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Mystery / Thriller

  • A Needle in the Eye

    by Shawn Scuefield

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: Starting out focusing on the kidnapping, the story evolves into related subplots much like a TV crime show. There is a little focus lost on the main crime; however, Scuefield manages to reel all subplots in while hooking the reader to stay tuned until the end. Despite the subplots, the story remains concise and compelling.

    Prose/Style: Easy to follow with a dash of humor among the characters, the camaraderie among the heroes of the story is evident. Each chapter ends strategically pulling the reader further into the story and urging the reader to continue on.

    Originality: Ending on a cliffhanger, the author has set the reader up to read the next book in the series even though each can stand alone. The author has created a clever premise that could be used as a television series. Scuefield has found ways to develop and create interesting characters throughout the book.

    Character Development/Execution: The main characters know each other well in the story and the reader learns plenty about each character through dialogue and interactions. Scuefield has created situations that allow individual characters to grow throughout the series. Some characters that are the main focus of the crime are not explored enough, which causes the novel to lose its focal point.

  • Spider's Web

    by Shannon Condon

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: Condon has crafted an excellent thriller in Spider’s Web. The story is fast-paced and a delight for readers to keep up with. Even though this is the third in the series, it is easy to follow the plot and it can be read as a standalone work.

    Prose/Style: The writing is a little choppy, but the story is so engaging that the uneven sentences do not detract from the story.

    Originality: This story feels very original in both concept and execution. It combines military spy work with a deeper emotional storyline about anxiety, PTSD, and the loss of a loved one.

    Character Development/Execution: The protagonist, Maggie, survives many horrible events that shape her development, and readers visibly see her growth despite these traumas. The reader experiences Maggie’s deep sense of loss after the death of her husband and then witnesses her eventual healing and ability to open up to a new love.

  • Mistaken Identity

    by Michael W. Sherer

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: Mistaken Identity is an intriguing chase story that will grip the readers' attention from the start. The well-placed dramatic moments in the story keep the tension and mystery high.                                                                                                          

    Prose/Style: Sherer has skillfully blended thriller and mystery to create a compelling narrative. This is a pacey read that is high in drama and suspense.

    Originality: An important portion of the story takes place in a moving train. It's intriguing to witness the story unfold in a confined space. Even though this is a classic case of mistaken identity, it is a well-written one.

    Character Development/Execution: Jenny, who is at the center of the story, is a complex, strong character; there are intriguing layers to her that are revealed as the story progresses. The side characters come from various walks of life and each has something to contribute to the story.

  • Legacy of Evil

    by Ed Marohn

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Starting off slowly, Marohn fills the reader in on what happened during the main character’s previous venture. The reader then becomes steeped in a new adventure that takes the reader to a variety of places and a dangerous race to outsmart bad intentions. Marohn keeps the storyline tight with guidance for the reader and keeps the intensity high.

    Prose/Style: This narrative is well-written, with close attention to detail and setting allowing the reader to keep up with the chase. The author keeps the reader on point with necessary details but does not embellish too much. The interactions between the characters help lend the reader insight into personality and relationships.

    Originality: The author successfully allows a reader that is new to the series to understand where the main character has been and where he is going next. This approach is clever and smart, as it creates interest in the series.

    Character Development/Execution: Conservative but adventurous, the main character is clever and genuine. Because the reader has a glimpse into his personal life, he is relatable. Interactions between the characters keep the plot moving forward. Being that the reader gets to see into the personal life of the main character, it is easy to want the main character to succeed not only in love but also in the chase for the bad guys.

  • Mantis

    by Steve Zell

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Smart and compelling, this second installment in Zell’s series is too good to pass up. Told in multiple perspectives and time periods, the author manages to close all of the gaps.

    Prose/Style: Clear and concise, the words flow together well. The author uses bold headings to cue the reader that the time and place has changed, which helps the reader tune in.

    Originality: An obscure complication involving one of the characters makes this an intriguing story. Most readers will find the premise behind the complication to be well-executed.

    Character Development/Execution: Strong, complex characters keep all of the facets of the story moving forward. The main character’s fast-paced actions and decisions keep the reader on their toes.

  • Mrs Saville

    by Ted Morrissey

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: This captivating portrait of an unravelling woman is gripping and well-paced, with layers of tantalizing mysteries for readers to attempt to untangle. It also manages to balance historical fiction and mystery well, and everything culminates into a satisfying conclusion.

    Prose/Style: The voice of the titular Mrs. Saville is strong, believable, and she is the magnetic force holding the novel together. The epistolary writing style is evocative and captivating, with well-crafted character and story moments.

