The Surgeon’s Son

upload master to sednd

By Catherine Putsche

Catherine Putsche


A surgeon kidnaps teenage girls and performs his own operations on them. When one girl is found alive, the police have hope that they can gather enough evidence to bring the monster to justice.

Okay, there is more to this story which involves too much personal material (Gracie’s recovery after being rescued; a guy and his dog; Victor’s domestic problems with his mother and family), some of which doesn’t seem to have relevance to the story. What police procedure is included is mostly long passages of dialogue. The premise is good but the actual story was disappointing.


Marty Bride: Detective Inspector for the Greater Manchester police department, married with teen daughter

Victor Barnes: 49, 6’4”, short black hair, tall, stocky, surgeon, serial kidnapper/killer, face disfigured as a teen, father-dead-was a neurosurgeon, square jaw, father dead, mother a nag, drives an SUV,

Gracie Peterson: 14, junior equestrian

Veronica Barnes: 39, Victor’s sister, Manhattan lawyer, blonde, pale green eyes

Amanda Belgrade: served 26 years in Homicide

Steven Flynn: worked with the child exploitation department

Harriet Jones: forensic clinical psychologist

I found it ironic that even though Victor once tried to kill his sister when she was a baby, and his mother discovered the act, his mother still gave him most of her affection. Information is given about some minor characters that has no relevance to the story. Otherwise I didn’t connect with any character.


Gracie sounds too much like an adult for her age. Her words and those of her parents after she was rescued aren’t believable. She’s been missing for weeks, mutilated, but the phraseology is too proper, with no expected emotion. Ditto with her parents. They introduce themselves as if they were picking their daughter up after a school function. In fact, many characters sound very formal and proper and the emotional impact from the situation at hand doesn’t exist or else the words used aren’t what those people would say.


A bit of profanity. The problems, though are almost too numerous to list. Severe POV jumps within the same scene or within the same paragraph, even POV shifts to people who aren’t even in the scene. Very distracting.

Scene shifts within a chapter with no signifying symbol (*) or an extra space. Some misspelled words. The dog’s name is spelled different from chapter to chapter.

Many sentences are written incorrectly with the wrong word or words or phrasing used. (Example: He took his role he took extremely seriously as he and his wife Diana teenage daughter, Alana, had gone missing one year prior to the Peterson investigation at the age of sixteen.) From this sentence it sounds as if he-Marty is narrating here-his wife, and teen daughter all went missing at the same time when it is revealed later that the only person missing was his daughter.

Repetitious words or phrases. Punctuation problems. Continuity problem: Victor is shown to be ten years older than her sister in one chapter and eight years older in another.

Mixture of tenses in a few sentences. Unnecessary explanations: She nodded, signifying a yes answer. She shook her head indicating a no answer. This type of thing isn’t needed. The reader understands what a nod means.

Misuse of ‘ing’ words. Example: Victor grabbed Katie’s hand off the floor in a hurry making his way to the door locking it, checking twice it was locked, running to the large chest freezer that was located in the next room, grabbing a bowl of ice and placing the hand on top, once again locking the door.

In the above sentence, besides the missing punctuation, the use of all those action words in the ‘ing’ form implies that Victor was doing all of those things at the same time and that isn’t possible.

Captialized words that shouldn’t be. Run-on sentences, some that don’t read sensibly. Missing words in sentences that would make them sound normal. Grammar problems. Nonsensical use of italics for both flashbacks and dreams.

One note. About a week after I wrote this review (but several weeks before posting), I received an email from the author asking me to take a look at a revised copy of the book. I’m going to assume some of the spelling mistakes were corrected but she mentioned dialogue changes and although I didn’t see too much change in the parents’ there was a change in one of the kidnapped girl’s. Unfortunately, the changes made her dialogue worse to read.

Basically, this entire story was a mess with weak writing, characters I found annoying, and dialogue I would have liked to have skipped.

My Rank:

White Belt


Trigger Finger


By Jackson Spencer Bell



Kevin Swanson is having problems. In February, he killed two home invaders. Months later, while on a radio talk show, a strange caller disputes his story. From that moment, his life goes awry because he starts analyzing the series of events, all the while other events plague him. He’s involved in other crimes, playing the hero. But what is the truth? What was the real story? And who is the Bald Man?

