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Mystery / Thriller

  • A Convergence of Crows

    by Anneka Lowrie

    Rating: 9.75

    Plot/Idea: A band of strong, capable women determined to take down a child sex trafficking ring with the aid of First Nations and other mystical wisdom is a powerful combination in this important story.

    Prose: Lowrie’s sweeping natural imagery gives space for readers to process difficult subject matter. A light polish with tighter pacing would further bring out this gem’s luster.

    Originality: While sex trafficking is an oft-explored topic, a seldom celebrated, fierce female presence lights up this book—an antidote to its brutal truths. The infusion of spirituality and its intersection with the natural world provides an impactful additional layer of meaning.

    Character/Execution: Lowrie’s characters are vibrant and easy for readers to connect to, despite populating an uncommon, strikingly realized setting. Their backgrounds are fully examined and nicely inform the events unfolding in the present.

  • Plot/Idea: Charlie Goode returns home to regroup after a breakup when her school friend is murdered, kickstarting a long line of local small-town sleuths—including Charlie herself—who are all convinced they can successfully connect the dots and solve the whodunnit. The story is immediately appealing, and Comer deftly combines provincial conspiracies with humor, relatable interplay among old friends, and a healthy dose of suspense that make this a success. 

    Prose: Comer’s writing is polished and convincing, drawing readers into the story and keeping their attention until its thrilling conclusion. 

    Originality: The idea of too many amateur sleuths tripping up the main character freshens this murder mystery, transforming it into a sophisticated, riveting read.

    Character/Execution: Comer has a masterful grasp of subtle character development, particularly in Charlie, who is likable, clever, and bolstered by an appealing supporting cast.

  • Blood and Mascara

    by Colin Krainin

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Blood and Mascara is a tense and gripping crime thriller focusing on two brilliantly named protagonists, Bronze Goldberg and Iris Margaryan. Well paced and engrossing, the contrast between Bronze's crime-riddled world and Margaryan's realm of romantic fiction proves to be a winning combination.

    Prose: Krainin's text subtly blends mystery with poetic, lyrical and supernatural elements in a bold story of hard-boiled crime and touching romance. The acute attention to detail infuses the explosive storyline with an inspiring and magnetic intensity.

    Originality: Blood and Mascara is a confidently written thriller which benefits from excellent literary description and an intriguing storyline. While not startlingly original, Krainin's text has enough chaos, drama and romance to keep readers glued to the page throughout.

    Character/Execution: The protagonists of Blood and Mascara are extremely convincing; Bronze Goldberg is a grizzled private detective while Iris Margaryan is a talented romance novelist. Their singular voices complement each other well and make Krainin's storyline more rounded and enjoyable.

    Blurb: An engrossing crime thriller.


    by Andrew Bridgeman

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Fortunate Son is a propulsive mystery suspense thriller with a densely layered and fascinating plot. Full of unexpected twists, Bridgeman's impressive novel neatly weaves a cohesive and explosive web of political intrigue and conspiracy.

    Prose: Bridgeman's text is tight, fast-paced, and nuanced, featuring exquisite attention to detail and brilliant character development. Full of mystery and suspense, Bridgeman's writing style consistently impresses in a well-executed thriller that keeps readers on their toes throughout.

    Originality: Fortunate Son is a confidently written crime thriller that is packed with family drama and thrilling action. Bridgeman also does an excellent job of keeping the reader enthralled with beautiful scenery descriptions and intense and absorbing plot developments.

    Character/Execution: Bridgeman's well rounded protagonists include Special agent Emma Noble, a fresh FBI agent desperate to prove herself, and Ben Danvers, whose life is turned upside down by some startling revelations. The supporting cast of characters are equally impressive, rotundly enhanced by Bridgeman's effortless descriptions and dynamic passages of dialogue.

    Blurb: An enthralling crime thriller.

  • Veil of Doubt

    by Sharon Virts

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Based on true events, Virts's engaging narrative delivers a stunning portrayal of dissociative identity disorder in 1870s Virginia, through the eyes of the troubled Emily Lloyd, accused of poisoning her young daughter Maud. Added to Emily's problems are the previous deaths of most of her family, save herself and Maud, placing her squarely in the crosshairs of a unsettling trial. Virts crafts realistic courtroom scenes, believable trauma depictions, and an ending that will surprise—though several clues are dropped along the way.

