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Mystery / Thriller

  • Heat Angels

    by Jim Yeazel

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: With the murderer as the main character here, readers may expect the plot to focus on a critical error that is his undoing, or to offer fresh insight on why he does what he does. We get a bit of both, and neither. The ending is surprising, but perhaps more thought-provoking than satisfying.

    Prose/Style: The writing is clear and direct, avoiding the huge potential for sensationalism in the plot. The author conjures the time, place and atmosphere with cinematic effectiveness.

    Originality: A man abusing his power in a small-town 50s setting is not especially new. His motivation is also not particularly surprising, but the ending is unexpected.

    Character Development: Main character Pike is believable but unsympathetic. Secondary characters could be drawn with more detail. Darcy, Tammy, Bobby, and even Pancho and Gert may all have more potential but we see them largely as props for Henry Pike.

  • Connecting Obsessions

    by Neil Mavrick

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: Mavrick integrates concepts relating to quantum physics and General Relativity, and while under close examination readers may find flaws in the author’s logic, these threads inspire a degree of verisimilitude. Mavrick's mystery is engrossing and well-plotted, if ultimately more narrow in focus than the premise first suggests.

    Prose: Prose is invitingly clear, if overly formal in tone--most notably in Paul’s mannered way of speaking. Mavrick gradually details the complex circumstances in a manner that doesn’t initially overload the reader; as a result of this pacing, however, the conclusion features heavy expository dialogue.

    Originality: Readers may find parallels between this work and other time travel romances, but Mavrick brings a unique sensibility to the story, notably through its focus on the darker aspects of Hollywood, the ever provocative butterfly effect concept, and the story’s ecological angle.

    Character Development: Mavrick introduces an unavoidable power differential into the romance between Paul and Rachel: in Rachel's present, Paul is a much older man who possesses the wisdom of a far distant future. His seeking to protect Rachel across temporal dimensions is certainly romantic, but also leaves her with relatively little agency of her own. Nevertheless, readers able to overlook this aspect of their relationship will swoon over the time-spanning romance.

  • Murder in Sun City

    by Sidney Frost

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot:The combination of the theft of religious objects, a fractured family and the issues raised by memory loss and PTSD make for a lively, though not always coherent story, especially toward the end of the book.

    Prose/Style:This author provides solid, clear language, a steady tone and nice asides that give the main character depth and personality.

    Originality:The reliance on the stereotypically traumatized Vietnam veteran as a figure of limitless violence offsets some of the clever uses of fake identities and memory loss that make this book memorable.

    Character Development:Liz Helmsley is an appealing, occasionally wordy "old-lady detective" and a cheerful narrator. Many of the secondary characters, particularly Kim and the deranged vet James Johnson, would benefit from the same depth and charm.

  • Book Keepers

    by D. F. Hart

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot:Hart gracefully integrates threads of romance and relationship dynamics with elements of mystery and crime into her second novel in this series.

    Prose/Style:Hart writes in a clear, forward style that can, at times, benefit from a variation in tone.

    Originality:By blending romance with the suspenseful hunt for a serial killer, Hart offers a unique fusion of genres in this book.

    Characterization:Readers familiar with the first book will be invested in the central characters and the ways in which their professional roles impact their personal lives. The romantic relationships Hart depicts provide a heartwarming core to the story.

  • Don't Say Her Name

    by Kelly Jameson

    Rating: 6.00

    Plot: The novel's premise is an immediately compelling one. While the book's many threads are individually appealing, rather than coalesce, they compete with one another to clutter the story.

    Prose/Style: Jameson's writing is generally clear and plainspoken, if at times flat. Instances of overwriting also occur, but the prose would primarily benefit from more organic, atmospheric detail.

    Originality: While initially, Jameson's novel may call to mind other novels of cold cases and haunting disappearances, the author ultimately delivers a surprising and multilayered story. Snake-handling, illegal genetic research, and unethical fertility clinic practices add up to an unconventional mystery.

    Character Development: Protagonist Alice Joseph brings an element of glamour to the story through her stardom; the brightness of the stage lights are contrasted with the darkness of her family's past. However, Jameson's novel has a somewhat overcrowded cast; with multiple characters vying for the spotlight, individual players aren't provided with the attention and focus they might deserve.

