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Mystery / Thriller

  • Cold Wallet

    by Rosy Fenwicke

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: Fenwicke has written an intense thriller that has so many creative twists and turns that the ending comes as a pleasant surprise. Numerous misdirects and layers to this story keeps the reader wanting to learn more. The conclusion provides a great wrap-up to the story and a feeling that justice prevailed.

    Prose: While the timeline is somewhat jumpy, the prose is clear and easy to follow.

    Originality: This story is fresh and unique. Telling the story through the viewpoint of the wife and the best friend adds an unusual perspective.

    Character/Execution: The characters are very detailed and distinctive, with extensive backgrounds and layers of conflict and complexity.

  • The Arsonist's Handbook

    by L.A. Detwiler

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: At turns gripping and gruesome, this work will haunt readers long after the narrative concludes. Here, the reader will witness firsthand the evil that lives among us thanks to the author's adept handling of the storyline and the chilling conclusion.

    Prose/Style: The creep factor is high here. Very high. All owing to the author's astutely chosen prose and revolving first-person/third-person narrative, the reader feels the cold void in the killer where empathy and humanity should live. This story is eerily and brilliantly told.

    Originality: Highly original and hopefully entirely fictionalized, this is a haunting and unique work.

    Character Development/Execution: The first-person narrative here provides great insight into the twisted, driven mind of a killer. The approach is an extremely effective way of learning about the arsonist. 

  • The Fourth String

    by Jill Paterson

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: Paterson has created an engaging mystery that keeps readers interested. The story is filled with twists and turns and likable characters who move the narrative along.

    Prose/Style: The story flows smoothly and the language is simple and yet descriptive. The dialogue proves interesting and creates a distinct voice for each character.

    Originality: The story is a bit reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s style and her famed detective hero, Poirot. This story would comfortably fit in the same genre but still felt unique.

    Character Development/Execution: The characters are colorful and detailed. The backstories are not overly deep, but the characters are described in a way that let the reader fully picture them.

  • Dashiell Hammett and the Hearst Castle Mystery

    by Gregory Urbach

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: The author offers up an intriguing plot that ensnares the reader from the first sentence. Fast-paced, full of colorful characters from the past, and a real true-blue, old-style mystery, the book entertains and keeps the reader guessing.

    Prose/Style: The author is a gifted writer whose command of language, dialogue, action and setting is evident. This work was truly a pleasure to read from beginning to end.

    Originality: A fictionalized account full of real but long-dead notables earns this work an A+ in originality. The author offers a creative scenario that offers an extra layer of fun for savvy readers but still holds appeal for those who aren't familiar with the long-gone players.

    Character Development/Execution: Characterization here is superb, offering a fictionalized whodunnit featuring the late Dashiell Hammett. Along the way, the story is punctuated with old-time actors and references including Bill Powell, The Thin Man, Jean Harlow, and more.

    Blurb: Engaging and fun, Dashiell Hammett and the Hearst Castle Mystery is a mystery lover's dream. Full of colorful characters from a bygone era, readers will be hard pressed to put this book down until the very last page.

  • Death Count

    by SL Beaumont

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: At first thought, a mystery with a forensic accountant as the protagonist might sound like pure drudgery. But in this author's capable hands, the opposite is actually true. Here we have an exciting and well-thought out plot with a unique protagonist that not only holds the reader's interest throughout but leaves them wanting more.

    Prose/Style: The author is a gifted writer who is able to grab the reader's attention from the beginning and not let go. Dialogue, action, description are all perfectly balanced, and the pace of the plot keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. Unexpected touches such as a female protagonist who is also an amputee only heighten the drama.

    Originality: This highly original work achieves the unlikely by making forensic accounting appealing. The author has created an improbable hero with a missing left hand that is completely believable.

    Character Development/Execution: The author does a superb job with characterization particularly with Kat and Adam. The reader gets to know the characters and what makes them tick, becoming invested in their success, a significant factor into the effectiveness of the work as a whole.

    Blurb: Readers looking for an exciting and satisfying new thriller need not look any further. S.L. Beaumont's Death Count will not disappoint.