    Originality: What makes this historical fiction novel unique is its subplot that speculates about the creation of Frankenstein and what life would have been like for the Shelleys. Its epistolary form also makes the novel stand out, as it allows for the mysteries to build really well.

    Character Development/Execution: The titular character is well-defined and complex, and she is the star of the novel. While some of the minor characters tend to become a little one-dimensional, most are fleshed out and intriguing.

    Blurb: A tantalizing tale of historical fiction that will keep readers up all night as they, and Mrs. Saville, try to unweave a web of intrigue and duplicity.

  • Double Vision

    by Hamelin Bird

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Former detective Mike Lunsmann is an alcoholic on the brink; as his life crashes around him, he is confronted by a mystery in the Harlow Boonies that causes him to question his own reality. Double Vision features an engaging plot that touches on the supernatural, the nature of evil, and the often tenuous relationships of fathers and sons.

    Prose/Style: Bird's prose is clever, well-written, and elegiac at times as his characters often ponder their own broken lives and inner demons. It is only near the end of the story that the supernatural comes fully into view, awakening the reader to the clever duality throughout the story.

    Originality: While stories about broken-down alcoholic cops are a dime a dozen, what makes this story stand apart is its well-developed and likable, albeit flawed, characters. Fathers and sons, "scars that never heal," and the insidiousness of the past cleverly combine to form an enjoyable tale where a man hell-bent on revenge lives in a house on the threshold of worlds.

    Character Development/Execution: Bird paints a vivid picture of all his characters, from the main characters like Dougie, Mike, and Saul Jessup, to the one's on the periphery like Ryan Mills and Natalie Hollister. The characters are definitely the backbone of the story; their flaws and introspections make them both realistic and sympathetic, while also making this story a joy to read.

  • Grandma's House

    by P.D. Smarslok

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: The premise of this work is intriguing and mysterious, which is only strengthened by the first-person perspective. While the supernatural elements here work well, there are other implausible moments that might benefit from revising.

    Prose/Style: The author starts off the work with a strong opening full of mystery and intrigue, and the writing is clear and strong throughout. There is a tendency to provide insignificant description at times, which the author should be on the alert to revise.

    Originality: This is an original work with a solid storyline that, with some editing, has the makings of a successful book.

    Character Development/Execution: The author has employed effective characterization and astutely employs a first-person narrative to gain insight into Max's actions and rationale.

  • Plot: This story is fast-paced, very detailed, and packed with action. Saleh offers a fine blend of science and mystery to deliver an entertaining and smart narrative. The resolution is somewhat rushed, but this will only make readers eager for future installments. 

    Prose/Style: Saleh's writing style is clear, immediate, and cinematic. Readers will feel immediately immersed in the events as they unfold.

    Originality: This story's science elements allow the work to stand apart. Though Leigh falling for one of her bodyguards is not surprising, the romantic choice she ultimately makes offers an intriguing twist.

    Character Development/Execution: The characters are consistent throughout the story, and are provided with backstories that provide them depth and dimension. 

  • M-9

    by Marvin Wolf

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: Dropping the reader immediately into the mystery and action, this first book in a new crime series barely slows down. Twists, turns, and distractions keep the reader entertained until the end, which wraps up in a tidy close. At times the plot is heavy-handed with its depictions of military and police procedure, but the familiarity that the author has with military investigation keeps the reader moving forward.

    Prose/Style: The dialogue between the characters feels spot-on for military action. The reader can hear the gruff voice of the commanders. The uncertainty of the character assigned to the murder case is also effective and helps the reader understand his uneasy personality. The author has perfectly depicted these two characters as an unlikely partnership.

    Originality: A mystery involving the military is a fresh approach, particularly in how the story opens. Unexpected twists and turns throughout the mystery drive the plot forward.

    Character Development/Execution: Putting two unlikely characters together pays off as the contrast between them helps develop strong, well-rounded characters – one which changes tremendously over the course of the novel. The characters feel real and belong in the setting that the author has created. The experience of one of the characters contrasts well with the inexperience of the other.

  • The Recruiter

    by Alexander Mukte

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: The Recruiter is an intriguing thriller that explores the ethics of big business and offers a multilayered narrative. 

    Prose/Style: Mukte has a plainspoken, even prose style that--while at times somewhat heavy in exposition--more than capably carries the story.

    Originality: The text feels quite original, as readers most likely would not have encountered many novels with characters as seemingly fair-minded as Ori and his primary staff. The author seamlessly integrates social themes into the narrative, while maintaining tension and providing unexpected twists.

    Character Development/Execution: Ori is an endearing and complex character. Additional characters are varied, nuanced, and well integrated; readers may rely on the character list to keep track of their roles within the intelligent storyline.