    Prose: Virts writes convincing prose, bolstered by more traditional dialogue that fits the novel's 19th century setting. 

    Originality: Virts's interpretation of dissociative identity disorder during a time in history when the diagnosis was virtually unknown is evocative, giving this historical mystery—built around a real person—a decided edge.

    Character/Execution:  The characters are well-drawn, with subtle depth and intricacy. Emily Lloyd is fascinating: at times empathic, at times moody, forgetful, and scatter-brained. Powell Harrison, her primary lawyer, is perhaps the most fully drawn of the cast, a good man driven by a need for justice, who continually fights the balance of his home life with his demanding court schedule. 

  • Stone Coat Man

    by Dianne L.Hagan

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: Stone Coat Man, the fourth in a series, hatches a rich, inventive, and unexpected premise that combines mystery with mythology. The storyline unfolds rapidly, which places readers immediately into the surreal events. While somewhat more buildup to the discovery of a cadaver and the creature seemingly responsible might be warranted, readers will nevertheless be glued to the page from the get-go.

    Prose: Hagan's prose is easy flowing, pleasingly descriptive, and evocative.

    Originality: Hagan stages a murder mystery against the backdrop of a fictional New York town. The legend of Genoska provides a deeply intriguing and fresh element to the storytelling.

    Character/Execution: This mystery has a clear social justice element to it as it is rooted in white supremacist targeting of an indigenous community. The diverse residents of Cadence, New York (some of whom readers will recognize from previous installments) enliven the text, with Marian serving as a warm and inviting narrator. The author has created a fascinating mystery that weaves together traditions, myth, and crime.

  • Drawn from Life

    by Sarah P. Blanchard

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: Blanchard pens a though-provoking story of resilience, centered on Emma, now an office manager and bookkeeper for her family’s art center. Emma’s years-long struggle to recover from a devastating vehicle accident that left several people dead is heartbreaking to watch, as is her tumultuous relationship with her cousin, Lucy—a wild card who pops back into her life unexpectedly, renaming herself Lyssa, but for all the wrong reasons.

    Prose: The prose is efficient and convincing, subtly hinting at the currents that underlie Emma’s fractious relationship with her cousin—and, in many ways, herself.

    Originality: Blanchard's finesse for teasing out the complexity of human relationships is a highlight and makes this novel compelling, suffusing the writing with profound depth. 

    Character/Execution: Emma is a penetrating character, rich with contrast: she is broken and flawed, but at the same time intensely resolute and tenacious. The supporting characters, particularly Jonah and Chaz, are easy to connect with and afford Emma the well-rounded support she so deserves.

  • Lawyers, Dogs, and Money

    by Tracy Carter

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: Lawyers, Dogs, and Money is an accomplished mystery novel featuring believable and likeable characters. Carter's well-developed plot is harmless, yet entertaining, highlighting loyalty, durability and the beauty of canine companionship.

    Prose: Carter's text is confidently written and maintains the reader's interest throughout with an intriguing and adventurous plot at its center. The second installment in the K-9 Mystery Series, Lawyers, Dogs, and Money is well organized, accessible, and leaves plenty scope for further entries.

    Originality: Lawyers, Dogs, and Money is an above average mystery thriller, noteworthy for its well-written characters and entertaining plot. Carter's great passion for dogs shines through, with the bond forged between Veronica and Leda an undoubted highlight.

    Character/Execution: Veronica Kildare and her dog, Leda, are the central protagonists of Lawyers, Dogs, and Money, and they extend their charming relationship in a well-written adventure mystery. Carter has a knack for making both humans and animals shine in this charming story.

    Blurb: An entertaining mystery yarn.

  • The Guest House: A Psychological Thriller

    by Bonnie Traymore

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: The Guest House is a well written psychological thriller featuring a simple storyline and well developed characters. The plot is densely layered as Allie, a deaf woman with a cochlear implant, inadvertently finds herself caught up in a web of mystery, betrayal and intrigue.

    Prose: Bonnie Traymore's text is accessible and intriguing, benefitting from an acute attention to detail that helps build atmosphere and tension. The storyline is expertly crafted with plenty twists and turns that keep the reader guessing from start to finish.