  • My Accidental Future (Hearts of Nashville)

    by Jenilee Wallace

    Rating: 5.75

    Plot: The plot ties up all loose ends, but could be made more realistic – all mistakes are forgiven easily, and everyone meets their happy ending. The storyline follows one couple through a break-up, instant marriage, the loss of a premature child and the adoption of foster children.

    Prose/Style: The prose is quite clear and well-written, with the exception of too few commas, and a few grammatical errors. The dialogue seems mostly realistic. A medium copy edit and proofread would be very helpful here.

    Originality: While the plot might be realistic for some individuals, the idea of getting married to an estranged partner while drunk, not remembering that action, and then making this marriage work out may indeed be a bit far-fetched – nonetheless, it’s original.

    Character Development: The two main characters could use more emotional growth and development to seem more realistic. Justin has the ability to seemingly change overnight, despite his previous debauchery. Because these characters are country musicians in Nashville, one expects some rowdiness, late hours, and partying behavior, rather than immediately settling down into a fairly suburban existence.

  • Plot: This interactive book where the reader is asked to make choices at the end of each section provides the audience with a refreshing and adventurous novel. The basic premise here is that an American tourist in Brazil is asked by agents to aid in a murder investigation, which is a little far-fetched but nonetheless entertaining.

    Prose/Style: The style is very much basic action-driven, although some of the descriptive phrases are well written. At times, the dialogue is very cliché and would benefit from some variation.

    Originality: Given the unlikely scenario of a foreign tourist being asked to help investigate a high-profile murder, this book could definitely be considered original, even if unrealistic.

    Character Development: Since the reader is the protagonist, the experience is truly shaped by each individual. Some of the other characters are stereotypes, although Agent Bertram does have quite a bit of substance to him.

  • Doomed to die hard: (A global thriller)

    by Werner Kellner

    Rating: 4.50

    Plot: There is a strong and action-filled story at the heart of this novel, but it is often buried as a result of a somewhat confusing narrative structure. Readers may struggle to remain invested in a work that does not always make it clear whose story is being told. 

    Prose: The lack of paragraphs makes this difficult to read, but the prose also suffers from awkward word choices and an overly blunt narrative style. The story also summarizes far more than it shows, making it a challenge for readers to fully engage

    Originality: Certainly not derivative, this work has the bones of a solidly compelling work; however, with multiple structural flaws and often flat language, readers may struggle to fully locate the story.

    Character Development: While the lead characters and narrators experience life-changing circumstances, readers may not fully connect to them as a result of insufficient psychological development. 

  • Toluidine Blue: A Novel

    by Evelyne Keating

    Rating: 3.75

    Plot: The authors effectively convey the professional challenges of their lead characters, while integrating elements of a police procedural. A romantic subplot provides a breezy undertone.

    Prose: The prose adequately serves the story and will engage fans of mystery and romance, although the flow of the text is at times clunky and dialogue can be inauthentic. The use of technical terminology provides valuable verisimilitude.

    Originality: Narratives that depict the personal lives of first responders and ER personnel are ubiquitous. As a result--and despite the book's strengths--this look into the lives of forensic nurses can, unfortunately, feel stale. The absence of many ethical challenges, along with a somewhat predicable ending, makes later sections less engaging, and at times repetitive, despite the suffering of the people portrayed.

    Character Development: While the characters are individually compelling as dedicated pros who are, nevertheless, eager for romance, neither lead character changes substantially by the story's conclusion.

  • The Advancing Storm

    by Robert Valletta

    Rating: 3.00

    Plot: The paint-by-numbers patina of Valletta's narrative might well be a comfort to fans of military thrillers, but the novel's ungainly mix of murders most foul and high-tech terrorism makes for an occasionally sluggish read.

    Prose/Style: The writing style meanders among stilted, implausible, wordy, and occasionally confusing; in addition, the story's pace is slowed considerably by technological information dumps--far too much detail is offered about military hardware for the average reader.

    Originality: The author's attempt at a one-man-saves-the-world storyline breaks little new ground, and one intriguing element--a military conflict toppling the North Korean government--is glossed over to the novel's detriment. 

    Character Development: As a savior figure, Danny Gallaher is sadly two-dimensional, and many of the story's characters are fairly generic types, with little development beyond their stereotypical military roles.