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Category: mystery (Page 1 of 4)

The Darkness of Water – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Matthew Neighbours

Questions and deep, dark secrets abound in Matthew Neighbours’ The Darkness of Water. This story encompasses the darker side of life for four individuals. James and Elena meet after she falls or jumps into the cold dark waters off a cliff in Alaska. George and Anna go through pure hell only to escape to Alaska believing, foolishly, their hellish life will become a peaceful one. Darkness and evil sets at the feet of all four of the unsuspecting characters.

Matthew Neighbours created a chilling and thrilling tale in the pages of The Darkness of Water. There is a good deal of secretiveness early on in the story and though that continues for most of the book, there comes a point where the direction of the story seems to completely shift. It is certainly an unexpected twist. Some may find it intriguing, but it almost seemed so out of context that it didn’t fit in smoothly. Perhaps an introduction including a background on Elena, as well as some background on Anna, could really benefit the story. With that kind of background, the The Darkness of Water would feel more cohesive.

A gripping tale from the first page, The Darkness of Water has the potential to create raving fans for Matthew Neighbours’ writing. Though there were a few issues with the pacing and plot, The Darkness of Water was written with the skillfullness to keep readers on the edge of their seats and turning pages with anxious curiosity. There’s no doubt that Matthew Neighbours has a creative mind and knows how to write an eerie tale that’ll not only make readers question their own thoughts and decisions, but they’ll be greatly anticipating a potential sequel.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Fixer: The Naked Man – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jill Amy Rosenblatt

In Jill Amy Rosenblatt’s The Fixer: The Naked Man, college student Katerina Mills is fourteen thousand dollars in debt and struggling to make it through law school in one piece. When she stumbles upon a mysterious job opportunity with a too-good-to-be-true paycheck, she jumps at the opportunity. However, Katerina soon discovers that being a “fixer” will get her into more trouble than she could have ever anticipated.


Unfortunately, despite having an excellent premise, The Naked Man’s plot development leaves a lot to be desired. Much of the story is far too rushed, speeding through scenes and ending others abruptly without giving the reader the time to enjoy them fully. This rushed narrative perhaps also contributed to the lack of empathy for Katerina as a main character; there isn’t enough character development yet for readers to fully get behind this character as a protagonist. Sure, her adventures are exciting, but Katerina herself comes off as sadly one-dimensional. Also, for such a short book, The Naked Man tries to juggle too many plot points at once, leaving many loose ends untied and readers hungry for more—and perhaps not always in the best way.


However, it cannot be denied that The Naked Man is an exciting thrill of a novella. It has a unique and exhilarating plot, full of colorful characters and dangerous drama. The fast-paced excitement, shocking plot twists, and intriguing storyline keep the pages turning and interest renewed. Jill Amy Rosenblatt’s unique voice as a writer breathes life and rich detail into the story, making it even more fascinating as the plot progresses. The Fixer: The Naked Man is a fantastic start to a promising series, with a powerful cliffhanger ending that will make readers eager to get their hands on the next book.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Fixer: The Killing Kind – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Jill Amy Rosenblatt

The Fixer: The Killing Kind is Jill Amy Rosenblatt’s second novel about the thrilling adventures of Katerina Mills, college student and professional “fixer.” She fixes difficult problems for wealthy elites who don’t want to get their hands dirty. It’s gotten her into trouble before, but now there are dangerous forces after her that are threatening more than just her job.


Much like the first entry in this series, The Killing Kind tries to juggle far too many plot points at once, making for a confusing and almost difficult reading experience. There’s easily at least two books’ worth of material packed into this one, and it isn’t quite handled as well as it could be. The constant revolving door of characters and frequent, unnecessary skipping between plot lines is often frustrating, as is Katerina’s consistent lack of realistic character development. Unfortunately, many of the same shortcomings that the previous book in the series suffered from have only migrated over to The Killing Kind as well.


Nevertheless, The Killing Kind is still an intriguing and mysterious read, full of increased action and adventure for the series’ unlikely heroine. Jill Amy Rosenblatt certainly raised the stakes for the entire series in this book, including more danger, more drama, and more scenes with fan favorite characters that appeared too briefly in the first book, like the charming and mysterious Alexander Winter. The fast-paced narrative and rich, exciting plot is also captivating, making The Killing Kind a real page-turner. The Fixer: The Killing Kind is an excellent continuation of Katerina Mills’ high-stakes adventures, yet also brilliantly teases at all the fantastic tales to come in this thrilling series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Dark Ending – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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C.L. Brees

In C.L. Brees’ Dark Ending, NYPD homicide detective Alex Jones is investigating the serial murders of several young women in New York City. As the number of victims quickly starts to pile up, Alex is in a race against the clock to solve the murders and catch the criminal behind them—but it could end up costing him everything.

