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Mystery / Thriller

  • 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.

  • Darkness of Blue

    by Gary A James

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: This book is multi-faceted and richly plotted. Few readers will see the surprise twists that arrive at the conclusion, which will keep them captivated until the final page.

    Prose/Style: The author’s writing is strong and well organized. His deft touch with authentic dialogue and convincing descriptions sets this book apart.

    Originality: The novel's unpredictability will keep readers riveted. Ordinary situations turn into memorable and life-altering events when the author subverts expectations.

    Character Development: James’s book is genuinely creative, with unforgettable characters, notably the haunted protagonist. Although there are many different figures and voices introduced throughout, Hall provides them with meticulously-crafted characteristics and quirks that starkly differentiate them from one another.

  • Valley of Spies

    by Keith Yocum

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot:Yocum presents a believable plot with plenty of twists and turns that will keep readers flipping the pages until they reach a conclusion that ties all of the loose ends together.

    Prose/Style:Tightly written, with a smooth flow that keeps readers glued to the page, this is a compelling story by a writer who knows his craft.

    Originality:Yocum's story is creative and believable; he takes readers from Perth to New Zealand with a couple of stops in the United States, adding variety and intrigue through the different settings.

    Character Development:These characters are authentic and seemingly effortlessly created. The author avoids creating sex-based stereotypes - a temptation many writers would accommodate, especially when dealing with military-based characters.

  • Lost to the World

    by Libby Sternberg

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Appearing slow-moving at first, the plot is, however, realistically paced. The story is well-plotted; never once does anything seem out of place.

    Prose/Style:
    Very well written, the prose is immersive, engaging, and emotion-provoking.

    Originality: Set amidst both a true and a fictitious world, the novel divulges something unique. The premise for the murder, and all the intertwined stories in between, do not seem like an echo of any other mystery/thriller novel readers have encountered before.

    Character Development: The author has presented the characters in such a way that readers cannot help but become attached to them and their stories. The characters evolve over the course of the novel to better understand themselves, and deal with their emotions.

  • Star Compass

    by Anthea Sharp

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: The mix of old-fashioned slum-level criminality and futuristic space technology works well, and Diana is very appealing as she takes her remarkable journey from up, to down, to up again, despite the struggles she faces staying on top.

    Prose: Sharp offers crisp, lucid, straightforward writing that keeps the reader turning pages.

    Originality: The street urchin of noble birth-meets-interplanetary-adventures isn't a singular concept, but the author offers a fine and engaging rendering of familiar Steampunk tropes.

    Character Development: The author provides substantially clever, subtle descriptions of character growth from Diana, Derek, and Tipper.

  • Foreign Relations, Book 2, A Finn O'Brien Thriller

    by Rebecca Forster

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot:“Foreign Relations” is a fast-paced crime thriller filled with nonstop intrigue and action. Readers will be swept up in a dangerous investigation where nothing is as it seems. Gut-wrenching twists and an emotionally gripping storyline make this book difficult to put down.

    Prose/Style:This book is beautifully written. Rebecca Forster's prose is evocative and gripping. Her descriptions and dialogue are captivating and thought provoking. There are a few typos or editing errors here and there, but they don't detract from the story.

    Originality:“Foreign Relations” is a fresh and original novel that takes a look at the less glamorous side of Hollywood and LA.

    Character Development:The characters in this book are well rounded and multi-dimensional. They feel realistic and genuine, and Forster expertly captures each of their voices and personalities.

  • Hyperion's Fracture

    by Thomas Kelso

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: The plot here is strong and flows along at an even pac, while the author's extensive research into the subject matter is apparent. Despite the kidnapping of the principle characters, however, the story is simply not particularly engaging. The bones of the story are solid, and the work holds promise with some revamping.

    Prose/Style: Kelso is a gifted writer with strong command of prose, dialogue, and description.

    Originality: The author has produced a highly original work with a unique, animal-centric focus combined with aspects of a medical thriller.

    Character Development: The author opens the story with a rash of details that emerge through the dialogue between Claire and Meera, but most are superficial details that may set the stage for the story but offer little insight into the women, their lives, and what makes them tick. Again, the core of the work here is good. The author needs to flesh the characters out more to make the reader care about these women.