This is a strange story that gets stranger by the page. More than a bit surreal, this one is different from the other ‘memory loss’ tales.


Kevin Swanson: 36, lawyer, has a teenage daughter, has an older Marine brother, owns an AK-47, dark thinning hair, grew up in North Carolina, father-dead-was a heart surgeon, mother-dead-was an alcoholic, owns a BMW, took martial arts as a youth

Allie Swanson: Kevin’s wife, walnut colored hair, wears glasses

Craig Montero: Kevin’s lawyer

Robert Koenig: psychologist, thin, graduate of Emory University and Georgia University, wears glasses, beard stubble, bald

Billy Horton: broadcaster, overweight, messy gray/white hair, married

Brandon Cross: 24, mentally retarded, was physically and sexually abused as a youth,

A couple minor characters use the same expression or is said to use the same expression as other characters. I think part of this can be chalked up to being part of the plot, but it maybe could have been done with less ‘obviousness’.


I found Kevin’s brother, Bobby, a little over the top. Yes, he’s an in-your-face military guy, but, especially the scene where he talks about getting mugged was a bit much. Ditto with Kevin’s conversations with the Bald Man or when faced with a desperate situation. I realize that he explains his ‘condition’ but it was a little unbelievable. Much of the profanity used in the conversations were unnecessary.


Written first person from Swanson’s POV. Profanity. Quick read. The first part of the book is mostly flashback material which, while it’s okay to use, it needs to be used sparingly. I wanted to get into some good action quicker. For much of the first third or so of the book there is a lot of flashbacks in Koenig’s office. Some misspelled words. The action scenes are quick and decisive.

However…an author shouldn’t leave his reader confused as to what the truth is. Yes, there are stories which leave you with a cliffhanger, which leave you guessing as to what might happen next but the story is, for the most part, wrapped up and explained. In this book, I thought I knew what was happening, but at the end, I really didn’t, especially about a specific incident with his wife at the very end. I was confused after the last page and while I can accept some twist and surprises, this time I didn’t understand.

Maybe this has to do with the characters and maybe this part should be in the character section because certain parties don’t act as they do in this book. Police have rules and guidelines and procedures and it wasn’t believable how they reacted to Kevin’s involvement with crime. I don’t want to play spoiler other than to say, their reactions-could?-be part of the overall plot and story. However, I think this area as well as others could have been subtler, more shaded, thereby adding strength to the writing and the story. Because I was confused at the end, this area only added to the confusion. I really enjoyed the plot and the mental games were wonderfully conceived. Because of the concerns mentioned, though, I can’t go higher than:

Camouflage Belt


Presidential Intentions

Presidential Pursuits Cover Setup.indd

By Douglas J. Wood

Pres. Pursuits Close Up Smith with Tilt Color


This is the story of the life of Samantha Harris. From her time in high school, through college, her time as a lawyer and prosecutor, and on into politics, where she ends up running for the office of United States President on the Republican ticket against Hillary Clinton. Throughout the story you see many important snippets and their affect, including her father’s death, her son’s death after an involvement in a secret mission overseen by President Bush, and her feelings regarding issues such as abortion and the death penalty.

This is not the plot I expected. I expected a campaign story, the tension, the give and take of negotiation, of lies behind the curtain and secret deals, later to be revealed. Instead, I received ‘This Is Your Life’ book.


Samantha Price Harrison: 58, 5’10”, brunette, Married, Republican candidate for President, father-a former banker-dead from bone cancer, has a brother, has a daughter, son killed overseas, attended Stanford, former employee in a law firm, former prosecutor, former House of Representative member from Virginia, former Virginia governor, high school valedictorian and senior class president

Ben Harrison: Samantha’s husband, was a Stanford professor, dying of heart failure, parents dead

Zachary Watts: Samantha’s campaign manager, former lawyer

Amanda: Samantha’s daughter, married, had an abortion

Morgan Green: Bowling Green County attorney

Some wonderful characters here. Of course, as I mentioned above, we get to see a lot of depth into Sam, but also some good stuff from Ben and Amanda. Lots of other sideline characters, even actual people such as Bush and Clinton. I wanted more from Zachary, though because he was presented as one whose ethics might be questioned. He turned out to be someone who wanted to run along the party line. That’s okay and I’m glad Sam decided to buck his system but I wanted more from him. I wasn’t too sure about Amanda’s last minute development near the end. Seemed ‘pat’ and a bit unbelievable.


