Tag Archives: suspense

Review: Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

2 Stars

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to start over after being terrorized by a stalker after the publication of her best-selling novel, The Murder Game. Julie doesn’t know anyone in town and on her morning run, meets her neighbor from across the street, John Dunbar. They have an instant connection and Julie begins to hope that this is a new beginning for her and her family. She never thought that a simple conversation with a neighbor could set her life spinning so far off course and out of control.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of harassment that seems to be increasing in their intensity. She believes that her former stalker, Heather, has found her and is after her again. Or could this be someone new? Is someone in her neighborhood out to get her too? The tension increases and new friends turn into enemies and Julie seems to have nowhere to turn when things become dangerously out of control.

The plot was very interesting, but the writing style and the constantly switching point of view was very distracting. Not only did the point of view change constantly between Julie and John (and other lesser known characters) the time changed too. One minute you are in the present day with John, the next you are with Julie, six months previous. This really made the story hard to follow, at least for me. I found myself having to go back and re-read passages just to get the story to make sense again.

Unfortunately I hated the characters. I couldn’t identify with a single one of them. The main character was a mess. She was weak, annoying and consistently made just really stupid decisions. Her husband was just as much of a dishrag as she was. John Dunbar wasn’t much better, he was just as wishy-washy as Julie. His wife had more of a spine than he did and wasn’t afraid to use it, even if she did come off as a spiteful and vindictive brat. And the neighborhood scion, Cindy, was about as unbalanced as they come. If I had a neighborhood association like this, I would have been packing my bags and running for the hills. Why did everyone feel the need to cower before this woman?

Without giving anything away or spoiling the ending, it was unsatisfying at best. There were characters in play that really had no business being there and I can’t even come up with a rational explanation as to why they were there in the first place. It was a rushed ending that still left you with more questions than answers, and I can’t stand that, especially in a book that is listed as mystery/suspense. Read at your own risk.

 

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Review: In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni

3 Stars

This is the third book in the Tracy Crosswhite series.  You could probably read this particular novel as a stand-alone, but you will definitely get more out of the story if you read the previous two installments.

Once again we find Detective Tracy Crosswhite once again taking on another unsolved cold case.  She is asked by Jenny, a former police academy classmate to continue her father’s work and find the killer of a young Native American woman who everyone else assumed committed suicide.  But her family never believed the official story and neither did the investigative detective, Jenny’s father.  Tracy begins to follow up on the evidence and she begins to probe into the small town’s dark secrets.  Secrets that the town seems hell bent on keeping.  Is Detective Crosswhite going to be able to solve this case or is she going to become a victim too?

Again, this is another case that seems to hit close to home for Tracy.  Her sister was murdered and she spent twenty years trying to solve her case and bring the killer to justice.  Since then, she seems to be drawn to cases that are very similar to her sister’s murder.  She gets very personally invested and involved, which causes trouble for her both with her superiors in the department and in her personal life as well.  But she just can’t seem to let these cases go and while it’s a great thing for the victim, it’s playing havoc on her own life.

There is plenty of action and the investigation never lags.  The interaction between the characters is always solid and believable and the characters are very well thought out and none of them are one-dimensional.  Some end up being a little bit of a cliche.  Especially Tracy’s boss, Captain Nolasco.  But the victim’s brother also follows a stereotype and not a very flattering one when it comes to describing Native American men.  But the main core of characters are very enjoyable and you find yourself really rooting for Tracy in more ways than one.

I was a little surprised at the climax, I really didn’t expect the reveal.  You think you know who the killer is, but there’s one last surprise for you in the end.  Watching Tracy work her investigative magic is always entertaining.  While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the previous two, it was still a very solid installment in the series and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Detective Tracy Crosswhite.

 

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Review: Exhume by Danielle Girard

3 Stars

Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman has started to get comfortable.  She has found a new home and a place where she feel she finally belongs.  She is the Medical Examiner for the San Francisco Police Department and she enjoys her work, her calling, helping the dead find their voice.  Her job is a safe haven from her past, a former life she left seven years ago.  A life that included an abusive husband.  A life that still has her looking over her shoulder to make sure there’s no one there.

Schwartzman’s latest case threatens to shatter her feelings of safety.  A woman is found murdered in her home.  As she begins her initial examination, she’s struck by the striking resemblance this woman has to Schwartzman.  The colors and the layout of the apartment remind her of a life that was left behind, a life she fled.  The necklace the young woman is wearing is an exact match to the one that Schwartzman wears around her own neck.  Is this just a coincidence or is someone sending Annabelle Schwartzman a message?