  • Killers! A Natalie McMasters Mystery

    by Thomas A. Burns Jr.

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: A wild romp to find a murderer has a little bit of everything: gore, fun, and humor. The narration and action have tension throughout as the characters are on an intense mission. The author and characters have a strong passion for the plan that is laid out. This sixth installment in this series with these characters stands alone even though the characters continue to change and evolve throughout the series.

    Prose: Dramatic and fast paced, the author has used direct and forthright texting language--sure to appeal to a broad contemporary audience. 

    Originality: The unique writing style is risky, but largely succeeds. Mixing the informal tone with gore and intense action as well as humor, creates an interesting contrast for the reader.

    Character/Execution: The main character is a force who is humorous and pulls the other characters along with her. Side characters are well-developed and interact with the protagonist in a manner that enhances her personality.

  • An Embarrassment of Itches

    by M.K. Dean

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Dean’s novel is quickly paced and filled with intrigue as several mysteries begin to unfurl, which is tempered by a slow-burn romance. Despite the machinations of several opposing parties, An Embarrassment of Itches remains tightly plotted, each mystery coming to a satisfying conclusion.

    Prose/Style: Protagonist Ginny Reese’s humor and personality shine through the first-person prose, bringing the tale wonderfully to life. Banter between characters and tenser dialogues involving characters at odds are particularly well-crafted.

    Originality: An Embarrassment of Itches sucks the reader in from the very beginning, balancing the cozy, small-town atmosphere with an unsolved murder and plenty of intrigue and suspense.

    Character Development/Execution: The inherently curious, confident veterinarian Ginny Reese is a force to be reckoned with, and a supporting cast full of both instantly likable and love-to-hate characters flesh out the small-town setting.

    Blurb: A murder mystery unfolds in a small, cozy town filled with mystery and intrigue that will keep readers hooked until the very last page. 

  • A Spy in Quarantine

    by Thomas Eglise

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: This conspiracy-laden book sometimes bites off more than it can chew. The plot is suspenseful but confusing, a postmodern espionage story that is as frustrating as it is exciting. It’s perfect for fans of thrillers who can appreciate a dose of heady philosophy.

    Prose/Style: The prose would benefit from consistency — at times verbose, other times short, curt, and to-the-point. But there’s a certain appeal to Eglise’s style: despairing, artful, and precise.

    Originality: The story follows a professional plagiarist unraveling a conspiracy while researching the spread of COVID-19 for two grad students. A novel concept — and a great blend of current events and suspense.

    Character Development/Execution: Takis is a wholly original character, with an original profession and outlook. Because the plot is confusing, it can be difficult to keep track of if (and how) he changes throughout, but he’s likable and interesting enough to keep readers along for the ride.

  • Requiem For Noah

    by Douglas Cockell

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Cockell's plot is electrifying and riveting. It clips along at high speed, with plenty of buildup and escalating tensions until the end. The conclusion is full of surprises that readers will not anticipate.

    Prose/Style: Cockell's articulate prose adds appeal to the storyline, with crisp and effective dialogue. Eilert Weiss's voice is palpable and precise.

    Originality: Readers will appreciate the classical thriller elements in Requiem for Noah, but the preternatural components are distinctive and remarkable in their novelty.

    Character Development/Execution: Cockell's characters will appeal to readers through their dual representation of cruelty and beneficence. Eilert Weiss will draw readers in with his dogged insistence on justice, even in the midst of intense fear, and Noah Goodwyn is a paradox of good and evil paired with understandable angst.

    Blurb: A creepy thriller that will jettison readers from one tense moment to the next, with satisfying shocks around every corner.

  • City of Stones (Detective Matt Jones 4)

    by Robert Ellis

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: This fourth installment in the Detective Matt Jones series moves quickly and never slows down until a satisfying ending surprises the reader. The mystery is methodically solved, which makes it believable. The plot climaxes and unfolds at a steady rate that allows the reader to keep guessing about how it will end.

    Prose/Style: With the implementation of the dialogue, the author maintains tension throughout the story by keeping the main character in situations where he is alone or meeting others in uncertain circumstances. Using an appropriate and relevant setting, the author has created a suspenseful tone throughout the book. The dialogue is fluid and intriguing.

    Originality: Even though the book is the fourth in the series, it did not feel as though the reader needed to have read the other three in order to appreciate the book. As the story unfolds at an even pace, readers will appreciate the ending.

    Character Development/Execution: A concerned main character is reliable in his decisions; strong and likable, the reader wants him to successfully solve the crime. The characters that surround him are well-rounded and intriguing.

    Blurb: Fans of the first three books will not be disappointed in this skillfully plotted novel.

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