Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tracking A Shadow

Final_Design_Web

By R. Weir

SONY DSC

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MQHVKJA

Plot

Denver private investigator Jarvis Mann accepts an assignment from consultant Emily White to track down a stalker. There are several suspects including an ex husband and a former coworker. The intrigue grows when a construction boss with suspected ties to the mob enters the picture.

Pretty standard fare with the expecting twists and turns and lies and falsehoods. As I’ve written before, I don’t care if the plot has been done countless times, if it’s a good story it can still be enjoyable.

Characters

Jarvis Mann: private investigator, owns a 1969 Mustang, athletic build, 6′, 180 pounds, has had martial arts training, grew up in West Des Moines (bonus points! Lol), studied criminology at Denver University, worked security, parents dead, has an older brother

Emily White: divorced, 30s, long brown-blonde hair, blue eyes, works for a retail consulting firm, drives a BMW

Tony Bristol: Emily’ lawyer, 6’2”, slender, short brown hair with gray temples

Mark Remington: Emily’s ex husband, has a sister, worked in construction, curly blond hair, dark brown eyes, played football and baseball in high school and college, parents dead, left handed

Rickie Ward: Emily’s former co-worker, 5’9”, slender, brown-red hair, works for a consulting firm

Brandon Sparks: owns Sparks Builders, 6’2”, 250 pounds, 50s, flat face, nose scars, short graying auburn hair

A nice cast with some expected good guys and bad guys and minor characters. Some good descriptions on most…except for Jarvis. Other than his build I didn’t get a picture of his looks. The author put in enough characters to make the story complex without it getting confusing.

I did roll my eyes in disbelief at one minor character (and I’m not playing spoiler here) who needed to go to the bathroom. However, there were people with guns in the bathroom and when she sees the weapons she asks how long the people and their situation was going to last because she had to really pee. She acted like those with the guns were having a discussion about a broken toilet. A normal person would either scream (as with the previous lady in the restroom) or run away.

Dialogue

I wasn’t too sure about the dialogue. Many conversations seemed just a bit off. I know authors don’t write exactly how people actually talk, but there has to be a natural-ness to conversations and many in this story are a shade or two off. I noticed this in the first conversation between Emily and Jarvis. For a woman who has gone through a stalking incident before her emotions, words, and manner didn’t reflect the expected concern or fear. The initial meeting sounded more like a business discussion instead of a woman afraid of another stalker. There were other conversations akin to this. Some of the characters just didn’t sound like I would have expected. Sometimes that’s okay but others I question.

Part of the problem is that many characters don’t use contractions when they ought to. Again, sometimes that’s okay but other times the sentence sounds stilted and too formal for the tone of the conversation.

I didn’t hear very many distinctive voices. They all sound like I mentioned above. A couple characters use the phrase ‘clean his clock’ or ‘clean your clock’, which I don’t think anybody says anymore and is too cliché to be used by two people.

Many characters, at one point, speak for a lengthy period. Line after line with no breaks either in explanation or pleading. Again, not the way normal people speak.

Writing

First person from Mann’s POV. Some profanity.

The only slow(er) parts of the story were: A) the party scene. I didn’t care for the extensive info/conversation with the number of guests included. B) the stakeout scene about 80% of the way through. Sometimes the kind of music a P.I. listens to adds to the story and character but in this one I didn’t care. I was more interested in Mann’s thoughts about the case and if figured out something.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

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Swan Deception

Swan Deception_A psychological thriller_400x638

By Glede Kabongo

Author Photo_Glede Kabongo_b&w

http://www.gledekabongo.com

Plot

Shelby Cooper has a past she’d like to keep hidden. Of course, it won’t be. Her troubles begin when she tries to help a friend disappear from a bad marriage. Said friend ends up dead in her automobile trunk. Shelby is arrested for murder. Her husband, Jason, takes steps to prove her innocence. The troubles aren’t over for her family as her daughter, Abbie, has to contend with a stalker and Jason has problems with a coworker. Oh, and let’s not forget about Jason’s past.