    Originality: The Guest House is a bold psychological thriller which adeptly incorporates some of the many challenges deaf people with cochlear implants face on a daily basis. Though there are some run of the mill plot points, Traymore's novel is sure to be a hit with those who like their mysteries served with a dose of chilling realism.

    Character/Execution: Traymore's well crafted characters feature the protagonist Allie Dawson, who is a deaf woman navigating the world with a cochlear implant and smart glasses. The characters interact in a naturalistic and believable manner, adding a sense of tension to a spine-chillingly entertaining drama.

    Blurb: A compelling psychological thriller.

  • Six Weeks (A CJ Cavanaugh Mystery Book 4)

    by Michael R. Lane

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Book four of the Cavanaugh mystery series, Six Weeks offers a glimpse into the intriguing world of deep undercover surveillance and the dark world of sabotage. The work delivers on tension and excitement, though further orienting readers at the start of each chapter may tighten pacing and development.

    Prose: Lane’s evocative, description-rich writing builds a damp Northwest backdrop for readers, but may be sharpened by the critical eye of a copy editor.

    Originality: Lane takes the sedentary occupation of surveillance and injects it with high-stakes thrills, offering readers a fascinating twist on undercover operations stories.

    Character/Execution: C.J. Cavanaugh and the cast of characters populating Six Weeks arrive fully formed for readers to enjoy as their journeys unfold.


  • Attack from Within

    by James Bultema

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot/Idea: In this well-plotted military thriller, Ali and Harley are charged with monitoring a potential terrorist in Dearborn, Michigan: Ahad Nabar. As Ahad enacts Hezbollah's plot against America, various other individuals are swept up in the chaos. 

    Prose: Bultema's writing carries the action forward at an engaging pace; the writing relies too much on narrative 'telling,' however, and dialogue can be clunky.

    Originality: Taking inspiration from America's previous encounter's with terrorism, there is a solid backbone of truth in Bultema's writing. Though the storytelling is not always dynamic, Bultema provides verisimilitude and brisk movement throughout.

    Character/Execution: Bultema's characterizations are effective, many provided with distinctive traits and varied backgrounds, while the author's familiarity with the subject matter is apparent. 

  • Legacy of Lies: A John Moore Mystery

    by Ed Marohn

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Continuing the John Moore series, Legacy of Lies is a far-flung international thriller starring the titular character, a Vietnam vet and intelligence agent. In this installment, he embarks on a mission to rescue a friend from the clutches of Somalian pirates and becomes embroiled in a neo-Nazi plot to overthrow the German government. The narrative is often riveting, though the story doesn't carry a consistently unifying thread. 

    Prose: Overall, the prose is clear and appropriate for the style of a thriller, though it does get bogged down in repetitive details (often relating to airplane and weapon designations and the landscape and fauna of Africa). Frequent flashbacks to the protagonist's military operations offer backstory, but can sometimes take readers out of the more immediate action.

    Originality: Marohn integrates a number of high-stakes sub-plots, with well-narrated action.

    Character/Execution: In between stretches of procedural exposition, Moore reminisces about time spent in Vietnam, past operations as a CIA agent, and his emotional and physical attraction to the Vietnamese security office, Hieu. Despite his vast experience, he doesn't always emerge as a fully dimensional character. Hieu, the head of security for the Vietnamese president, proves to be an intriguing but somewhat inconsistent character, while side characters nicely populate the places and circumstances. 


  • Two Degrees: A Climate Change Novel

    by William Michael Ried

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Ried's environmentally driven plot is timely, and the focus on Daniel—as a character who undergoes a complete change of heart following a devastating climate change related tragedy—is compelling.

    Prose: Ried is a master at staging scenes, and the fear of his characters as flood waters rise—or explosions threaten innocent lives—is palpable. 

    Originality: The plot feels familiar, but Ried executes eloquent, striking descriptions throughout that give the book added depth while transporting readers directly into each scenario.

    Character/Execution: The sheer number of characters makes it difficult to track them at times, allowing less space for readers to deeply connect with the main players. Daniel's internal struggles and guilt are painful to watch, but his eventual success at overcoming his crippling phobia is compelling.