I did enjoy this novel.  It was fast paced and very well written.  I know that some people took issue with how Annabelle Schwartzman was portrayed.  I thought she was a little flat, but I can definitely understand why she could appear so strong and then so fragile.  She had an abusive husband who nearly killed her, what woman wouldn’t be afraid?  She is a damaged woman who still has some steel in her spine.  Now that she has a new life and people who care about her, she doesn’t want to let them go and she’s willing to face the past and the man she ran away from years ago.

There are a lot of twists and turns in the beginning and the middle of the book, which make for a very satisfying read and it really does keep you turning the pages.  But the story definitely loses steam at the end.  What looked like a very carefully woven plan completely unravels and becomes nearly incoherent and unbelievable.  I don’t mind a nice, tidy ending.  But I think that the climax and end need to at least make sense.  I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman and I’m looking forward to see if the next installment will improve.

 

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Review: Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni

4 Stars

This is book two in the Tracy Crosswhite Series.  While you will still enjoy reading this book by itself, you will definitely understand the back-story and get more out of the book itself if you read the previous book My Sister’s Grave.

Tracy is back in Seattle after finally solving the mystery surrounding the murder of her sister two decades earlier.  She comes back to a new killer who the media has dubbed The Cowboy.  He’s killing women in a manner that’s eerily familiar to Tracy.  The women are all hog-tied and die by strangulation.  Is this a copycat or did the wrong person end up behind bars 10 years ago?  A case that involved her captain, Johnny Nolasco and one that he would prefer to keep buried.  Just to add more intrigue, it seems that someone has it out for Tracy after leaving a noose behind at the shooting range for her to find.  Is it the Cowboy or is someone else targeting Tracy?

This is another fairly solid police procedural.  There is drama between Tracy and her captain that gives some additional tension.  He’s a slime ball who has had it out for Tracy ever since they were in the police academy.  The man can definitely carry a grudge.  Their negative chemistry was really good.  He second-guesses every move she makes and he undermines her at every turn through some pretty under-handed methods.  Ever wonder how the media got some of their juiciest tidbits?

The Cowboy was definitely an interesting serial killer.  I was definitely surprised to see who the killer ended up being.  I did enjoy how the case was solved.  I really didn’t see it coming.  It was just one small detail.  One vigilant police officer.  And that’s all it takes sometimes.  I really did enjoy the interaction that Tracy had with the killer in the end.  And I would have paid good money to see the look on her captain’s face.

I did not enjoy the stalker angle.  I know that it ties in the first and second book.  But I just didn’t think that it fit with the rest of the story.  It was nice to see Dan is still in the picture and their interaction and chemistry is still there.  They make a really great team.  I hope that they’ll continue to be able to team up together in the future, because this is certainly not the end for Tracy Crosswhite.

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Review: 30 Pieces of Silver by Carolyn McCray

2 Stars

I will admit that I was sucked in by the comparisons to Dan Brown.  While I’m not a huge fan of his work, I am interested in the subject matter.  For over two thousand years, scientists and researchers have been trying to prove or disprove the existence of Jesus Christ and the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection.  So when I read the description for this book, I knew I had to pick it up.  Especially when the description comes with a huge warning label calling the book “an extremely controversial religious/historical thriller.”  Come on, who can resist bait like that?  Obviously not me.

Rebecca Monroe is working on a theory that there is a “genius” gene caused by good radiation that can explain away God and other theories of creation.  She’s pulled away from her research by a Special Ops team that has been sent to bring her in after a bombing in Paris brings her old professor out of hiding (back from the dead?) for the discovery of a lifetime and one that could rock the foundations of Christianity.

From there, we’re off on a wild chase across continents while Rebecca and the team are ambushed, shot at, bombed, electrocuted, chased and put through one unbelievable scenario after another as they go from one clue to the next.  The clues are left on ancient bones inscribed in ancient Greek.  Bones that are believed to have belonged to some of Christianity’s most sacred people.  John the Baptist.  James, brother of Jesus.  Mary Magdalene.  All seem to be pointing to the final resting place of Christ.  Not only that, but the bones are telling a different story about the Crucifixion than the one that the Bible has been telling the faithful for over two thousand years.  As they are trying to uncover the secrets the bones are trying to tell them, they are being hunted down by The Knot.  The Knot is trying to keep these secrets safe because if the truth ever got out, it has the power to destroy everything.

I really, really wanted to like this book.  But I just couldn’t.  Too much of it was so far-fetched that it was almost laugh out loud ludicrous.  Most of the characters were just completely unlikable and there was just very little authenticity in 90% of the characters and their interactions.  I can totally two opposing forces fighting for power and having lots of intense action scenes, but the fights should be believable and make some logical sense.  Can you see a person jumping from a boat travelling at 100 miles per hour onto a bridge and suffering absolutely NO injuries?  Especially a professor with absolutely NO training?

And the contrived romance angle?  Give me a break.

