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Mystery / Thriller

  • True Creature

    by Steve Zell

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot:  Reading this book is as entertaining and riveting watching a film. However, the author should consider fewer POV characters so that readers can focus on the plot, especially at the beginning of the story.

    Prose/Style: The prose flows well, and word choice is exquisite.

    Originality: Again, the prose elevates this novel. Deanne and Sara are strong characters, but the book would benefit from less points of view so that readers can focus.

    Character Development: The characters are believable, and this book is worthy of a wide readership. Focusing on a few main characters would keep the plot and perspectives structured.

    Blurb:
    Powerful prose and strong characters make this supernatural mystery a satisfying read and a page-turner.

  • Feeding the Fire

    by Amy Waeschle

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: This novel's plot tells the story in a well-paced, suspenseful manner. The strategy of switching between Zach's and Jessie's POV is very effective both for revealing bits and pieces of the story/backstory and for building tension as the novel reaches its climax.

    Prose/Style: The author's prose style is very readable, almost transparent in the way it falls away in service to the story. At the same time, the text is beautifully written, with precise language and startling imagery. Third-person narration helps readers remain oriented despite chapter-by-chapter POV switches that create convincing and distinctively individual character perspectives. 

    Originality: This book gives fresh treatment to routine story elements like abused/neglected teens, arson, and missing persons. The story is compelling, even though the "crimes" at its heart don't develop or resolve in a way that completely satisfies the mystery genre's expectations for "justice."

    Character Development: The characters are well-drawn and original, with exceptional attention to small details that bring them convincingly to life. For example, although the tomboy aspects of Jessie's character sometimes slide close to skateboard-culture cliché, as much of her behavior is influenced by ongoing distress over outgrowing her one, ratty sports bra and the complete lack of support, understanding, or even awareness she gets from her grief-distracted mother.

  • Finding Nowhere

    by Jeff Wade

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot:“Mentally disturbed man kidnaps girls” may be a basic plot, but what livened this take on the well-used premise are the conflict and the action scenes. The antagonist is memorably and realistically scary, and the tension in these scenes is well done, suggesting a style that draws the reader into the story on the front page. 

    Prose/Style:The writing is technically sound and well executed when crafting the setting and action scenes. The vivid details add to the story in an engaging way. The scenes containing the abduction itself are riveting and will remain with the reader long after the last page is turned.

    Originality:The premise of the abduction and crimes committed are not wholly original and are used often in novels, TV, and movies. However, the author’s handling of these details and the antagonist is unique, intense and captivating. The antagonist’s collection of ponytails is truly chilling. 

    Character Development:While the characters are strong in description and allow the reader to easily visualize them, the dialogue misses the mark at times and the voices often sound similar. If the author focuses on remedying this aspect, there is huge promise in this work.

  • DEATH IS THE COOL NIGHT

    by Libby Sternberg

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: The question of who killed the cruel scoundrel Ivan Roustakoff is especially intriguing because protagonist Gregory Silensky may be the murderer, but with his drink-fogged mind, he can't be quite sure. Gregory also suspects the beautiful, childlike vocal student Laura, but they soon fall in love and he can't imagine her going to jail. This book features excellent foreshadowing and teasers keep the pace quick.

    Prose/Style: This book’s lovely cadence and phrasing help to move the story along, and descriptions are verbal visualizations of scenes and characters. Gregory's passion for music is deliciously described. The 1940s references are accurate and engaging.

    Originality: The blend of murder, music and musicians is not fully fresh, but it's interesting as told from the perspective of a pianist with damaged hands and uncertainty about his own guilt. The finely honed prose adds to the originality of this novel.

    Character Development: The characters are dynamic individuals with fascinating neuroses and captivating quirks. The author displays an impressive technique of descriptions that dig deeper into traits than physical appearances.

    Blurb: Superior prose carries this story of a brooding pianist alcoholic who worries that he might be guilty of killing a loathsome conductor. Musicians and murder make for an especially neurotic entanglement of suspects. Bravo!

  • The Second Law, Lynn Dayton Thriller #3

    by L. A. Starks

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot:The plot of sabotage of oil refineries is intriguing and drives the action, setting the pace of this thriller. The plot engages the reader from the first page.

    Prose/Style:The prose is descriptive without providing too much detail, allowing the reader to use his or her imagination at will. Emotion is evoked often, and the tension drives the reader forward.

    Originality:The use of the oil industry in California helps make this thriller original. The author provides just enough history without overwhelming the reader with too much information. 

    Character Development:The characters are well developed, with their own memorable voices. The names provide a diversity that is demanded when using the oil industry and technology as a background. The dialogue is natural and believable and brings the reader easily into the story.

  • A Thread So Fine

    by Susan Welch

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: The plot proceeds slowly at first, but quickens with a certain delicate flow as the story moves on. The plot is interesting and emotional.