  • The Hitler Progeny

    by Steve Dimodica

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: The premise of this tense and multilayered novel is as frightening as it is plausible. Could a Hitler be brought to power again? Are there German citizens harboring a wish to a return to an Aryan society? This novel probes that possibility.  Though some chapters are extremely short and an overuse of commas is noted, there are gripping developments throughout, and the conclusion is surprising and ominous.

    Prose: The author has a fine grip on his prose, writing with clarity and in a manner power suited to the political thriller genre. 

    Originality: In its chilling exploration of the coming of a "Fourth Reich," the author displays an authentic grasp on relevant historical context and political machinations. While this premise is not wholly unique, its delivery is highly effective.  

    Character Development: Both Gerhardt and the American intelligence officer for the CIA, Terry, are realistic and complex. This is especially true with Helios/Terry, who has to travel widely and take many personal risks, without revealing his true identity, to discover what is truly happening to split Germany apart.

  • Blood Moon Rising

    by Richard Conrath

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: This book is a well-written page-turner with a host of compelling characters. When PI Cooper signs on to a missing persons case for a friend, he winds up chasing Russian mobsters dealing in human organs from Ohio to Florida, where a storm makes the final chase even darker.

    Prose/Style: Conrath provides a fast-paced detective story that provides an alluring backstory for the protagonist. Solidly engaging dialogue and crisp detail enhance the prose.

    Originality: Though the subject of human trafficking is of-the-moment, this is not your typical detective novel. Especially notable is Conrath's capable character development and the novel's haunting focus on Cooper’s missing son--an element that provides additional emotional complexity and dimension.

    Character Development: Cooper is a sympathetic lead, but it’s his crazy crew of cohorts that add so much individuality to the story. Particularly strong are Cooper's friends, the mob enforcer and the elder Native American, who provide a welcome sprinkling of humor to an otherwise grim storyline.

  • The Master Hacker

    by Steve Burkart

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: Burkart crafts a compelling, far-reaching novel concerning diplomatic world relations, military intelligence, and modern warfare. The author deftly explores notions of loyalty to country and ethical technology.

    Prose/Style: The prose is crisp and descriptive, with unexpected details and phrasings. Substantial, realistically rendered dialogue carries the narrative forward.

    Originality: This book is original in many aspects--notably, its focus on a North Korean woman who is a computer genius in a country that doesn't respect women. The story raises compelling questions about  the world political climate and sacrifices made in the name of world peace.

    Character Development: Many of the characters are strong and clearly developed. As they are completing clandestine work, they do not always disclose their individual personalities, remaining closely guarded. The most successfully developed are SunHee Nham and John Darque, both conflicted and complex, while also just and idealistic.

  • ONE OF US HAS TO GO

    by Katja Schulz

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: Though it veers dangerously close to an it-was-all-a-dream conclusion, Schulz's story of a protagonist coping with a crippling psychological disorder maintains its mystery elements while dropping enough clues to justify the "reveal" of the last few pages.

    Prose/Style: Uncommon turns of phrase and the novel's European setting add a beguiling patina to the story. The dialogue is unforced; apt descriptions of the physical setting heighten the emotional content.

    Originality: That a narrative featuring a young woman with obsessive compulsive disorder is penned by a writer with OCD herself contributes considerable eye-opening authenticity to the novel.

    Character Development: The author's ability to craft two nicely differentiated personalities for a singular character is admirable. Other characters, even those who are marginal, are well wrought.

  • Beware the Spider: A Black Orchid Chronicle

    by David L. Haase

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: The plot of Hasse's story is quite exciting. It's something different, especially with Sebastion's secret power that everyone wants to use, and the memorable events that happen to him throughout the story.

    Prose/Style: Hasse does an effective job describing his settings, characters, and plot. His writing style makes for a fun and quick read.

    Originality: Hasse's story is original, from exotic locations, demons, and a curse/power that its main character Sebastion possesses.

    Character Development: Hasse's characters are well developed and interesting. The main character, nature photographer Sebastion, is likable, as is his girlfriend Amanda. Minor characters like T add more to the story, with his sensible but sometimes jealous personality.