I think everybody held their own. Conversations stayed to the important matters being discussed. Some of Sam’s internal dialogue was a bit much.


Chapters headed by quotes, date, and location. Some profanity. The story jumps in time from the present to various dates in the past, showing the life of Samantha. Sometimes it was distracting because there was no order to the jumps. High school to law firm to prosecutor’s office to college, etc. POV jumps within a heartbeat threw me. Solid writing otherwise with one misspelled word that I caught. The author writes very well, proper grammar and sentence structure. It was nice to read a book where I wasn’t stumbling over incorrect tag lines and punctuation flubs or too many adverbs (‘ly’ words). As I mentioned I thought this was going to be a drama not a fictional biographical account although some of the scenes were interesting. I did enjoy the courtroom battles and the scenes with Bush and Jeremy. There was no ‘action’ per se. I smirked a bit at some of the political opinions given but that didn’t affect my judgment. I debated over the rank for a bit and was going to give it a green. After rethinking, I realized that, because I give lower ranks to weak writing, I have to take into account the strong writing of this one, so even though it didn’t play out the way I expected, I’ll give this a

Purple Belt


The Insanity Plea


By Larry D. Thompson



Dan Little has suffered paranoid schizophrenia for years. When he’s arrested for murder, he calls his younger brother for assistance. A lawyer in Houston, Wayne reluctantly steps in for the defense. With a former basketball star turned attorney, a computer hacker and another partner, Wayne starts gathering materials for an insanity defense. The opposition isn’t sitting still. The killer is still out there…and the star witness for the prosecution.

I didn’t reveal any spoilers here since you know who the bad guy is right away. This is good standard courtroom thriller with a hard look at mental illness.


Wayne Little: civil trial lawyer, once a prosecutor, drives a Nissan Armada, lean, muscular, black hair, gray eyes, 6’4”, played basketball in high school, attended Texas University the University of Houston, dad dead

Dan Little: Wayne’s older half brother, former lawyer, suffers from schizophrenia, played football in high school, attended UT law, divorced

Duke Romack: black, lawyer, former NBA player, 6’10”, drives a Lincoln Navigator

Claudia Jackson: black, lawyer who works with Little, Duke’s girlfriend, Harvard Law,

Rita Contreras: 28, 5’4”, black hair, second generation Mexican, attended University of Houston, Master in computer science, lives next door to Wayne, former private investigator

Frederick Parke: early 50s, sandy blond hair, criminal profiler, likes skiing, owns a Hummer and a Corvette, holds a doctorate, 6′ tall, teaches at the University of Colorado

Katherine Rasmussen: assistant district attorney, fundamentalist Christian, stocky, gray hair, round face

Harry Klein: mid fifties, Little’s former employer, District Attorney, large frame

Too many books have characters who blend. Here we have a nice cross section of ethnic and gender blends. Yes, most of Little’s associates are lawyers, but each comes from a different background.


Pretty good voices from each of the characters. Some of the sentences seem a bit forced or trite, but it’s not too bad. Conversations stay on point, don’t wander.


Relatively short chapters. A bit of, but not much, profanity. Omniscient POV. There were no real twists or surprises and I hoped for something. Pretty even keel throughout. Good tension with the killer. Sometimes, internal dialogue ran long and sounded unnatural. A few minor grammar errors but nothing distracting. As mentioned above, this is solid story with some fine characters.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


The Cull-Bloodline


By Eric J. Gates

Eric J Gates


When a serial killer, known as the Blood Sucker kills the partner of FBI Agent Amy Bree, she is forced out of the Bureau. In short order, she is returned to work by an enigmatic Monsignor with connections to the Vatican. She’s partnered with a computer hacker formerly of the NSA. Together, they continue the search for the Blood Sucker. Unbeknownst to them, the killer is also hunting them. To further cloud the issue, they aren’t getting the full story of just what kind of monster is on the loose.