    Prose/Style: The prose possesses a sophistication with a certain air of wistfulness for a time long past. The dialogue doesn’t suffer from any pretensions, and nothing feels too dated.

    Originality: The story hits a high note for originality, and the conflict between close families and the war between truth and lies ripping at the inner structure of family is very moving.

    Character Development: The characters are relatable, not all likable, but their foibles and strengths embolden the readers’ reaction to them and identifying with the book’s cast. The characters make the story eminently more readable.

  • The Mutiny Girl (Gold & Courage Series)

    by Karen S. Gordon

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: “The Mutiny Girl” offers a complex and rich plot, both solving a decades-old murder and a current treasure hunt of illicit drug money, with an equal amount of well-drawn details that meld within the story rather than acting as their own parts. Though the story unfolds slowly, once it finds its momentum it doesn’t let up until the very end.

    Prose/Style: Gordon clearly has a way with words, and these skills are on full display in action-packed and, at times, grotesque, descriptions. The heat, tension, and emotions are vividly captured, and the erotic and death-related scenes are very memorable.

    Originality: Based on a true story from the author’s life at the real Hotel Mutiny, there will be some familiar aspects of the story to readers of drug/crime fiction set in Miami (drug runners, crooked cops, clandestine meetings, etc.). However, Gordon infuses the reality with a clever murder/mystery alongside a story of reckoning—both familial and monetary.

    Character Development: All of the characters, from the primary ones (Vance, Lauren, Ray, and Tony) to the secondary cast (Jake, Daniel, and Davis) are well-fleshed out and given just the right amount of background story to engage readers without bogging down the plot. Especially well done was the figure of Ray Dinero, who served as El Cerebro, “the brains,” behind the drug operations.

    Blurb: An outstanding debut thriller that has it all: misdirection, intrigue, murder, and family. Captivating and engrossing.

  • Plot: The plot here is well thought out and conceived. The movement of the story is well coordinated and not too fast or slow. The strength of the book lies within its depth.

    Prose/Style: The prose begins in a disarming sort of way, until the unfolding events cut the reader down quickly. The writing mixes in the action-mystery with dashes of emotion and police procedural.

    Originality: The book combines a pleasant mix of sci-fi, along with mystery and secrecy, that keep the reader on their toes.

    Character Development: The characters are well written and tread paths that lead to any possible unfolding scenario. The protagonist's backstory possesses tragedy and sadness, but also hidden violence and a wildcard element. Each new character unveiled meshes well with the reader.

    Blurb: This is an excellent new release, full of interesting characters involved in covert goings on. The mysteries abound in a well-plotted and thought out book that will make the reader hunger for more.

  • Burying the Lede

    by Joseph LeValley

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: The tension of this legal suspense story is strong at the start, and the character descriptions—for example, during courtroom battles and while in threatening circumstances—keep the pace. The reporter's detailed observations, and his own investigation of the case, will keep readers' attention.

    Prose/Style: There is tight clarity in the prose here. The journalistic and legal topics are easy to read about and understand, and the emotional scenes are sympathetic without feeling contrived.

    Originality: It is a fairly common theme to have a reporter's interest in a defendant who is assumed guilty, but is not. Tony as a savvy observer and reporter, and his approach to his investigation and emotional investment, contribute to the originality of this story.

    Character Development: This book boasts high-level construction of characters and their relationships. Tony is smart but modest, Nelson is smart but obnoxious. The defendant Wells is stereotypical at times, but it works in the story. The book includes believable romance and friendships.

    Blurb: This book is filled with suspense that begins in the courtroom, and keeps readers on edge through a reporter's emotional investigation of a double-homicide.

  • 43 Missing

    by Carmen Amato

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: The sixth novel in the Detective Emilia Cruz series weaves together her interesting backstory, a fictional criminal, and the true crime story of forty-three missing Mexican students. That crime remains unsolved to this day, but Amato creates a very possible solution to it in this book.

    Prose/Style: A fast-paced procedural, the novel is written in a no-nonsense style. This book is a real page-turner with just a touch of Spanish vocabulary and descriptions thrown in.

    Originality: This book has a very original plot, as the author weaves the true crime with her own inventions. Readers will enjoy the clever use of other aspects of the crime scene elements in Mexico as well.

    Character Development: Detective Cruz is a fully fleshed out character. Tough, but not above shedding a few tears, she bears the scars of a violent past while handling being the first and only female detective in Acapulco.

  • Why Was Rachel Murdered?

    by Bill Prentice

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: The plot ebbs and flows with the grace of a surfer-made wave. The shocking crime that begins the narrative unfolds into the depths of corporate conspiracy, making for interesting reading.

    Prose/Style: The prose varies as the author goes from boardroom plotting to vicious assassination, from a possible boring moment to literary fireworks. The prose consists of an appropriate mix of business jargon and murderous mayhem.