In many ways, Dark Ending is simply a cliché detective story. Incredibly familiar to others like it, the plot is predictable and sometimes borders on being uninteresting. The pacing is often slow and drawn out, making characters, dialogue, or entire scenes seem wooden or unrealistic. Other times, there’s just too much going on at once and it all gets to be confusing. On top of all that, the sheer lack of thorough editing in this novel is distracting and unfortunately hinders the overall story. Perhaps with some additional revisions and more attention to detail, Dark Ending could more easily live up to its obvious potential.

That potential reveals itself in many other areas, particularly in the author’s strong descriptive language and straightforward style of writing. C.L. Brees is clearly a talented writer with an impressive knack for the crime genre. Dark Ending’s characters are realistic and relatable, as is the overall plot. There is plenty to be enjoyed in this intriguing murder mystery, from the well-rounded characters to the surprising ending. Though it would certainly benefit from further editing and revision, Dark Ending is a great, captivating novel nonetheless—one that fans of crime thrillers and detective mysteries are sure to love.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Lineage – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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J.N. Sheats

In J.N. Sheats’ Lineage, a terrifying dog-like creature is terrorizing the small town of Portstown, Pennsylvania. Joey is trapped amid the carnage, with people close to her dying brutally. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger is protecting Joey, but he hides powerful secrets about his past. Together, Joey and Cameron must find a way to stop the deadly attacks before it’s too late.

Lineage’s plot is a bit unclear at first, as certain scenes are drawn out or too vague. The main character, Joey, is not well-developed for much of the beginning of the story, making it hard to relate to her as a protagonist. Also, the “intermissions” within Lineage (which consist of a full-page image and a written warning that seems to be trying to deter readers from continuing the book) slightly hinder the reading experience here; they are jarring and interrupt the natural flow of the story. Along with a plethora of grammatical errors, Lineage could certainly benefit from a thorough edit to resolve these irksome issues.

Despite all that, Lineage is an excellent, suspenseful read. It perfectly balances contemporary young adult literature with the haunting, distinct style of classic horror novels, all while maintaining its own creativity and voice. J.N. Sheats masterfully crafts each bloody, violent death scene, yet still has a knack for getting into the angsty mind of a teenage girl—and making it all believable, at that. Her vivid, descriptive style of writing is both impressive and wildly captivating, keeping the pages turning from beginning to end. Lineage is a remarkable, unique, and delightfully scary novel that is sure to keep readers guessing right until the very end—and even long after the book is closed.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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A Tightening Noose – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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B.K. Berrell

A thriller that will keep readers enthralled, B.K. Berrell’s A Tightening Noose, follows a path that is frighteningly all too possible. A former martial arts fighter and a former Marine end up working together to stop a government facility from accomplishing its goals. With hints of sci-fiction involved, there is a good deal of violence and corrupt government officials tossed in along the way. What Sam and Vic first think they’re individually up against is not what it seems. Berrell has created a story that will make readers wonder at what really goes on behind closed doors within one’s own government.

Berrell’s two male protagonists have dark histories and this lends to the story having a good deal of violence and anguish. It’s quite graphic at times, perhaps, unecessarily so. Some aspects of the story seem out of place, but they also offer deeper insight into the main characters as well. Their damnable qualities are somewhat understandable, but B.K. Berrell doesn’t appear to try and endear the reader to any character either. This allows for violence to happen to the characters without readers getting frustrated with the direction of the story.

Though there are some drawbacks and odd directions in the storyline at times, B.K. Berrell created a unique and horrific concept within the pages of A Tightening Noose. The author skillfully flows back and forth in the early stages of the story between the past and the present in an effort to share Sam’s and Vic’s histories. The unexpected outcome is not where the story seemed to be headed, but as that is often the case in real life, this offers a level of believability and realness to the story that might not otherwise have existed. B.K. Berrell’s A Tightening Noose is an interesting read that will keep readers turning pages until the very end.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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A Tale of a Rough Diamond – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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P.J. Mann

In P. J. Mann’s A Tale of a Rough Diamond, Stephen is a troubled teenager who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. His older brother, Roger, has always been jealous of Stephen, pulling strings to turn their family against his younger brother. Left to rot in jail for his crimes, Stephen makes a few unlikely allies. A true underdog, Stephen must find the courage within himself to make the best of his circumstances and do all he can to survive.

Although it has an excellent premise, there are many areas in A Tale of a Rough Diamond that could benefit from some revision and improvement. A lot of the dialogue seems wooden and unrealistic, and many of the characters are not as well-fleshed out as they could be. There are many seemingly rambling tangents that distract from the story and constant shifts in time, point of view, etc. that can make the story confusing in places. Other scenes are just written a bit oddly. A Tale of a Rough Diamond is also in dire need of extensive editing; the plethora of errors in this book hinder its overall potential.

