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Mystery / Thriller

  • Into the Suffering City: A Novel of Baltimore

    by Bill LeFurgy

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: Into the Suffering City is impeccably plotted and well-paced. LeFurgy’s novel touches on racism, sexism, classism, mental health, autism, the emerging sciences, psychology, and dirty politics, all while remaining relevant and interwoven. LeFurgy expertly blends all these topics and more into a seamless, intriguing narrative.

    Prose/Style: LeFurgy’s prose is intelligent, authentic, and immediately places readers in realistic turn of the century Baltimore neighborhoods. His knowledge and command of the time period and location are on full display. The writing only slows during extensive descriptions of the city.

    Originality: Fans of the murder mystery genre will recognize all the elements of a great whodunit - and still won’t be able to predict all of the novel’s twists and turns. The story is enhanced by the original and authentic leads.

    Character Development: LeFurgy’s novel gets so many things right - but truly shines through the protagonists, Dr. Sarah Kennicott and Private Detective Jack Harden. Dr. Kennicott is intelligent, determined, and on the autism spectrum. Harden is a war veteran who lives with PTSD. Kennicott’s neurodiversity and Harden’s mental health aren’t used as props; LeFurgy’s care in presenting and describing their experiences is evident and it greatly enhances the plot and the reader experience.

  • The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife

    by Liese Sherwood-Fabre

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: Sherwood-Fabre’s novel is a well-plotted, exciting introduction to a young Sherlock Holmes. This multi-layered murder mystery will keep readers engaged and guessing.

    Prose/Style: Sherwood-Fabre’s prose serves the period novel well. She skillfully places readers in the English countryside in the 1800’s with accessible and exciting dialogue.

    Originality: The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife feels authentic to the source material and yet surprisingly fresh. Sherwood-Fabre takes a new approach to Sherlock Holmes by examining his formative years and family relationships.

    Character Development: Sherwood-Fabre takes one of the most recognizable literary characters in the world and manages to make him feel novel and accessible, while staying true to the original detective with thoughtful callback details. Readers will enjoy watching a young Sherlock evolve. Every character is memorable and serves the story well. 

    Blurb: Sherwood-Fabre’s attention to detail and vivid prose are on full display in this delightful look at the evolution of a young Sherlock Holmes.

  • Pinot Noir: An International Banking Spy Thriller

    by Lorraine Evanoff

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: While the book has been categorized as an international banking mystery/thriller, it is as much about foreign travel, wine culture in France, and a sex trafficking group that kills young girls.  About halfway through  the novel, the focus seems to be more on the solving of the sex trafficking ring, especially in Burgundy, France where Karen (Louise) has settled for a few weeks and eventually buys a home. The history and customs of France and of  the wine industry detailed here are fascinating, but the two threads of the banking  scandal  and the trafficking ring don't seem quite tightly enough connected.

    Prose/Style: Evanoff has provided readers with an exciting and intriguing tale. Especially enjoyable are the history and legends provided about wine and ancient cults in France.

    Originality: This plot and these characters feel original, especially the international banking segments and the extensive portions of legends and lore of rural France. The author has first-hand experience, having lived in France, and has done extensive research in many historic and wine areas.

    Character Development: Louise/Karen is a complex woman who loves travel, intrigue, a few eligible men, and drinking champagne. She teaches yoga and drives fast; she loves the fast-paced lifestyle and using her investigative skills. As a protagonist, she is quite easy to visualize and is extremely gutsy. The other characters are quite well executed as supporting cast members, as well.

  • No Place is Safe

    by C.L. Brees

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: No Place is Safe is a fast-paced and well-plotted thriller. Brees deftly balances multiple mysteries, suspects, and motives in an enjoyable read.

    Prose/Style: Brees’s prose is clear and direct. The characters are gifted with distinct and compelling voices.

    Originality: This fresh take on a police officer’s unofficial investigation into the disappearance of a personal friend is elevated by the main character’s tumultuous relationship with his dilapidated and crime-ridden hometown.

    Character Development: The characters in No Place is Safe are convincing, flawed, and memorable. The romance between protagonist Christian Anderson and his boyfriend, Adam, is believable and refreshing for the thriller genre.

  • Access Point

    by Tom Gabbay

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Gabbay’s novel is a quickly-paced psychological thriller. Gabbay shifts between protagonist Ula Mishkin’s quest to solve her housemate Mia’s murder and Ula’s interpretations of Mia’s memories to keep the plot moving. This fractured way of storytelling heightens the tension and allows readers to experience Ula’s confusion and fear.

    Prose/Style: Gabbay’s prose is clear, direct, and moves the plot along nicely. Each character, including the secondary cast, has a distinct voice and personality.

    Originality: In the hands of a lesser writer, the concept of downloading a victim’s memory to solve her murder would be hard to swallow. Gabbay offers just enough science to make the premise plausible and spends the rest of his novel focusing on the interpersonal dynamics that really drive the story. Fans of the thriller genre may spot the twist ending coming, but will still enjoy the ride.

    Character Development: The characters are distinct, memorable, and convincing. Ula Mishkin is believable as an awkward but brilliant recluse. Although Mia does not undergo significant character growth, given that readers only meet her through Ula’s interpretation of the co-ed’s downloaded memory, this is understandable.

  • Death in Paraiso

    by Jack Polo

    Rating: 5.50

    Plot: This murder mystery veers off in multiple directions, a complicated plot that creates a complex puzzle surrounding the characters. This proves challenging, and perhaps, it is a story too filled with attention-grabbing scenarios and bizarre obstacles—a fresh death, an old skeleton, an assassination, and a domestic-political intrigue embroiled in a California town.

    Prose/Style: Casual editing has rendered the prose weak, yet still viable from a mass-market perspective. Flippant dialogue, unnecessary information, and a tendency to rapidly roll through the scenes detract from the book’s potential quality.

    Originality: On par with the genre’s competition, this entertaining mystery delivers a perplexing yarn. With no significant breakthroughs via style distinction or plot implementation, the book simply meets expectation.

    Character Development: Sidelined character development in a thriller is to be expected, and this novel is a typical example of action-oriented fiction. The protagonists and minor players are interesting, yet portrayed with a superficial detective mystique.