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Mystery / Thriller

  • Crossing Zero

    by Dale Brandon

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: This well-plotted book features terrific pacing, effective suspense, and strong forward movement. The ending could wrap things up more fully, but readers will nonetheless be entertained throughout.

    Prose: The prose offers a clear narrative voice that competently guides readers through a story with facets that could otherwise be dry or complicated. The tension is sustained with action, dialogue, and character ruminations written in a contemporary and conversational style.

    Originality: This book boasts a unique blend of finance and homicidal suspense, while also tapping into love, family, and even a bit of off-road adventure.

    Character Development: Though the protagonists and antagonists are somewhat typical, they are nonetheless clearly drawn and sympathetic. Secondary characters are nicely textured.

  • Short Days, Long Nights

    by Shawn Scuefield

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: This is an enjoyable collection of stories. Each one of them feels original and features a strong plot line.

    Prose: Scuefield writes well; the dialogue rings true, and matches with the eerie quality of the stories.

    Originality: While the stories have a Twilight Zone or Dean Koontz feel to them, they stand well on their own and feel fresh.

    Character Development: Scuefield excels at character development. In each story, the main character is solidly developed.

  • Do Not Ask

    by Elaine Williams Crockett

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: In this quick-paced, deftly plotted mystery full of unexpected twists, Supreme Court Justice Warren Alexander is given the task of finding the president’s missing daughters.

    Prose: The point of view of each character is distinct and easy to follow while Alexander's first-person narration is consistent and straightforward. In particular, the dialogue during the courtroom scenes feels very realistic.

    Originality: The murder plot feels realistic while the uncertainty surrounding Lilly’s murder gives the story another unusual spin. With a completely unexpected ending, the author nicely ties all the loose ends together.

    Character development: The characters here are fleshed out and act in ways that feel true to their personalities. Alexander stands out as the level-headed justice and his daughter Reed shines as a flighty, but independent soul. 

  • Remember Me

    by M. A. Florence

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Florence’s book moves along ferociously fast. The disturbing ebb and flow of the effects of Mem-G and its addicting nature are mirrored in the plot structure.

    Prose: Florence’s prose is clean, flows clearly, and feels poetic at times. However, occasional grammatical errors can be distracting, especially those concerning tenses. The dialogue and narration also contain more than a slight tinge of foreshadowing.

    Originality: Remember Me is a unique thriller that offers a fresh take on the scientific-experiment-gone-wrong trope. While some aspects of the book may remind readers of the works of Michael Crichton, the novel is well put together and quite a page-turner, with relatable and sympathetic characters.

    Character Development: The cast of characters in this novel is relatable and will make readers feel compassion, resentment, and perhaps personal affinity.

    Blurb: A deliciously twisted thriller.

  • Critical Cover-Up

    by Margie Miklas

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: While Miklas’s novel makes use of genre tropes and contains excessive foreshadowing, the novel provides a fast-paced, exciting, and suspenseful storyline. New and continued mysteries abound, and the book metamorphoses into so much more than just a whodunit.

    Prose: Miklas’s prose is clean, clear, and flows well and quickly. And while some sections have an almost academic feel, the author turns in a gripping story.

    Originality: Though aspects of this book will be familiar to genre readers, Miklas manages to put a fresh spin on things. The addition of medical care corruption to the storyline expands this book beyond the typical mystery novel.

    Character Development: Miklas’s characters begin as genre types, but eventually evolve into emotionally complex characters that readers will root for.

    Blurb: Margie Miklas’s dramatic, page-turning hospital mystery will have readers truly invested in her relatable characters, familiar settings, and shocking surprises.

  • The Domino Event

    by Bruce Thomason & JD Hunter

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot:   The moderate pace of this novel is sometimes slowed down by the in-depth descriptions of police procedures and medical details, but that insider information can also be very appealing to forensics fans. The book offers a skillful, suspenseful ending and a satisfying denouement.

    Prose: Thomason and Hunter deftly employ industry-specific dialogue to both help with the pacing of the plot and lend authenticity to the conversations and events at hand, providing clear descriptions of characters, technical information and trade secrets, and engaging dialogue.