Oh no! Not another vampire story. Weeelll, yes and no. I won’t play spoiler, but this plot is, for me, better than some of vamp stuff I’ve read in the past.


Amy Bree: FBI agent in the Behavioral Science Unit, attended M.I.T., intelligent, likes puzzles, father worked at a hotel, grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine, has a younger brother

Santiago Cancelli: Monsignor, works out of the Vatican, late 40s, Spanish mother, Italian father, studied in Madrid and Rome, parents were murdered

Katie Lindon: 62, short, frail, spiky gray hair, gray eyes, teeth stained, in the story near the beginning she becomes Amy’s partner, father worked father worked as CIA station chief in Britain, mother was British, excellent computer hacker, formerly with the NSA, wears glasses, suffers from migraines

Marshall: Director of the FBI, overweight, sexist

Hugo DiConti: French, Jesuit priest

I really enjoyed Katie. Spicy. Intelligent. Strong-willed. I liked Amy’s intelligence but I didn’t really ‘see’ her, maybe because I didn’t get a physical description.

Good mix of characters. Generational type personalities from senior Katie to youthful Amy. I would have like some physical descriptions about Amy. Didn’t really get a mental image. No first name for Marshall. I liked DiConti except for the reasons listed below.


Not too bad for character voices. I don’t think conversations diverted into left field but dialogue was a bit wordy and ‘lecture-ish’ when building up to explanations and the climax.


Chapters vary in length. Some punctuation problems, misuse of semi-colons and other minor examples. Some misspelled words. Some overuse of ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words, uh, especially (sorry, couldn’t think of another word) during the action scenes, although those scenes show good tension. A couple instances of profanity. I mention this next one because I catch it more often in books nowadays as, of late, we have been discussing it in my writers group. Actions that are put together that shouldn’t or can’t go together. This is not a real example, but the type I see a lot in this book: ‘He entered the room, putting down the book.’ This implies that both actions are going on at the same time and in this case they can but it doesn’t sound good. Make this sentence either two sentences or change the tense of the present action to past. I also saw a few instances where a series of verbs needed to be the same tense within the same sentence.

Reviews shouldn’t be about ‘what I would have like to have seen’, even though I do insert a bit of this from time to time. What I mean is, I try not to say, “Well, the plot should have had this or the author should not have included this part. Or it would have been better if the main character did such-and-such.” I’m not here to say what I would have done had I written this.

This being mentioned, I would have like to have seen more suspense or shadowy plans made by DiConti and his secret dark operatives in the Vatican. The reason I mention this is because-and this relates to Character-I liked DiConti and because he was referenced by Katie-and disliked by her-I wanted more of his behind the scenes schemes. For being a thorn in Cancelli’s side, he has a minor role.

This reminded me of J. Thompson’s, Night Blood. I haven’t read it-yet-but reading the back cover blurb, this book runs a ragged parallel. Gates has taken the historical views of vampires and given it a different spin. It’s intriguing and a lot better than some of the ‘traditional’ stuff, some of which has been popular in recent years. This is the beginning of a series and it might be worth taking a look at book two.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


The Origin Of Murder


By Jerold Last



While vacationing in the Galapagos Islands, private investigator Roger Bowman and his professor wife become engaged in a murder mystery when a dead body is found floating of one of the islands. With a ship full of passengers, there’s no end to the suspects. Naval officers with suspicious stories? San Francisco sisters who are more intelligent than they act? An over friendly tour guide? Then, two more bodies are discovered, with the same M.O. Who’s safe? Are the murders related to drugs? Illegal fishing? And just what connection might there be to a previous murder occurring a week before the Bowmans arrived?

Murders in foreign lands always give me pause. But this one sounded exotic enough to try. I like the remote location. Different from the typical estate in the country. Stuck on a ship in the islands brings a new angle to a mystery.


