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Mystery / Thriller

  • Tales of Little Egypt

    by james gilbert

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: Gilbert crafts a lively portrayal of a small community in early twentieth-century America--at once insular and touched by pivotal events unfolding across the nation.

    Prose: Gilbert's prose style is detailed, voice-driven, and refined. The author quickly establishes a sense of place that becomes increasingly vivid as Gilbert introduces its many distinctive residents.

    Originality: In the tradition of Winesburg, Ohio, Gilbert's Tales of Little Egypt brings small town America to full life.

    Character/Execution: Gilbert excels at creating memorable characters whose individual stories coalesce to tell a broader literary and historical narrative.

  • Oriental Illusions

    by James Keegan

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: Fast-paced, action-packed, and filled with twists, this thriller hits all of the expected story beats for its sort of story, providing an unsurprising yet entertaining experience.

    Prose: Keegan has a knack for describing setting and action, though there’s an emphasis on characters’ physicality rather than their psyches, which suits this thriller’s cinematic nature.

    Originality: This gritty dive into the world of human trafficking and systematic corruption in Thailand doesn’t hold back, its dauntless hero risking life and limb to fulfill his mission and rescue scores of missing Caucasian women from sexual exploitation. However, this book’s portrayal of its East Asian setting and characters, and the contrast of its white protagonist against this backdrop, may come across as culturally insensitive to some readers.

    Character/Execution: Rough around the edges and politically incorrect, Australian Interpol agent Dan Porter is fearless, muleheaded, and stalwart—a typical action hero, and as such, isn’t as well-developed as he could be. Most of the supporting cast feel shallow and exist to serve the plot.

  • Double Crossed

    by Anthony Anthamatten

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: Darkly humorous, but tentatively uplifting, this novel centers on two broken individuals as they fight for solace, clarity, and truth.

    Prose: The prose here is solid, despite moments of clunky exposition and hyperbolic descriptions. While often morose, Anthamatten infuses moments of levity and humor into the narrative. Throughout, the prose exhibits a sense of gravity and forward momentum.

    Originality: Double Crossed offers a unique storytelling structure through its twin focus on two individuals connected by their respective pasts and tumultuous present.

    Character/Execution: Justin "JC" Carter and Stenson Beckett are sympathetic characters whose exposure to trauma and violence leaves them wounded, but not broken. The novel’s focus on misfortune is hard hitting—and borders on heavy handed—but the nuance the author offers to her characters provides valuable moral complexity.

  • Plot: This novel is written as a report that combines information-heavy chapters, personal letters, and first-person narrative. The frequency with which Owens switches between very different narrative styles may hinder reader engagement.

    Prose/Style: Clunky prose proves a distraction to readers here. Because the audience is told at the start that the novel has been translated from Russian, it’s possible that the disconnect in prose is a reflection of theoretical translation, but this isn’t clear.

    Originality: Owens put a great amount of work into worldbuilding in this inventive novel. It’s a look at a very near future that features inept leaders, international coups, and scientific breakthroughs.

    Character Development: The characters of The Gorilla Package are numerous and hold much promise. Many, including the protagonists, feel in need of more development. Mach Brown is well drawn and as a result, his story line feels the engaging. The female characters are used almost entirely to advance the male character plotlines.

  • Newgate's Knocker: An Aviation Thriller

    by Greg W Peterson

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: Newgate's Knocker offers ample suspense and action, as terrorists orchestrate a terrifying plot to take down a plane.

    Prose: While the story is primarily plot and action-driven, the prose is more than serviceable. The author's knowledge of aviation is made abundantly clear.

    Originality: The idea of an airplane under threat from bad guys looking to tamper with its mechanics to cause a crash, is overly familiar. However, while the narrative is somewhat formulaic, readers will find moments of solid intrigue and surprise as the story races toward an uncertain conclusion.

    Character/Execution: Special agent Bob Capone is an intrepid hero. As he and his team work to prevent a nightmarish scheme from coming to fruition, readers will find the characters believable and sufficiently compelling, if not wholly memorable.

  • 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.

  • Datuk: A Memoir of the Fallen King

    by VC Thong M.D

    Rating: 5.25

    Plot: Thong's Datuk is an intriguing, but ultimately rather perplexing story of a family accepting how a once pivotal figure in their lives has slipped into frailty.

    Prose: Thong's story is written clearly, but in a manner that may strike readers as overly formal and stiff in execution.

    Originality: Stories of falls from grace are not uncommon, but few books focus explicitly on how old age changes us and the perceptions of others. Intriguingly, Thong integrates a surreal--but underdeveloped--element to the novel.

    Character/Execution: Characters are unfortunately difficult to parse out, particularly as their interior lives are only superficially explored. Ultimately, the characters emerge primarily as archetypal, and their relationships with one another resonate largely within that framework.