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Category: thriller (Page 1 of 3)

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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The Survival Initiative – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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C.K. Phillips

In C.K. Phillips third installment of his Kents/Lander series, The Survival Initiative, Kent, Cyndi, Lander and Lisa are just looking for a chance to relax. However, a large terrorist organization has other plans. Massive, simulataneous and world-wide terrorist attacks happen, which kill thousands of people. Lisa is seriously injured while the other three are called upon to assemble teams to take down the terrorists before they accomplish their ultimate goal.

For a thriller, The Survival Intiative, missed the mark. The majority of the story is dialogue based, but, for the most part, it’s written without much emotion. This makes the characters feel stiff and cold. There’s a strong bond between the four main characters and Phillips does clearly display the deep connection between the four of them, but there still isn’t much given to express their deeper personality traits. The basis of the plot is, perhaps, too stereotypical of global terrorism. This may leave readers, who seek heartpounding scenes, disappointed. 

Still a great fiction novel, The Survival Initiative offers a story that is highly relatable to today’s current events. This will likely draw the attention of many readers, and because there are no graphic scenes those same readers are likely to be excited to keep turning pages. C. K. Phillips writes in a way that makes The Survival Initiative quick and easy to read. Since readers are not overwhelmed with a complicated storyline, they can sink into the corner of the sofa and curl up with The Survival Initiative without jumping at their own shadows. All the while, readers and fans will continue to grow an emotional bond to the characters and look forward to other books from C. K. Phillips.

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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White Water, Black Death – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Shaun Ebelthite

In the rivieting tale of White Water, Black Death, by author Shaun Ebelthite, Geneva Jones is an editor for CruiseCritique and has been invited on board by CEO of the cruiseline, Rachel Atkinson. The purpose is to write a powerful story about the cruise ship and get positive press because the company is in trouble. Yet, the cruise turns out to be more interesting than Geneva could’ve ever imagined. With a wide variety of substories running through there are a long list of character’s to pay attention to. Who survives, who doesn’t, who’s a “good guy” and who is at fault remains a mystery until the very end.

There is great potential in White Water, Black Death, but there are some issues readers will need to get past to enjoy the fascinating intrigue underneath. Ebelthite has a unique style of writing that leaves a lot for the reader to imagine, but those plot holes can lead to great confusion, too. With such an exceptionally long list of characters it’s not easy to keep track nor does it give the author a real chance to help readers emotionally bond with the characters. Their substories could’ve been fleshed out and added a lot to the story, but only a couple of them versus so many.

Though there are suspects and possibilities of what’s really going on as dozens of people end up becoming sick or dying on board the cruise ship, Ebelthite does a great job of keeping a number of surprises until the very end. With such a unique storyline, White Water, Black Death could be a tale that keeps readers turning pages and gripping the handrails themselves. It just needs some polishing and a bit more thorough editing to fill the plot holes, correct minor mistakes. Overall, Shaun Ebelthite’s White Water, Black Death is a tale that will make potential cruise passengers think twice before climbing aboard and setting sail, but they’ll be able to sit on dry land and experience the rough seas and surprising twists from start to finish.

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

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You Dear, Sweet Man – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Thomas Neviaser

In Thomas Neviaser’s You Dear, Sweet Man, blue-collar worker Bobby Fastow notices an unusual ad on the subway on his way to work. Featuring a beautiful woman and a spread of health-conscious food, there’s nothing particularly unusual about it – or so Bobby thinks. As the days go on, though, he becomes more and more obsessed with the ad. He begins to believe that the woman in the ad can see him and interact with him, but is it real or only a fantasy in his head?

You Dear, Sweet Man is a unique fiction book, but sometimes, it’s so unique that it borders on strange. The plot is confusing at first, as is the revolving door of characters who each seem to need their own chapter to narrate. There’s also a bit of a discrepancy in the book’s pacing; some chapters are suspenseful and exciting, others have a rambling narrative that doesn’t seem to make sense, and still others are almost downright boring. You Dear, Sweet Man captivates with a short, suspenseful opening chapter, then takes quite a while to become that interesting again, which doesn’t seem like an effective method.

However, what makes You Dear, Sweet Man so powerful is its great use of suspense – and over something as ordinary as a subway ad. Turning an everyday, throwaway object like a subway ad into something terrifying, creepy, and suspenseful is a fascinating premise, and one that Thomas Neviaser executes brilliantly. As the story unravels, it’s impossible not to keep reading to find out more about the mysterious woman in the ad. You Dear, Sweet Man is a rollercoaster ride of a read, but a particularly intriguing one that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next story Thomas Neviaser has up his sleeve.