Roger Bowman: 6’2”, 190 pounds, married with son, private investigator, owns two dogs, fluent in Spanish, former detective with the LAPD, kows martial arts

Barbara Kaufman: speaks Spanish, has a sister, studied at the U. of California-Berkley, lives in San Francisco, works at a publishing house, dark hair, brown eyes, pretty

Suzanne: Roger’s wife, biochemistry professor at UCLA, father dead, inherited wealth, 5’8”, athletic, long blonde hair, fluent in Spanish

Bruce: 5’7”, nanny for the Bowman’s son, former navy SEAL, homosexual

Raul Vonhorst: early 30s, handsome, knows many languages, lives in Quito, tour guide

Vincente Aleman: Brigadier General in the Ecudorian Air Force

Michael Smart: recently married, lives on a Naval base, Lt. Commander

Linda Smart: Michael’s wife

A nice variety of characters. A world-wide cast. You learn bits and pieces about each as the story progresses. One problem I had was that Suzanne and Bruce were too prevalent. Roger’s the PI and former homicide detective, yet his wife plays logician in discussing the murders and Bruce does the snooping. I wanted more of Roger’s knowledge and investigative abilities shown. Instead, he’s relegated to an almost second tier character.


Lengthy, lecture type conversations when dealing with historical details. Interesting, but run on and needed to be broken up into shorter paragraphs. When these lectures occur, there are no distinction of character voices. Everybody sounded like a museum guide. Even a lot of the normal conversations weren’t natural but rather more like an information dump. Too wordy and explanatory. There was a discussion between Roger and Aleman that sounded more like an interview than a chat. Also, in some of the conversations, facts or information were given which had been previously given or known.


Titled chapters with quotes from Darwin. First person from Roger’s POV. There wass a lot of switching tenses. This is just an example, not an actual pair of sentences from the book: I walked into town. The town is big.

There was a LOT of information overload. A plethora of factoids about the Galapagos and Ecuador and though I like a bit of history and education in my mysteries and adventures, this was was like wading through an encyclopedia with a bit of murder thrown in to break up the lectures. Most of it had nothing to do with the plot or moving the story forward. Even the information regarding the suspects came in chunks that nobody would divulge so freely at one time, or at last in that manner. A couple of punctuation errors, but nothing distracting. No profanity. There is too much build up time to the climax. Way too much unnecessary information (with more factoids) and discussion regarding the mission Bruce takes to get needed evidence.

My Rank:

Green Belt


On The Rocks With A Twist


By Jay Stritch



Alex, a freshman at university is invited into and subsequently accepted by a circle of four other students who tend to live live in as free manner as possible. However, they each harbor secrets and hide problems that, as time passes, become more suspicious to Alex. When Alex discovers evidence they’re involved in crimes, will his reactions and decisions get him into more trouble?

I’m not quite sure what to think of this plot, especially the way it was presented. I don’t see this plot a lot but it is familiar. This was taken from a bit different angle than others and there was a touch of surreal-ness to it.


Alex Longley: university student, works at the campus cafe, parents died when he was eleven

Diana Dakin: university student, beautiful, long curly hair, tried to be a Hollywood actress

Ben: university student, tall, claims his grandfather was the conductor on the Titanic, says he owns a cat

Leo Sasik: university student, smokes, plays guitar

Rose Dakin: university student, Diana’s sister

Peter Beck: university student

I felt I was looking at the characters through a very thin veil. None were entirely clear or focused. Leo, I thought, was the strongest and I so I was able to see him in a less blurred light. The rest didn’t come off strong enough to be…relevant. I didn’t feel a connection to them. Their roles were not distinctive enough to show me that they mattered. Alex had a crush on Diana so she was next in line for strength, but the author kept her so hidden and subdued. Peter and Rose, though included in the group, didn’t stand out, had no personality that grabbed me.


There are individual voices to the characters but the differences are subtle and could be stronger. Leo’s is the most distinctive because he’s a strong character. I kept looking for a point to the conversations, a reason, that they moved along the story.


Titled chapters. Story told as if Alex is speaking to the reader.

Okay, I have a slight issue with some of the problems in the writing. I was offered a free download and in this version there was a plethora of problems an editor should have caught. Punctuation/sentence problems, especially in dialogue. Where there should be a period there is a comma as if the conversation is continuing, but the sentence is new. Or sometimes there is a comma at the end of a sentence as if it is introducing the dialogue but it should be a period. Tag lines sometimes are capitalized when they shouldn’t be (…” She said.), or there are lines acting as tag lines that shouldn’t be. Misspelled words. Some sentences run on when there should be a definite period and break. This makes it difficult to stay ‘in’ the story. Incorrect words (‘then’ instead of ‘than’).

