distracting. The long sections of exposition and factual style give the novel a more historical tone, which can work against reader engagement.

    Originality: Leo is an unusual choice as the hero and the reportage approach is also different from most crime novels. However, the execution of these choices falters.

    Character Development: Readers don't really get to know Leo. The novel could give us an opportunity to see inside his head and understand how he feels about what happens to him, what motivates his actions, and how he changes over time. However, these things are only hinted at. Other characters are numerous, but also in need of further development.

  • The Chief and His Marine

    by B.A. Sherman

    Rating: 4.00

    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.