A lot going on here. Some interesting sidelines, but a concern I had was it jumped right into matters with hardly any set up. Sometimes that works but I felt like I do when I watch many British mysteries…as if I’ve come in part way into the story and should already understand what is happening.

Characters

Shelby Durant Cooper: 40, black, has a doctorate, large eyes, works in bioinformatics, drives a Mercedes, owns a motorcycle, owns a Golden Retriever, attended Duke and Johns Hopkins, has a brother

Jason Cooper: black, Shelby’s husband, handsome, CFO for Orphion Technologies, father worked for a brokerage firm, has a sister, attended Duke and Texas University

Abbie Cooper: 15, Shelby’s daughter, black hair

Miles Cooper: 11, Shelby’s son

Andrew Clarke: banker, volunteer fireman, large frame, married

Mia Lansing: black, blonde, wears colored contacts, smokes electronic cigarettes, freckles

Greg Marr: co-founder of Bryant International, fit, tanned, salt and pepper hair

Dr. Singer: psychiatrist, attended Harvard, mostly white hair, married with children, owns a dog

Tom Bilko: private investigator, former cop, 6’5”, large arms

Vivian March: Shelby’s friend, thin, art consultant, attended the Art Institute of Chicago

Rayne Revington: 20s, bachelor’s in education, taught kindergarten, brown eyes

Shelby has a stalker who’s making over threats and she acts like she’s a former covert agent. Yes, she’s fearful, but her actions match a professional operative rather than a research assistant/mother. That’s fine, but the reader needs to know that she’s been an operative at the outset. Otherwise, the character comes off as not believable.

Dialogue

The first couple of conversations between Shelby and the bad guy didn’t seem right. Yes, Shelby has a range of emotions because of these conversations, but it’s not exhibited in the dialogue, especially the first encounter. I didn’t see the fear and confusion.

Abbie doesn’t sound fifteen at times, but several years older.

Some of the dialogue sounds forced.

Writing

Book divided up into title Parts. Part of the story is first person from Shelby’s POV. Other parts are third person. Relatively short chapters. Profanity. Written in present tense from Shelby’s POV, past tense when it’s third person. One or two times the tense gets switched within one part.

One of the problems I had with the story is the secondary plot regarding one of Shelby’s friends and her efforts to help him and his daughters disappear. The situation is introduced almost as if the reader should know everything about it. There is very little background information. Again, the way Shelby reacts doesn’t fit her character. How would she know to arrange the things she arranges? Plus, the reason for the disappearance isn’t explained. There’s spousal abuse, but I wouldn’t think that would necessarily warrant a trip abroad. Plus, it’s later revealed the guy was going back to his home country, which would be an obvious choice if anybody cared to investigate.

Continuity error: Abbie blocks a boy from texting her on her cell phone and doesn’t reverse the action. Yet days later she receives a text from him.

Some grammar and punctuations errors.

I mentioned some subplots above and I wonder if there aren’t too many. This reads like a soap opera with connections spider-webbing off. This gets complex but there was enough to keep me interested.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

Murder, Mayhem, And Bliss

Murder,Mayhem and Bliss- Amz - ebook

By Loulou Harrington

yellow hat-1

www.loulouharrington.com

Plot

Auto dealership bigwig Harold Kerr is found dead in his pool. Of course the wife, Bliss, is the first suspect in what turns out to be murder. She’s also part of a wealthy family in the oil business that includes her great aunt Vivian Windsor. Vivian and Jesselyn Camden, partner in a tea room/coffee shop, and other members of an impromptu ‘garden club’ will try to solve the mystery. And there are several suspects: Harold’s former business partner; someone connected to a nude photo of one of Harold’s affairs; jealous exes.

Nice small town murder in a small town atmosphere. The amateur detective (or in this case, detectives) vs the cops who just want them to leave things alone. But, of course, they never do. A nice plot that doesn’t get to complex.