So, I’m about at the halfway point when the author writes back and mentions that some of the problems have been corrected, i.e. misspelled words. I requested three sample chaps to check on the others mentioned above. Although I didn’t see any misspelled words (I certainly hope they were corrected throughout because diamonds are not weighed in carrots), there is still the problems with tag lines. Not as bad in the chapters I reviewed again, but still existing.

I did enjoy the ‘twist’ at the end and actually, without playing spoiler, there is a double twist which set it up for a future happy ending.

There isn’t much ‘action’ as in shoot ‘em up/explosions. A lot of explanation, conversation, introspection. I don’t think the story dragged as much as I wanted a bit of action, some deep tension that I could grab hold of and ride with.

I’m left with the problem of ranking. The corrected misspellings and some of the tag lines helped. I debated a long while about this because, like a previous story with a lot of problems I had to be fair to the potential reader and to my decision regarding previous ranks given based on the problems encountered. Thinking about it in this way, before the corrections I really should have given this an Orange belt. But I will give a benefit of the doubt to the corrects said to have been fixed and based on what I’ve seen and other issues involved here, I’ll have to stick with:

My Rank:

Yellow Belt


Baron Franklyn Must Die


By Allen Scudwry

author photo


It is the 24th century. Mankind has traveled and inhabited many planets. And wherever the population goes, crime follows. A drug kingpin known as the Baron has gone untouched by authorities for years. Now, two Interpol Agents, Susan Myers and James Banahan, are tasked with bringing down the crime lord. However, they’re not the only people interested in the Baron. An enigmatic individual, by the name of Weston, is on the trail.

This is your galaxy. This is your galaxy on drugs. Lol. Just kidding. So many sci-fi books are about conquering races and civil wars and kingdoms falling and it was nice to see a change of pace to, basically, a police investigation of a narcotics dealer.


Susan Myers: Interpol Agent, parents murdered when she was a child, excellent marksman

James Banahan: Interpol Agent, around middle age, atheist

Weston: vigilante, large build,

Franklyn: drug kingpin, round features, has the title of Baron

Bramnst Pedersen: suffering from drug abuse, incarcerated in mental institution

Only surface detail on the characters. There is background info on Myers, but I didn’t ‘see’ any of the characters because there were scant physical descriptions. ‘Large’ or ‘rotund’ or ’round’ does not convey very much. You get a sense of Banahan’s serious demeanor but the baddie could be so much more ‘bad’. Franklyn’s minions could be so much much more oily and nasty or if they’re sycophants, show that aspect. I like Weston but not much is told about him. Countless pages of background information are not needed, but give me something more. Also, there is one scene that confused me about Franklyn. He’s a drug lord, a criminal, yet his assistant had to explain what Interpol was? Unless there is hidden meaning here, one would expect a criminal to understand law enforcement.


Some tag lines have extra stuff, either an action or telling the reader the way the dialogue was spoken. Not just through ‘ly’ adverbs, but other wordy descriptions. Some of this is unnecessary as the tension of the scene should convey the attitude of the speaker. There are instances where the first word of the continuation of dialogue after a tag should have been capitalized because the line is a separate sentence from the one before the tag.


Titled chapters. At times, narrator jumps from 3rd person close to 3rd person overview and back again. A bit distracting when it should stay close. Some unnecessary profanity. There was a saturation of ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ words, in particular in the chapterat the mental institution. Once noticed, it was difficult not to spot them at every opportunity. Once noticed, the realization dawned of how the entire writing style lacks strength. Sentences could be tighter, some of the wordiness deleted. I did enjoy some of the descriptions which helped bring me into the story because I could visualize the scene better. With sci-fi, this is a must and I think this story contained some fine detail. The technology was not ‘in your face’ or over the top, but believable. The aliens were interesting enough and held my attention.I considered long and hard about the rank, but the more I read, the more I couldn’t get past the weakness of the writing. Usually when I give a rank this low, there are spelling errors and punctuation problems, but despite some good points, I have to be fair and give this a:

Yellow Belt


Tables Turned


By Ian David Oakes



A woman who, for weeks has seen a gang of teenagers vandalize and terrorize her neighbors, ambushes one of them when one of the vandals breaks into her house. All she wants is the answer to one question: Why?