The stars were solely for the twist near the end.  If you’re a quick study, you’ll actually figure it out well before Rebecca does and for a Christian, it’s definitely what most would call sacrilegious.  The best passages of the book were the looks back into history and how the author imagined the interaction between Jesus and his followers.  The rest of the time you’re jumping from one absolutely unbelievable situation to the next.  Since this is a work of fiction, and not a very good one, it shouldn’t rock your faith too much.  I think this would have less impact than even the Dan Brown books.

 

 

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Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

3 Stars

This book has been compared to the Hitchcock classic, Rear Window.  I can agree with that description up to a point.  But this book really didn’t live up to the hype for me.  It took me far too long to get interested and I absolutely could not empathize with Rachel at all, there were too many times where I just wanted to smack her upside the head.  Unfortunately, I had this experience with many of the other characters too.

Rachel rides the same train everyday and while on the train she passes by a particular house every day during the slowest part of her journey.  She sees a couple and imagines what their life might be like, how happy they are.  She has given them names and an amazing life.  Until one day she sees something that she wishes she hadn’t.  Something that shatters her illusions of the blissful life she was so sure this couple had.

Rachel learns that the missing woman in the papers is actually the woman she’s seen daily on her train ride.  Rachel believes that she’s seen something that’s relevant to the investigation, but due to her drinking, makes her an unreliable witness.  Instead of being a help to the investigation, she has tangled everything up to the point where no one wants to believe anything she has to say.  She’s also in trouble with her ex-husband and his new wife, who wants to keep Rachel out of her life.

The story is told from the point of view of three women.  Rachel, Megan and Anna.  Something connects all three women even though they may not know it at the beginning.  By the end of the book, all of the threads are tied together and you can see their connection.  But it does take a very long time to get to this point and you have to go through some fairly agonizing chapters to get there.

I will say that the ending did surprise me somewhat.  It was a fairly satisfying ending to the book.  I just wish I could have identified with the characters more and actually been invested in what was happening to them.

 

 

 

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Review: The Devil’s Game by Sean Chercover

4 Stars

The Devil’s Game is the follow up to The Trinity Game.  I would recommend reading the first book in this series first to get a better understanding of the overall story and to help identify the characters and their motives.  The Devil’s Game will also spoil any surprises that were in The Trinity Game.  You have been warned.

Daniel Byrne spent ten years as a Vatican investigator, debunking miracle claims until his last investigation shook the very foundation of his faith and beliefs.  He is now determined to find the truth and makes the decision to join a powerful group, one that has the ability to influence events worldwide.  They are chasing down another powerful group who have the same ability and are the antithesis of the group Daniel has joined.

Daniel infiltrates a secret government facility and finds a bizarre strain of the Plague that seems to have the ability to flood a patient’s mind with visions of the future and the ability to do things they had never done before, like speak a different language.  Things that were very similar to what happened with Tim Trinity and what he and others call the Trinity Phenomenon.  Daniel begins a search to trace the roots of the pathogen and teams up with a disgraced physician named Kara who is plagued by visions of her own.  The truth is far scarier than they could have imagined and the stakes of the game these two powerful entities are playing for have never been higher.

The story is very quick paced and it was hard to put the book down, wanting to see what was going to happen next.  I wasn’t as impressed with the relationship between Kara and Daniel.  To me, it seemed forced and unnecessary.  I think their interaction could have been done without the romantic angle.  I think it took away from both of them.  I think she could have been a stronger character without the romance.  And I really don’t like what happened to her in the end.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book and would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a good thriller with just a little faith, belief, science and science fiction thrown in.  It’s just enough to make it believable and enough to make you think…what if?

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Review: The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons

3 1/2 Stars.

I chose this title as my Kindle First for November.  For book lovers with Amazon Prime membership and you don’t already know about the Kindle First program, go look it up.

Ten years ago, Suzanne Lombard disappeared without a trace.  Her father, Benjamin Lombard, was a senator at the time, but now he is the vice-president and running for president.  It’s nearing the anniversary of her disappearance and her story is still a national obsession.  No one has given up on Suzanne, especially not Gibson Vaughn, her best childhood friend.  Now a legendary hacker and former marine, Gibson is approached by the former head of Benjamin Lombard’s security team with an offer that he can’t refuse.  A chance to bring new life to the investigation into Suzanne’s disappearance.

Soon they discover conspiracies and secrets surrounding Benjamin Lombard.  Each layer that is uncovered reveals yet another set of mysteries, ultimately leading them to discover what really happened to Suzanne a decade ago.  Each twist brings a new turn.  Filled with suspense you never know what’s going to happen next.  What is the truth and what lengths will the other side go to make sure that it never sees the light of day?  Gibson always needs to keep one step ahead or he risks not only never finding out what happened to Suzanne, but his own life and the lives of those he loves.