    Originality: Techno-thrillers are becoming a more popular genre, and this one possesses a highly original storyline, replete with impressive characterizations and the intriguing theme of violent domino murders.

    Character Development: The book provides wonderfully succinct character descriptions that are blended with their background stories and fleshed out with illustrative behaviors that chart their ongoing growth and progress. There is a marked distinction between the strong protagonist and competing antagonist personalities and their respective schemes. 

    Blurb: This techno-suspense novel is filled to the brim with fascinating details about a mysterious murder trail, deceit, crime scenes, and the strange domino effects that ensue.

  • The Tribal Case

    by Theresa Janson

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: Janson offers a fast-paced, gripping multiple murder mystery with an intense storyline that smartly reveals the protagonist's past personal traumas and present-day conflicts. Janson enriches this detective story with humor and sizzling romance.

    Prose: Prose is clear and often poetic, with well integrated foreshadowing and authentic details relating to the work of an FBI agent and criminal profiler.

    Originality: Readers will be easily emotionally invested in Janson's unique, character-driven mystery that integrates questions of cultural identity and deftly explores the lasting impact of violence and abuse.

    Character Development: Janson's cast is comprised of contemporary, diverse characters as described through her protagonist's witty and discerning voice. Two polar opposite love interests will keep readers entertained, while the protagonist herself is a strong and inspiring survivor of personal trauma.

     

  • Plot: This multilayered story deftly transitions from past to present and across world cultures to explore a confounding mystery. Alderson successfully weaves diverse elements into her plot, while maintaining tension and forward momentum throughout.

    Prose: Alderson expertly combines a contemporary narrative with the rich history of Papua New Guinea and the Asmat culture. In her detail-rich prose, Alderson explores the eerie circumstances behind a legendary disappearance.

    Originality: While delving into a mystery via the study of skeletal remains and artifacts isn't unusual, Alderson's focus on anthropology and the ways in which the past permeates the present, is fresh and engrossing.

    Character Development: Alderson successfully develops a large cast of nuanced characters, including adversaries. Readers will root for the smart and accomplished heroine of the story.

  • Plot: The third volume in York’s Derbfine series, set in Medieval Ireland, might be better classified as a romantic fantasy than a mystery. The focal point of the narrative is the explosive relationship between betrothed central characters Brighit and Darragh, and Brighit’s eventual acceptance of her role as wife—with some conditions. Murder of a prominent leader leads to suspicion and tension between clans.

    Prose: York’s clean and often poetic prose is peppered with distinctive dialect that feel unique to its finely crafted universe.

    Originality: York offers an engaging and eventful romantic story that uniquely integrates historical content.

    Character Development: Characters from the previous books in the series are reintroduced to unfamiliar or forgetful readers. York’s protagonist is a strong-willed, sympathetic heroine, who challenges traditional gender roles. York also concentrates on the supporting protagonist, Darragh, whose relationship with Brighit evolves from an arranged, unwanted betrothal to an authentic partnership.

  • Elegy in Scarlet: A Scott Drayco Mystery

    by BV Lawson

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: A fast-paced whodunit, Lawson’s recent installment in the Scott Drayco mystery series is reminiscent of many models in the genre, but contains enough pleasantly unexpected surprises and meticulous details to deliver a fresh mystery.

    Prose: Lawson’s prose is clean, crisp,  and detailed, demonstrating a clear affinity for crime journalism.

    Originality: The familiar narrative of an innocent victim being framed for murder is made unique by the author’s flair for plot twists and fine-tuned descriptions. 

    Character Development: While, as a surly detective with a tumultuous past, Scott Drayco may be familiar, Lawson's protagonist is also greatly compelling; Lawson also excels at crafting seemingly minor figures whose roles in the story may be more significant than they seem.

  • Mistress of Legend (Guinevere's Tale Book 3)

    by Nicole Evelina

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: This book offers a cleverly crafted, suspenseful tale spun from Celtic mythology. Though many plotlines are drawn together in this Arthurian mystery, Evelina interweaves each line neatly, careful to not leave any strand loose.