Despite this, A Tale of a Rough Diamond has a ton of potential. P. J. Mann’s dark and unique style of writing is captivating and the plot itself is intriguing and suspenseful. A great tale of an underdog, there are many aspects of this story that are incredibly thoughtful and relatable. Full of deceit, tragedy, and thrilling twists, this book can really keep readers on the edge of their seats. A Tale of a Rough Diamond is a bit of a rough diamond itself; it has all the potential to be a stunning literary experience, but just needs a bit of polishing to achieve that.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Murder Is Just the Beginning – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Carol Kravetz

Carol Kravetz’s Murder Is Just the Beginning kicks off with a mystery man trying to discover whether or not a fourth murder has been committed. Four detectives are brought into the story right away though -two young men and two young women. The women, Cathy and Krista hail from Ireland and are brought into the department via a government approved project in Massachusetts to hire and train detectives at a younger age than normal. The four characters end up in romantic relationships with one another as they work the murder cases that started off the story.

Murder Is Just the Beginning might be a fun read if readers are looking for mostly a romance novel. It is far from a true murder mystery as it is nearly half-way through the book before any real action around the case begins to take shape and even then the mystery in the plot is thin. The first chapter ended with a captivating cliffhanger, but subsequent chapters more often than not finished with a sentence or two that felt forced or more like an after thought in an effort to get readers to continue to the next chapter.

However, Murder Is Just the Beginning is quite an enjoyable read if a reader is looking for romance with a hint of intrigue sprinkled in. Carol Kravetz brings a depth to the male characters that is atypical of men -at least in how they speak and talk to one another, but this style is a fantasy that women often dream of -getting men to reveal their deepest feelings easily. By sharing two separate romantic relationships, Carol Kravetz offers a unique story of love in Murder Is Just the Beginning with a crime sub story to add more color and flavor to the tale.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Broken Branches – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Brenda M. Spalding

A highly intriguing story, Broken Branches is the first book in The Green Lady Inn series. Megan, an art gallery owner in New York, is shocked and deeply saddened by her grandmother’s unexpected death. She rushes to Salem to take care of the details, but she’s not prepared to handle the danger that faces her. Her grandmother, Corey Elizabeth Bishop, had secrets that were about to blow Megan’s mind. In the midst of uncovering the truth, the big city girl discovers love alongside family heirlooms worth far more than simply money. Just who were Megan’s ancestors and who does that make her now? Author, Brenda M. Spalding, wove together a beautiful tapestry of love, murder, mystery and secret treasure within the pages of Broken Branches.

Though the cover of Broken Branches leaves something to be desired, Brenda Spalding’s story is enthralling. Readers will feel the need to keep turning pages because they’re aren’t any obvious giveaways within Broken Branches. Spalding skillfully keeps readers wondering who is after the family treasure and how it is all connected to Halloween and Salem. She brings in a fast-paced romance -maybe a little too fast- that is an important piece of the story, but it doesn’t overshadow the mystery of “the green” within Broken Branches. Magic, history, trust, friendship and love abound in Brenda M. Spalding’s Broken Branches without causing readers to leave the lights on at night and without needing to skip past overly sensual scenes. Broken Branches is a wonderful book to curl up with, enjoy a cup of tea and follow along as Spalding takes her characters and readers on a fascinating journey.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Voynich Gambit – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Quintin Peterson

In Quintin Peterson’s The Voynich Gambit, Special Police Officer Lt. Norman Blalock is caught amid a dangerous situation. On the heels of another botched heist, notorious artifact dealer Rupert Whyte plots to steal a mysterious treasure from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. As the double-crossed “inside man,” Norman must do everything he can to stop Whyte from doing so. Meanwhile, his only ally is the beautiful Kavitha Netram, but even she has secret intentions. They both want to be free from Whyte’s demanding orders, but that is much easier said than done.

From the very beginning, it is obvious that The Voynich Gambit is a sequel to another book. It jumps right back into the action, which is certainly exciting, but also confusing for new readers who happen to read this book before its predecessor. It is difficult to determine who the characters are, how they relate to one another, and what is generally going on without having read the first book (Guarding Shakespeare); for that reason, The Voynich Gambit is not a good standalone novel. Also, The Voynich Gambit’s plot tends to seem complicated and oddly paced, making it difficult to follow for much of the book.

Despite the occasional confusion, The Voynich Gambit is a fascinating novel. Written in a noir style and with an equal representation of modern culture and historical references, The Voynich Gambit is a well-balanced and intriguing mystery novel. Quintin Peterson is an excellent writer with a flair for gripping mysteries, which is clearly evident in this book. The Voynich Gambit is a great noir mystery, but prospective readers should certainly consider reading Guarding Shakespeare first, if they should have any hope of following along with this installment.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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