It’s a short story with not much depth. Yet, there is a bit. I expected a bit of a tale of avenging and redemption or a twist. Again, there is a bit of both.


Unnamed woman: husband dead, has an eight year old son, works at Starbuck’s, smokes

Rosie Greene: 16, black hair, has a sister

Other minor characters. Surface information. No name for the main character but in one sense, the name may not be needed because the reader can put him/herself in the role of the woman and see things from her point of view a bit better. However, I didn’t see as much depth as I would have liked from Rosie. I see the ‘character development’ an author strives for in Rosie, but I wanted it drawn out more. Could have drawn out the woman’s relationship with her husband a bit more and shown how that affected her current life.


Forced. For a story like this, I wanted the dialogue between the woman and Rosie to be drawn out a bit more, some ups and downs. There is some, but not enough to really grab me and shake me up. I wanted more intrigue, more cleverness.


Present tense, first person from the main character’s POV for most of the story. Short chapters. Quick read. Profanity. I wanted more give and take, more depth, more ups and downs in the tension. This is the type of story that the reader wants to get excited about reading. How far does the woman go? How far will she go? Does Rosie have some clever plan up her sleeve? There’s little action and surface drama. Because it’s written from the woman’s POV, I didn’t get to be inside Rosie’s head and thoughts and feelings until the end. By that time, I knew what was happening. The irony in the story at the end was good but the main story lacked meat. Yes, it’s a short story and an author can do only so much with shorts, but this could have been a little longer and been more grabbing.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


Following The Scent

Book cover

By Lena M. Pate

Lena with frame


Maggie Foster does double duty for both the Dallas County morgue and as a CID photographer. She’s also trying to be a private investigator. So, her life is busy. She’s involved with: a gangster connected to human trafficking, a serial killer of coeds, gathering evidence on a cheating husband, and an enigmatic handsome man who intrudes upon her life. Are they all connected?

A lot going on here. I had to stay focused to take it all in. However, I think it’s an interesting mix of baddies up against Maggie and the good guys.


Maggie Foster: Works for the Dallas County morgue, starting a private investigator’s business, freelance photographer for the Dallas Criminal Investigations Division, short brown hair, has a brother, drives a van, lives in an apartment, owns two dogs, parents own a farm, dad fishes, mom paints, has a lack belt in martial arts

Oscar: bodyguard, chauffeur, burly, Mexican, ugly, scars and acne pits on his face

Moe: a bit overweight, cop

Larry: cop, tall, thin, wavy black hair

Ted: computer programmer, blond, geeky looking

Donald Campbell: ex military, wife murdered, auburn hair, handsome

Some characters don’t have last names. I like Moe the best. At the stressful times, I wanted to see more emotion from Maggie and have it linger through the next scenes. Most of the characters don’t exhibit enough emotion for me to get a feel for. I don’t want to spoil anything but two kidnapped girls don’t act as if they’ve been held for a long period of time. When Maggie and the two little girls are running from the bad guy, I don’t feel the fear and the exhaustion and the hardship from them while on their journey.


Sometimes the dialogue doesn’t feel natural or fitting to the situation at times. Where I would expect contractions, there aren’t any. This may be the way some people speak but it was a bit distracting. Some of the bad guy conversations aren’t natural, too wordy for menacing and murderous. Maggie, being the main character, has a distinctive voice. Moe does, too.


First person from Maggie’s POV for much of the book, third person POV from other characters in some scenes. Written in present tense. Interesting phrases: the man was ‘lower than my grandma’s panty hose crotch.’ Lots of good country or southern words. Some misspelled words and errors in grammar especially with tag lines. Lots of ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words that could be eliminated or tightened up with the present tense style. Sometimes when using ‘ing’ words there is action where there shouldn’t or couldn’t be. ‘…he says while sipping his tea.’ No, you aren’t speaking while sipping at the same time. There’s a bit of this now and then. No profanity although there are derogatory terms used. Action is quick.

My Ranking:

Green Belt



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