Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Surgeon’s Son

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By Catherine Putsche

Catherine Putsche

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

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.

Writing

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

White

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Trigger Finger

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By Jackson Spencer Bell

photo

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JS6W668

Plot

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.

Characters

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’.

Dialogue

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.

Writing

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

Camo

Presidential Intentions

Presidential Pursuits Cover Setup.indd

By Douglas J. Wood

Pres. Pursuits Close Up Smith with Tilt Color

http://www.amazon.com/Presidential-Intentions-Douglas-J-Wood/dp/1484926528/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398880038&sr=8-1&keywords=Presidential+Intentions

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

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

Writing

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

Purple

The Insanity Plea

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By Larry D. Thompson

UF4-024-45

http://www.amazon.com/The-Insanity-Plea-Larry-Thompson-ebook/dp/B00K60LZE4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1400047688&sr=8-4&keywords=larry+d+thompson

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

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.

Writing

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

Blue