    Originality: The financial malfeasance unveiled for the reader may not necessarily new, but the way it is presented in a nuanced way distinguishes it from other books. The surprising and exciting whodunit element is the key here to keeping readers invested.

    Character Development: The characters range from noble but flawed to the hopelessly corrupt throughout the book. They are unique in their loyalty to their vices or to their causes.

    Blurb: Unfolding at a fast pace, the story grips, intrigues and holds the reader throughout. Timely in its storyline, the characters are comparable to the villains and heroes of today’s crime and search for justice

  • All the Broken People

    by Amy Rivers

    Rating: 8.75

     Plot:The plot is very well structured in this novel. If there are a few weak points, such as a need for more detail about Alice's backstory, and a bit more color required for Beth Simms' motivations, the storytelling and prose keeps the storyline moving along quite well.

    Prose/Style:The prose is polished, crisp, straightforward and highly readable. The author’s writing shows a real maturity in the editing process.

    Originality:The dual storyline of Alice's slowly escalating predicament and the long-ago murder she's researching makes this story arc stand out a bit more than other plots of this type.

    Character Development:Alice is a well-rounded, fully developed character (though her curiosity as a journalist and some aspects of her troubled marriage need a little polishing). Secondary characters, particularly Larry Lee Simms, have depth and strength, and are written with compassion and insight.

    Blurb:As Alice Bennett navigates the complexities of small-town life and personal histories, her own included, the suspense ratchets up and every instance of violence gets a little more intense. This is an enjoyable small-town psychological thriller with vivid characters and excellent pacing and plotting. 

  • Dark Data: Control, Alt, Delete

    by Douglas Wood

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: This is a very contemporary and cautionary tale about what could very well happen when financial terrorists join forces with radical terrorists. This book is certainly one of the most well-researched of the new dystopian novels and a real page-turner to the surprising end.

    Prose/Style: A clean writing style moves the plot forward without getting in the way of the storyline itself, with the occasional brilliant line that send shivers through the reader. The oft-repeated line about greed serves as the catalyst to the plot.

    Originality: This book is very original in the way it is put together, although every detail in the book corresponds to real headlines.

    Character Development: The cast of characters is long and worthy of the guide at the end of the book. And, while the motives of each are clear, none is really a hero or draws much empathy from readers. Given the structure of the book, it works.

  • Plot: The plot moves quickly and with purpose. Chapters are action-packed and easily keep the reader’s attention.

    Prose/Style: Guha’s writing is clear and direct, and her greatest strength is her ability to set the scene. Her descriptions of lavish ballrooms and fireworks displays are truly tangible.

    Originality: While this story does have the typical trajectory of a spy thriller, Guha manages to keep things fresh by incorporating layers of romance, friendship, humor, and mystery.

    Character Development: Guha’s characters are lifelike, with distinct personalities and backgrounds. Her most vivid character, Seymour, is sinister enough to leave the reader with goosebumps.

    Blurb: Readers of all ages will enjoy this exciting tale of international espionage, love, secrecy, and revenge.

  • Another Man's Freedom Fighter

    by Joseph Carter

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: This book is a classic espionage read with all the modern twists of cyber warfare set in Central Europe. The writer is clearly knowledgeable about the history and current political climate of the region, and makes a compelling argument between family and country.

    Prose/Style: Fast-paced and well written, the writing moves the plot quickly along for a thrilling ride.

    Originality: This is truly an of-the-day story that could be tomorrow’s headlines, including a take on American politics, although the story is Eurocentric.

    Character Development: For the genre, there are wonderfully strong female characters, including the wife and mother Ofelia and the wife of the Polish president.

  • In The Best Interests

    by Tim Hind

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: The author has done an excellent job of developing a plot that is equal parts thrilling and immersive. Well-paced, the story has the ability to make readers sit back and relax as the characters are relaxing, and then suddenly sit up straight as exciting events unfold.

    Prose/Style: While very well written, the novel could use a thorough proofread to take care of typographical mistakes, which pop up every now and then. The shifting points of view between London and Hong Kong also add to the edge of the story. The author's way of introducing a conflict through foreshadowing is very effective.

    Originality: This is a novel steeped in the technical aspects of things, that has done such a great job of catering both to the tech-savvy as well as those who barely understand the jargon. Considering that it is partly based on true events the author experienced, the novel manages a unique kind of thrill readers would not have expected from a story about network hacking and spam emails. The larger picture of espionage and politics make it even more interesting.

    Character Development: All of the characters are fairly well developed. While most of the supporting characters get lost in the many names and ranks introduced throughout the novel, readers are able to follow the story of the main characters very well, as well as their interactions with other characters. The development of Luke from a man who just wanted a normal living situation into a man who resigns in the face of injustice was well done, and readers will look forward to reading the upcoming books in the trilogy.

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