  • Path of a Novice: The Silvan Book I

    by R.K. Lander

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: This is a coming-of-tale written in the form of a heroic fantasy novel and its plot develops on two fronts that Lander keeps well balanced: the battlefield, where the hero, Fel’annár, is earning his reputation as an unparalleled Silvan warrior; and the court of King Thargodén, where intrigues are brewing that could keep Fel’annár from achieving his destiny. The pacing is satisfyingly brisk but, insofar as this is the first book in a series, several subplots are set in motion whose resolution will not be seen until later books in the saga.

    Prose: There is nothing particularly memorable about Lander’s prose, but the writing serves the characters well and establishes situations with an economy of style. The dialogue between characters reads authentically for their differing personalities.

    Originality: Tales of characters achieving their destinies are at least old as Arthurian legend and common in modern heroic fantasy fiction sagas. While the story Lander tells is familiar, this novel is distinguished by the powers and attributes with which he endows the characters.

    Character Development: The characters are this novel’s strongest attribute. Fel’annár, who at first is scorned as the half-breed child of a Silvan elf mother and an Alpine elf father, earns the reader’s sympathy for his admirable efforts to prove his mettle in battle, regardless of lineage. Equally sympathetic and more complex is his half-brother Handir, who is charged with protecting Fel’annár and keeping him in the dark about his secret heritage.

     

     

  • Before the Snow Flies

    by John Wemlinger

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot: This riveting novel's romantic storyline is finely interwoven into a weightier and thought-provoking exploration of post-traumatic stress and a veteran's experience of returning home.

    Prose/Style: An excellent balance of introspection and action, dialogue, and narrative, lends to this novel's sophistication. A tendency toward overwriting and a caricature-like depictions of a villainous character can detract from the otherwise credible and sensitive story.

    Originality: Stories that explore the impacts of PTSD have increased in number, a fact noted in the book. While these accounts have rendered such portrayals commonplace, Wemlinger delivers an honest and affecting portrayal of one veteran's pain.

    Character Development: An outstanding protagonist--a double-amputee coming to terms with his altered existence--commands attention. Major David Keller’s inner battle reveals the depths of his character, particularly as he makes amends with those he sidestepped during his military career. Readers gain a heartbreaking glimpse into the dramatically different worlds that await veterans returning to estranged families and friends.

  • Digging Up Buck

    by Robert Rhode

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot: When a graduate student studying archaeology discovers a human bone, a murder investigation--and a romance--ensues. Rhode delivers a light mystery with an archaeological spin.

    Prose: Rhode's prose is solid, effective, and inviting. Elegant and smooth narrative pacing allow readers to become fully immersed in the mystery and the budding romantic connection between the protagonists.

    Originality: The pairing up of a detective and an intrepid graduate student who knows her way around an excavation site, brings a quality of freshness to the mystery.

    Character Development: The central characters share undeniable chemistry. Rhode's capable, quick witted heroine is one readers will hope to hear more from in future books.

  • Life Force Preserve

    by Courtney Leigh Pahlke

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot: Pahlke’s plotting is well-laid out, leaving readers with enough questions to keep them engaged, and providing answers at just the right pace to not let them get bored, yet continue to reel them in. The ending is creatively comprised of wrapping up of the current story to set up the next segment of the plot arc, while creating a cliffhanger that is just shocking enough to keep readers holding on, but not leaving them frustrated.

    Prose/Style: Although some points lag with description or extra information that detracts from the excitement of the story or is sometimes confusing, such as the beginning when Anna slips and falls on the ice, the overall prose is smooth, understandable, and captivating.

    Originality: Even with plenty of stories out there regarding alien races trying to covertly take over our planet and the secret government agencies designed to fight them, this story adds an interesting scientific twist with the attempt to wipe humans out being from real diseases, and the cure coming from everyday humans that have a special blood type from another alien ancestor. The somewhat simplistic root and resulting hunting of these humans makes the plot almost believable and therefore more original than other similar stories.

    Character Development: All of the characters have a great start to individuality and personalities with the words they said, but most conversations and banter lose personality with too much “she/he said” or “she/he asked” instead of adding more descriptive dialogue, more strongly conveying their feelings and personalities. With already well-written characters, the addition of descriptive dialogue would be a great benefit to the story as a whole.

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