Tag Archives: murder

Sade Evans: She will kill to be happy. by Tonne Odom

As usual I received this book free for the purposes of review. Also as usual I’m completely candid about it below.

The nutshell on this book is fairly straightforward. Our antagonist feels that society has scorned her so she’s going to bloody well kill everyone around her that she thinks gets in her way.

To the positive, I will say that the author brings us some truly authentic Black voices. The dialog is keenly dialed in to the cultural vernacular that you tend to hear from the Black community. While this is not “proper English” to some I find it quite refreshing that these words aren’t sanitized before they’re put on the page.

To the negative, however, there is very little else of redeeming value. The writing is exceptionally poor and error-filled. While I give the dialog a pass because it represents the cultural environment of the characters, everything not between quotes lacks continuity and is exceptionally short and choppy. The author fails to establish basic facts about the characters let alone prove them so every event leaves the reader with a dangling, “why…?” when trying to piece together motives and meaning. From a narrative perspective, the entire story is beyond even the tiniest bit of credibility. Characters act in ways completely contrary to their roles and plot points are almost entirely nonsensical.

In summary, while the style of this book has some potential as an authentic voice of the Black community, everything else about it needs a lot of work. Everything from continuity to character to plot seem to fail on some level. I encourage the author to keep at it as there’s great soul here but the execution is far too weak.


Rob Slaven

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Edited to Death – Good to see NPR-listeners in a book but not a great plot (3/5)

Firstly and as usual I received this book for free in exchange for a review, this time via a LibraryThing giveaway. Also as usual I give my candid opinions below.

The book centers around a professional writer-cum-sleuth who gets involved in the murder investigation of her editor and close friend. The novel is set in the San Francisco bay area and the characters are very liberal; they listen to NPR, have wine with dinner and enjoy a very socially and culturally diverse group of friends. To me this was joyful and refreshing to see in a novel but if you dislike those who practice what is generally termed an “alternative lifestyle” then you will want to look towards another book.

To the positive side, I quite enjoyed the writer’s depiction of the area and the people in it. It’s obvious that she’s spent some time there and she makes the place sound like an idyllic retirement locale if I should ever be so lucky. Her characters are vividly drawn, diverse and behave in self-consistent and colorful ways that makes them seem like old familiar friends that you’d really want to hang out with. As one who conveys people and place this author is top-shelf.

To the negative, the plot seemed rather flat and trite. I kept reading for the people but the plot seemed like one that has been played out a hundred times in a hundred books. There’s nothing particularly innovative about the story except that it’s been shifted to an unusual demographic. I religiously avoid spoilers so I can’t say much more, especially considering this is in the mystery genre, but at the end I felt like I’d read the script for an episode of CSI.

In summary, I love the writing and I love the locale but the story struck me as rather a non-event. I look forward to more from this author if it should happen to show up on my doorstep.


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Pillow Stalk – Soft and sympathetic multiple murder mystery (4/5)

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As usual I received this book free for the purposes of review. This time it was from NetGalley and despite that kindness I give my scrupulously honest thoughts below.

The book can be summed up pretty simply: a 60s-obsessed interior designer finds herself unwittingly embroiled in a murder mystery in which her petite pastel pillows become the center of the investigation because they just happen to be the murder weapon of choice.

On the positive side, this one pulls you along quite nicely. The characters are unique and stand out wonderfully as they’re primarily caricatures of the sort of people you might see in a movie from the 60s. Nobody is terribly over-developed and the plot skips along quite easily; you could read the whole book in a long afternoon and feel refreshed and somewhat rewarded afterwards. There’s nothing terribly complicated even at the end when the whole thing comes together; just like the cover this is pink and blue cotton candy that melts in your mouth. It should be noted too that even though this is a murder mystery the grittiest thing about it is the bloody knife on the cover. There is action but it’s very soft by the standards of the genre. Those looking for real hard-boiled noir will be disappointed but I tend to doubt anyone looking for that will bother to pick up this book in the first place.

To the negative, the book does tend to wrap up in a furious hurry. Avoiding spoilers, when finally confronted the antagonist goes into a long and unnecessary revelation of his motives and methods that seems very misplaced. The concluding action is rather soft and implausible and doesn’t quite leave you with that satisfied “wow!” that one tends to hope for in a ending. At the very end we’re left with an even less compelling cliff-hanger designed to move us along to the next book that just doesn’t catch my attention. It may very well for a feminine crowd but personally I didn’t really come away with a grand desire to read the second book in the series.

In summary, this one has lots of relateable and sympathetic characters and is a very soft and likable read if you’re not looking for grit and grime in your murder mystery. This is the archetype of the bubbly 60’s suspense novel.


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To Probe a Beating Heart: The Fall of a Serial Killer by John B. Wren

To Probe a Beating Heart: The Fall of a Serial KillerTo Probe a Beating Heart: The Fall of a Serial Killer by John B. Wren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual I didn’t pay for this book, it came to me from the author who was kind enough to send me a copy for review. Despite that kind consideration, I’ll give my candid thoughts on the novel.

This is the story of a serial killer, from the first moments of his conception to his own grisly end. As story concepts go, this is a grand one. The author has cracked quite a meaty nut and one that is sure to entertain. If you’ve ever wondered how someone could be so depraved… here’s your answer.

On the negative side, while the story arc is appealing, the execution of it is profoundly lacking. The author has a very choppy and simplified writing style that reminds me strongly of Dick-and-Jane first readers. The author is certainly factual enough but just lacks writing flair and polish.

In summary, a great story but jot not very professional in the telling. I’m hopeful that future novels will acquire a more literary feel.

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The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

The Butterfly SisterThe Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual I paid nothing for this book but also as usual I’ll review it candidly anyway. I received this book through the kind consideration of a GoodReads giveaway just as I have so many others.

Our protagonist is a broken woman, the victim of a spurned and ill-advised love. She revolves in her sad and wounded orbit until one day a suitcase shows up on her doorstep that belongs to an old acquaintance from her former college. From there the story twists mercilessly and unexpectedly to its whiplash-inducing ending.

Hansen’s novel is certainly full of surprises. I expected a romance (I never read the back of the book) but instead ended up with a full-fledged murder mystery. The author is masterful at painting characters in a way that makes them easy to relate to and gets the reader attached. They have lives of their own with histories that jive well with their actions in the here and now. She spends three quarters of the book building up background like a roller coaster tick, tick, ticking its way to the top of the hill. When finally the last quarter arrives the whole thing comes together in an almost dizzying hurry that is full of surprises and rushes by in what is guaranteed to be one sitting. Once the last 70 pages or so are begun, do not expect to put them down for any reason not related to Emergency Medical Services.

For all the drama of the last part, however, the author does seem to take her time. I found myself skimming mercilessly through the middle third of the book and when the end arrived I didn’t really felt like I’d missed much. Our author paints a wonderfully vivid picture of her protagonists but it can wind on for almost too long and tread on the reader’s patience. Ultimately though a well-crafted, if wordy, story.

In summary, this is a grand and very timely (ripped from the headlines as it were) murder mystery full of intrigue. Fans of the mystery genre should be advised, however, that this is one from the emotional side rather than the clinical one. No forensics, no evidence, no blood splatter patterns, just surprising twists and turns and eventually lucky cops. That said, it’s still entertaining.

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