  • Barking for Business

    by E.N. Crane

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This excellent new work has it all: an engaging plot, an extremely likable hero with a crime-solving canine partner, and a generous amount of humor. It's a light-hearted mystery in the style of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. The plot is clever and fast-paced.

    Prose/Style: The author is a superb writer who balances action, humor, and dialogue perfectly. The writing here is engaging and familiar, so the reader feels like they're connecting with an old friend.

    Originality: This is a highly original work with distinctive characters and an inventive storyline.

    Character Development/Execution: There are many, many things to love about this work, but the one crucial component that makes this story work so well is its first-person perspective. This allows the reader to enter Cyn's self-deprecating, quirky mind which will cause the reader fall in love with her.

    Blurb: Delightfully clever and decidedly fun, readers will fall in love with Cynthia Sharp and her canine partner, Sgt. Winnifred Pupperson - the best crime-fighting duo since Batman and Robin.

  • D-Notice

    by Bill Walker

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This is an incredibly exciting, fast-paced story, flowing smoothly between the 1940s and the 1980s. D-Notice is an exciting mystery that is sprinkled with some threads of history and romance, providing entry points for a wide array of readers.

    Prose/Style: The language is clear and smooth. There are several parts in German and Russian that are not directly translated but are easily understood through context.

    Originality: While books about WWII are not uncommon, this story covers an interesting perspective of the families of spies and the mixed web of loyalties.

    Character Development/Execution: The protagonist shows growth during his journey to find out the truth about his father. While he does not find out exactly how he died, he learns many secrets about his family and readers witness see growth, maturity and, eventually, joy in a family of his own.

  • Burnt to a Crisp

    by Michael O'Keefe

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This is a mystery readers can sink their teeth into, full of intriguing layers and the perfect amount of complexity. The storyline is fast-paced and effectively holds the reader's interest throughout.

    Prose/Style: The author is a skilled writer who is able to craft not only a great narrative but also organic and believable dialogue, strong action scenes, and overall an enjoyable reading experience.

    Originality: This is an original work with distinctive characters and situations.

    Character Development/Execution: The author has done an impressive job with character development not only with Paddy, the main character, but also with second-tier players including Paddy's wife and fellow police officers.

  • KOBANI

    by FX Holden

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: Holden has created a multifaceted, action-packed war thriller in Kobani. This story follows several characters’ perspectives and lives, each with a different role in the war and different backgrounds. Holden carefully weaves these storylines together to create a detailed and complex portrayal of war.

    Prose/Style: This story implements a high level of military jargon, explained in a glossary to help readers unfamiliar with military language and future military technologies. Helpful maps are also included. Along with clear prose and dialogue, this story is easy to follow and navigate, and enjoyable to follow.

    Originality: While there are numerous futuristic, military thrillers, Holden adds a unique element by weaving together several storylines to provide a full view of the war and events that occur.

    Character Development/Execution: Holden effectively juggles several different characters with their own storylines. Characters are carefully thought out with individually strong background stories.

  • Whipped Cream & Piano Wire

    by Winnie Simpson

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: Simpson has crafted an exciting mystery filled with entertaining characters and great plot twists. The mystery and characters are complex and leave the reader guessing until all is revealed. This was a delight to read and a great start to an interesting series.

    Prose/Style: The language is clear and easy to understand, and the story follows a logical progression.

    Originality: This book has a creative mystery that still adheres to the standard mystery plot progression. The characters are unique and have well-developed backgrounds, and the storyline fits well in the cozy mystery subgenre.

    Character Development/Execution: Anne demonstrates growth from being a recluse due to traumatic incidents in her past to helping her friend and breaking out of her shell. She is set up to be an interesting protagonist for this series.

    Blurb: Simpson's exciting mystery follows Anne Audrey on her quest to clear her best friend's name and solve the death of her friend's lover.  Set in the charming South, this mystery will draw the reader in and leave them wanting more.

  • Twenty-Twenty Hindsight

    by Tim Hind

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: Hind’s novel is intensely paced with a deliciously subversive plot. The storyline never tapers off, intensifying right up until the cliffhanger ending.

    Prose/Style: Hind’s prose is precise and crisp, rivaling the energy of the novel. Luke Frankland’s voice is striking, dynamic, and meaningful.