There was a lot of suspense and a lot of twists and turns in this book.  Many of them were a complete surprise and I really didn’t see them coming.  There were a few that became pretty obvious as the book went on, but they were still well done and the dots were well connected when the story was finally revealed at the end.  I like how it was tied up for the most part.  I do with it had gone on a bit longer so that a few more loose ends were tied up, especially in regards to George Abe and his team.

The character development was very well done and it was very easy to empathize with Gibson and he was a very believable character.  Most of the secondary characters received the same attention and didn’t feel like cardboard cutouts.  I understand the backstory of Gibson’s ex-wife and how his family fits into the puzzle, but it was one of the loose ends that never truly got tied up in the end and it really bothered me.

If you want a fast moving plot with lots of action, lots of suspense and twists and turns.  Pick up The Short Drop and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

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Review: The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover

3 Stars

Daniel Byrne has a tragic background.  Orphaned nearly from birth and taken in by his Uncle, Tim Trinity.  He’s raised by his uncle who is a tent revival preacher, a grifter and a con-man.  He runs away in his early teens and seeks sanctuary with the Catholic diocese of his neighborhood.  He goes to God looking for a miracle and turns his back on his girlfriend, his boxing career and his uncle to enter the seminary.  Fourteen years later he’s now an investigator with the Office of the Devil’s Advocate, working directly with the Vatican.  His job is to investigate reported miracles and to approve or deny them.  After 771 cases, he’s yet to find his miracle.  But his next assignment proves to be much different.  Is this the miracle he’s been looking for?  And if so, why is it manifesting in his con-man uncle, Reverend Tim Trinity?

Reverend Tim Trinity is not a man of God, he’s not even sure if he’s a believer anymore.  But something is working through him and he’s beginning to believe that the voices he hears and the tongues that he’s speaking in are coming directly from God.  He begins to speak in tongues during his sermons and when they are listened to later by experts, it’s found that he’s actually speaking backwards and what he’s saying is nothing short of amazing.  He’s able to predict with 100 percent accuracy everything from lottery results and horse races to impending disasters.  This ability has raised flags everywhere from the Vatican to the gambling dens of Las Vegas.  Most of them want to silence Trinity and make this phenomenon disappear.  Others want to believe that there is a miracle at work here and God is speaking to them through this former sinner.  One thing quickly becomes clear, there are people who will stop at nothing to make Reverend Tim Trinity disappear.

There is a lot of action and suspense built into this novel and it does go along at a fairly fast pace and I think that’s exactly what this story needed.  Just when you stopped to catch your breath, something else happened and you were off and running again.  For the most part, the characters were fleshed out very well and it was very easy to get a picture of them in your mind.  It was easy for me to relate to Daniel.  He isn’t a perfect priest, his belief is flawed, just like he is.  I think that really lends to the authenticity of what the author was trying to accomplish.  The true message doesn’t come until late in the novel and while it’s not a new message, it’s one that resonates and unfortunately one that always gets lost in the war of souls.

There were still too many loose ends for me and too many things left unexplained for me to bump this to 4 stars.  I don’t know if this was intentional.  This is the first book in a series and I think it’s always hard to review series books because there is always so much left unsaid and unfinished.  But I’m fairly sucked in so I’ll probably be picking up the next book sometime soon.

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Review: In Dark Places by Michael Prescott

3 Stars

In Dark Places is a pretty decent thriller about a psychiatrist who is on the verge of having technology that may finally be key in helping criminals who were victim of past violence to break the cycle and keep themselves out of prison and be productive members of society.  Her research brings her to Los Angeles where she has been given permission to try her treatment on a serial killer, Justin Gray.  A man who killed 5 teen-aged girls before being caught.  Dr. Robin Cameron wants to see if she can help Justin and maybe even cure him.  She’s also asked to take on a police officer as a test subject, a man suffering from what seems to be PTSD after being involved in a shooting where he took the life of another man.

The characters are fairly unsympathetic and for the most part, difficult to relate to.  You know that there’s something not quite right when you start to root for the convicted serial killer.  There were several times where I just wanted to smack Dr. Cameron upside the head and call her a naive idiot.  It’s okay to have an optimistic outlook and to believe in your research, but when all signs point in one direction and you’re stubbornly going the other way?  That’s just looking for trouble.

Some of the other characters have absolutely no redeeming qualities and others just seemed to be thrown in as an afterthought and lent nothing to the story itself.  There were also points where the point of view got lost, it reached a point where it was nearly impossible to figure out who was doing the talking.  But…

The story is fast paced and there are plenty of twists and turns throughout the book.  I didn’t see many of the twists that came about at all.  So definitely a thumbs up in that regard.  Too many suspense novels are formulaic to the point where you can guess what’s going to happen and who is going to do it.  I was surprised several times through the story with where the story arc went.  If you’re looking for a decent suspense novel with good twists, pick this one up.

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