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

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Thicker Than Blood – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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James P. Sumner

In Thicker Than Blood, James P. Sumner captivates readers for the final time in the seventh book in the Adrian Hell series. Adrian Hell is, obviously, the star of the show and his prowess as a trained assassin is in high demand. His life has been spared, but at what cost? When he’s assigned to kill his best friend, he realizes it’s time to do the right thing, which puts his life and the life of his best friend, Josh, at far greater risk than ever before. The supposed mythical club of the world’s top assassins actually exists and Adrian needs help from the United States government, including the president, if he’s to have any hope of winning the war against the clubs murderous rampage and fanatical corrpution. The shocking truth that Adrian eventually reveals takes him down a road he never expected to travel.

Written in present tense and in first person from Adrian’s perspective, Sumner’s superior skills as a writer shine through in Thicker Than Blood. The story is action-packed and will keep readers on their toes and wrapped-up with anxious nerves as Adrian and his best buddy go after the world’s top killers. Thicker Than Blood is exceptionally well-written, and even though it is the final book in a series of seven, it works as a stand alone novel. Mind you, the details, apparently from previous books in the series, dropped in by Sumner, will make readers want to go back and read the entire series. James P. Sumner’s thrilling tale of high ranking goverment officials and the world’s best assassins having a connection to another surprising world power will keep readers turning pages and sharing Thicker Than Blood with their friends. Highly recommended.

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

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Andrew’s Journal – Entered in ATAI 2017 Book Award Contest

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Anthony Custode Jr.

Andrew’s Journal: A novella by Anthony Custode Jr tells the story of a group of friends as they unravel the mysterious death of their friend Andrew. Told through flashbacks and entries from Andrew’s journal readers start to piece together a story that proves to be deadly for everyone involved.

Filled with twists and turns, Andrew’s Journal tries to keep its reader captivated. There are themes around abuse, young love and suicide that are well-woven into the plot and readers will appreciate the fast pace of the story. Custode’s simple writing style is easy to follow, and the characters are funny, heroic and draw the reader into their tragedies.

However, there are problems with this novella that cannot be overlooked. The inclusion of Andrew’s journal entries do not read realistically, and the reader is unaware which entries are privy to the other characters and which are evident to the reader. This muddies the plot and makes the story predictable from the first few chapters. Another aspect that is problematic is that Custode has aged his characters. The characters, who are supposed to be high school students feel old as do their romantic relationships and their actions and speech. This is also further complicated by in-depth description of sex scenes (that do not always feel necessary), and those of sexual abuse and very little other description throughout the book. The book, while attempting to offer something to the thriller genre, fails in providing a strong enough story to keep readers turning the pages.

Overall, Andrew’s Journal is a simple story that pushes its characters into a world of treachery and lies. There are some real painful themes and readers will sympathize with Megan and her friends. For this novella to be taken seriously, it needs to read more realistically both in its use of journal entries as well as in the depictions of its young characters.

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

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The Wolves Within Our Walls – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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L.E. Flinders

The Wolves Within our Walls is a post-apocalyptic tale that follows Zoe Wilkes as she tries to survive after a global “attack” that changed the world for the worst.Taken into a utopian society, Zoe quickly forms strong bonds, assimilates to the new society and learns that her happiness and safety come at a cost.

Flinders has written a story that is tight and yet allows for imagination. The pacing can be slow at points, but readers of this genre will feel a real excitement in watching Zoe develop relationships and learning about the inner workings of the new society. Flinders has created a story that not only reads as believable but shows great insight into her understanding of the complexities of relationships. These traits coupled with a simple writing style make The Wolves Within our Walls a standout novel. The cover is very intriguing and speaks to the overall success of this novel.

The only stylistic issues with the novel are the descriptive passages about characters. Rather than discovering character traits and histories through action, Flinders gives insightful but not always helpful back stories to most main characters. It is understood that the novel serves as a “tell all book” but the information sometimes seems irrelevant and does not add to the readers understanding of a character.

The Wolves Within Our Walls is a well written and clever thriller. It builds up slowly and is not full of cheap scares and overly dramatic characters. Flinders has created a story that seems plausible and understands how human relationships morph and how trust, is difficult to earn. Overall, this is a stellar debut novel.

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

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