    Prose: With its eloquent style and lush imagery, the work retains the rich, earthy tones of an Old English epic. Evelina's work boasts a careful interplay between riveting legends and modern sensibilities and will appeal to a broad range of readers.

    Originality: Though inspired by ancient storytellers, Evelina transforms a murky, two-dimensional tale of kingdoms and conquest into a three-dimensional, psychological thriller with a pertinent feminist sentiment.

    Character Development: The ferocity of female strength and skill present within Evelina's work allows passage for protagonist Guinevere to be seen as a female Beowulf-archetype. However, like Beowulf, Guinevere's strength is so palpable that she sometimes borders on two-dimensionality.

  • Waiting for You

    by Alan Johnson

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: This is a well-plotted novel. Murder, love, and death in a small town underscore special bonds of enduring friendship that will have readers reaching for their box of tissue on more than one occasion.

    Prose: Johnson’s prose is simple and unpretentious, peppered with regional colloquialisms and southern charm.

    Originality: While the premise is hardly an original concept, the intrigue of a murder and some great characters put a refreshing spin on things.

    Character Development: The main characters in Johnson’s book are fully developed and will remind readers of people in their own lives.

  • Plot: The overarching plotline here is strong and captivating. However, some of the more minor plot points strain credulity and take readers out of the story.

    Prose: At times, the writing here is strong, polished, and a pleasure to read. At other times, the writing is clunky and disappointing.

    Originality: This work follows the typical "whodunnit" formula, but the author makes it her own. Despite some minor fixes needed with prose and plot, this work has the makings of a good book. The characters are unique, the overall storyline is strong, and the work as a whole is unique and original.

    Character Development: The author does a solid job with character development. The main characters are all well-defined and distinct, and the author details their backstories, which provide insight into who they are and what motivates them.

  • Chinawoman's Chance

    by James Musgrave

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Musgrave offers a complex historical crime novel; as a detective story, the narrative is gritty and realistic, while political, social, and racial tensions lift the story beyond the conventions of the genre.

    Prose: The author strikes a graceful narrative balance between historical description and a voice-driven, swiftly moving story. Dialogue is polished and character interiority is sound; details relating to the story’s central murder are  appropriately graphic.

    Originality: Musgrave’s mystery is unique in terms of its setting and integration of historical content. The grisly murder at the heart of the story is one aspect of a broader narrative focused on culture of the west in the nineteenth century, gender expectations, and xenophobia directed at Chinese American individuals.

    Character Development: Through well-conceived and multilayered characters, Musgrave captures a complex era in American history. Protagonist Clara is sympathetic and unique, particularly as she challenges gender conventions of her era, while side characters—whether law enforcement and allies, murder suspects, or victims—provide verisimilitude and emotional depth.

  • Plot: Alvarez’s novel is meticulously plotted and moves at a fast pace. There are plenty of twists and turns that flow organically, compelling readers to keep turning pages to find out what comes next.

    Prose: At the beginning, the narrative jumps around a bit, making the storyline somewhat difficult to follow. However, the narrative soon settles into a rhythm. Alvarez’s voice is appropriate and believable.

    Originality: Although readers will find the book’s tone and style similar to other books in the genre, the characters here elevate the novel and make it seem fresh and new.

    Character Development: The characters here are well developed, fascinating, and engaging. Readers will definitely care about Anna and her story.

  • In The Shadow of the Ivory Tower

    by Alan Kirby

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: The plot has a good blend of real life-inspired events, social issues, and a mystery that not only keeps readers on their toes but also has a very surprising ending. There's even a good amount of humor infused into the plot.

    Prose: Kirby does a wonderful job of keeping the prose smooth and interesting, and the subjects seamlessly tied together. There are only a few instances in the storyline where the momentum gets a bit weighed down by too many detailed facts,

    Originality: This story has a refreshingly different point of view regarding college life and the mystery occurring on campus. Readers will find this a fresh read.

    Character Development: The characters presented in this book are all very well-written, each exhibiting subtle quirks, from humorous to scary and unstable. Every character stood out as an individual and their arcs are clear and well rendered.

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