Mystery / Thriller
by J.B. Curry
Plot: Well organized and full of energy, the novel develops in unexpected manners, but never loses its focus. While there are hints at romance, the excitement of the chase is what will keep readers riveted to the pages.
Prose/Style: Curry's writing is strong, with a well-defined narrative voice and a command of language. Suspense is consistently sustained, while dialogue is smooth, effortless and authentic.
Originality: The story is quirky and original; the circumstances are believable and realistic. Overall, it's a riveting and memorable read.
Character Development: The characters are distinctive and realistic, with none of them wasted or painted with a single brush.
by Ty Mitchell
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.
by Beth Prentice
Plot: The third book in Prentice's cozy romantic mystery series offers sees the lead character unravel the secrets of an old house. The author deftly balances the mystery and romance elements.
Prose: This novel's strength lies in its warm, evocative voice. Overuse of particular words is a small flaw in the otherwise smooth and enjoyable narrative.
Originality: While this novel is firmly planted within the cozy mystery genre and carries predictable elements, the charismatic and complex sleuth lends the story its strength.
Character Development: As a series character, Lizzie doesn't grow exponentially in this installment, but readers will fully empathize with her as she faces new conflicts and reckons with a past that continues to haunt her.
by Joseph LeValley
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.
by Carmen Amato
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.
by Susan Lynn Solomon
Plot: Set during a visit to a spooky Canadian inn, Kaitlyn's troubles with both spirits and suicidal thoughts will hold readers' interest. The pace stays strong through the details of Abigail's 19th century backstory and her young lover's work in the Underground Railroad.
Prose/Style: The contemporary voice is clean and clear with many memorable and pleasing descriptions, and works well for the story. However, there are only a few moments of standout phrasing.
Originality: A nicely unique combination of elements is featured here: a ghost story, an emotionally troubled modern woman, the romantic 1800s story of Abigail being “shown” to Katy, and a touch of Civil War history.
Character Development: The author makes excellent distinctions between personalities. The ghost stands out well as an individual from her own 1850s era, and her Irish accent and understanding of her fate is charming. Katy as a lawyer isn't fully believable, though; she seems too off-balance and slightly immature for that type of work.
by Dana Ridenour
Plot: Readers will root for FBI Special Agents Alexis “Lexie” Montgomery and Blake Bennett as they go undercover to infiltrate the international Animal Liberation Front. Events move at an exciting and believable pace, with a thrilling climax and satisfying resolution.
Prose/Style: Ridenour’s prose is clear and polished. Chapter transitions are fluid and natural, allowing the reader to easily get lost in the story.
Originality: Ridenour’s villains—members of an animal rights extremist group—are utterly unique, crossing the line from contemporary activism into large-scale violence. The romance that develops between Lexie and Blake is predictable but sweet.
Character Development: As the story progresses, readers will become more and more invested in Lexie and Blake and their budding relationship. However, Lexie’s psychological trauma from a previous mission is a storyline that does not feel fully developed.
by Bill Prentice
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
by Amy Rivers
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.
by J.K. Gunne
Plot: Smith's smart and riveting thriller expertly blends sociopolitical themes with a central mystery of a kidnapped child in Brussels, its agonizing aftermath, and a quest to uncover the truth behind her abduction.
Prose: Prose is seamlessly constructed and polished. Smith writes in a clear-headed, understated manner, carrying the story forward with gradual, seasoned pacing. Dialogue--including in scenes featuring multiple characters--is vivid and purposeful.
Originality: The investigation into cyber crime and pedophilia/human trafficking is a common topic of exploration, but the story's Brussels setting, the protagonist's Belfast roots, and the frequent integration of global politics, allows for a more distinctive, far-ranging, and insightful perspective.
Character Development: Protagonist Denny--in his exile from his Belfast home--is an especially sympathetic, flawed, and vulnerable character. His pain over his granddaughter's disappearance under his watch is palpable. Additional characters, even those on the periphery, are expertly handled.
by J. A. Knight
Plot: The author understands technology and its impact on society. Knight does not shy away from its involvement in business and government as the plot is thick with inventive machinations. The action builds steadily, ultimately leading to a gratifying resolution.
Prose: At times the author resorts to resolving a problem with a trite observance, comment, or outcome. It seems that some of the resolutions are too tidy. Otherwise, the prose is clear and even. The author particularly excels at presenting technology in a manner that is accessible to those who may not be well-versed in the subject.
Originality: The author creates a world of weaponized tech that is both intriguing and plausible.
Character Development: Well-defined and convincing characters throughout allow both the protagonists and villains humanity and depth. The lead is particularly sympathetic as he rapidly becomes embroiled in circumstances far beyond his control.
by Alex Cage
Plot: Orlando Black, an African-American former special ops and fighting expert, is drawn into a case involving kidnapped girls, a missing cop, and a coffee shop chain/money laundry. When he makes a promise to the cop’s wife, he’ll have to stay on the case until the end – a familiar trope of the genre, but executed with much energy and intrigue here.
Prose/Style: Fast-paced and filled with witty dialogue, the first installment in the Orlando Black series is off to a captivating start. Concise and visual language keeps the pages turning.
Originality: The story could perhaps use more originality, as it is similar to the Jack Reacher series as a lone ex-military man righting wrongs. The refreshing twist here comes from discovering leaks in both the police department and FBI, and the little romance with a special agent.
Character Development: Readers will really love Black, but the supporting women are wonderfully strong and active. Detective Pete Daniels makes a nice buddy character for Black in the beginning, and then becomes another reason to get the bad guys.
by Douglas Wood
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.
by Puja Guha
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.
by Joseph Carter
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.
by Merissa Racine
Plot: A dead judge, a messy affair, and a heroine being pursued by a handsome, if intimidating, detective, all lead to appealing intrigue and suspense. The hunt for the real killer is complex and keeps readers guessing almost to the very end.
Prose/Style: This is an easy and smooth read with vivid descriptions and artful characterization. Much of the dialogue is witty and some lines are dead-on.
Originality: This book offers a unique premise and an original sensibility. The dogs serve no real purpose, but they make effective background characters. Though the storyline doesn't stray wildly from genre conventions, the novel offers so many red herrings that readers will remain engaged and are unlikely to guess the killer’s identity.
Character Development: There is a large cast of interesting, off-beat characters, including an aunt who raises alpacas; such individuals are more tangential to the storyline than central. The determined detective makes a perfect but expected romantic lead.