    Originality: Twenty-Twenty Hindsight sticks closely to its thriller makeup, but the characters’ flawed vulnerabilities add a new level.

    Character Development/Execution: Hind’s multidimensional characters steal the show and add intricacy to the plot. Daniel Stückl’s haunting voice will captivate readers, and Stuart Campbell MacLellan plays the perfect egocentric, hollow villain.

    Blurb: A suspenseful thriller chock full of sabotage, destruction, and staggering bombshells.

  • The Source

    by Ari Magnusson

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: This story has a little bit of everything: adventure, history, romance, and humor. The plot moves quickly, showcases intriguing characters, and shares enough history to give it depth.

    Prose/Style: The language used in this story is clear and easy to understand. The story flows smoothly, even with the switches between narrators.

    Originality: The story itself is original, but the tropes here are reminiscent of and feel inspired by The Da Vinci Code.

    Character Development/Execution: The main characters develop throughout the story by bonding through their adventures. The protagonist demonstrates personal growth that manifests through his increased courage and independence.

  • A Swarm in May

    by Mark Anthony Powers

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: The plot here is solid and intriguing, but the author attempts to weave in too many storylines and the focus becomes unclear. From the wide cast of characters to Phineas's home life, bee tending, and gardening, there are too many narratives to keep straight.

    Prose/Style: The author is a strong writer and is able to convey medical diagnoses and terminology not only in a simplified manner, but also in a way to keep the reader interested.

    Originality: The author puts forth an entertaining and original storyline with distinct characters and situations.

    Character Development/Execution: The author does an exceptional job with his protagonist, offering insight into Phineas's thoughts from the first sentence. Peripheral characters are also well-developed.

  • Key Man

    by Allen Huffstutter

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: Huffstutter’s novel moves fast and furious and is meticulously plotted. Just when the reader thinks that the detectives have it figured out, Huffstutter throws a curveball into the action and ends the book with a surprise that will leave the reader wanting more.

    Prose/Style: Skillfully crafted prose engages the reader, while organic dialogue allows the characters to come alive.

    Originality: A surprise ending and a crime that is financially motivated will leave readers enthusiastically waiting for another installment. 

    Character Development/Execution: Huffstutter balances numerous characters as the novel's mysteries are revealed and pieced together. The characters are true to their roles and grow throughout the story and in tandem with one another. The rookies are idealistic and overly eager, while the experienced ones prove to be more hardened. Readers will cheer for the team of sleuths in this appealing novel.

  • The Angel's Trumpet

    by James Musgrave

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: Musgrave takes a deep dive into 1887 in this extensively researched novel. Taking the issues of the time—race and politics—he has created a probable piece of fiction based on the time period. Historically accurate, the author has written an intriguing mystery that unfolds at an even pace. The strategy the author uses to introduce each of the suspects lures the reader into the mystery. Because these issues still exist today, this multilayered plot feels modern and helps the reader understand how these issues endure.

    Prose/Style: Descriptive vocabulary and meticulously chosen words are true to the time period and lend the characters depth and a distinct image. Describing clothing as “britches” or “frocks” helps pull the reader into the time period and understand the class system of the era.

    Originality: The author has creatively finessed the perfect blend of history and fiction putting the characters in a situation that truly could have taken place. Focusing on a small time period and changing setting by chapter keeps the reader engaged.

    Character Development/Execution: The characters feel relatable and modern yet fit the time period. The common character throughout the series is clever despite her track record for defending her suspects. The variable types of characters are well-developed and grow throughout the story. The reader is not sure who to trust throughout the story, thus making the narrative more engaging.

  • No child of mine

    by Olga Gibbs

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: The author crafts a gripping plot that stays in the reader's mind long after the story is finished.

    Prose/Style: The writing here is mostly effective but would benefit from a heavy edit to eliminate awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, and odd phrasing.

    Originality: The government-dominant world depicted here is heavily reminiscent of the Hunger Games' Capitol, which controls every aspect of how people live. Yet the author is able to expand upon this foundation to create a unique and original setting.

    Character Development/Execution: The author does an excellent job with character development even in the strange and oppressive world depicted. The players are well-defined and their positions on events are evident and well understood.

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