Characters

Jesselyn Camden: 50, operates a tea room/coffee shop and an antique shop, shoulder length light brown/blonde hair, green eyes, drives an old pickup, divorced

Sophia Camden: 69, Jesselyn’s mother, cook and helps with the shops, green eyes, white blonde

Bliss Windsor Kerr: brown eyes, parents dead

Vivian Windsor: Bliss’ great aunt, family is in the oil business, husband dead, wheat blonde hair, son died in an auto accident

Joe Tyler: sheriff, deep voice, drives a pickup

Arnie Holt: county medical examiner

SueAnn Bailey: waitress, 19, redhead, freckled

Bill Marshall: former partner in Harold Kerr’s dealership, drives a black Cadillac

Cindilee Marshall: Bill’s wife, wheelchair bound, blue eyes

Maria Ortiz: administrative assistant at the dealership, dark brown eyes, has a degree in business, drives a red convertible Mustang

I know, I know. Jesse is the main character, but I loved Vivian. She stood out so well. I enjoyed at the beginning how her southern charm and grand dame attitude is roughened when everybody just walks right into her house without calling first. Then when she got her spunkiness (if I can create a word here) up I just wanted more.

I guess Jesse came across as younger than fifty for some reason.

Dialogue

Some overuse of ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ words in tag lines. Some pretty good voices. Vivian’s and SueAnn’s come through well as does the gruff, exasperated sheriff.

Writing

Profanity. A few punctuation errors.

Two questions that I had that seemed to have gotten bypassed. 1. Jesse’s mother was anxious that Jesse get downstairs to help in the coffee shop on the morning of the first day. Then Jesse leaves to go to Vivian’s soon afterward. Then Sophia shows up. The question is: Who’s minding the store? I suppose if the time was after three, it would have been closed for the day.

2. Alcohol plays a role in this story and when a bunch of the women are at Vivian’s they go through, what I think was, a fair amount of daiquiris. The question is: Did nobody see anything wrong with two of them driving home?

However, those were just a couple of questions that don’t really take down the story, just stuff I caught.

I really enjoyed the southern-type life, the very light humor. Other than a few minor errors, it’s very clean and tight. There is real potential here for a good series. With the number of members in the club, there are scads of possible angles for future murder mysteries.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

The Hunt For The Dingo

cover

By P. J. Nash

author

http://www.amazon.com/Hunt-Dingo-P-J-Nash/dp/0992938740/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415453046&sr=8-1&keywords=the+hunt+for+the+dingo

Plot

Years ago a serial killer dubbed the Dingo, terrorized the Northern Territory of Australia.

On a routine investigation a Constable discovers the body of a young woman with the same signatures as the other victims. Is the Dingo back? Lawrence James, ex British cop and top investigator, is called in. With the help of Jesse Sanders, a criminal psychologist, and an ex reporter, he’ll sort through previous cases and current evidence to track down a murderer.

However, James has other problems. He’s been targeted by Cyrus Bain, a career criminal, and the man who recently shot him during a raid.

Okay, that’s the basic plot. Unfortunately, the further I went into the book, the more other stuff got in the way and as mentioned later, the plot fell apart. Some flashbacks that confused me. The story kept diverting away from the Dingo to see what Bain was up to next and, in my view, relegated the serial killer angle to second place.

Characters

Lawrence James: Intelligence Liaison Officer from the Serious Crimes Squad, ex British cop, ex smoker (except when he drinks)

Jesse Sandersen: criminal psychologist, has a Ph.d, professor at Melbourne University, author, smokes

Dan Collins: police officer with the title of Constable, married

Allan ‘Toohey’ Campbell: Collins’ partner, 6’6”

Cyrus Bain: 38, criminal, almost 6′ tall, green eyes, smokes cigars, has a daughter

Adrian Marsh: ex criminal reporter

Lots of other characters, some minor, some with medium sized roles.

James, supposedly the main character, didn’t turn out that strong. He spent much of his time by himself and catching up on the investigation after others had done their jobs. (Yes, I realize the seclusion was for his own safety, but if he’s the main character…) Sandersen, the second ‘main’ character was almost uninvolved. The relationship between the two changed too abruptly, then they separated. Marsh, it seemed, did most of the investigating, then reported to James.

One character I didn’t understand was the female television reporter whose child is kidnapped. She has a connection to Bain but I didn’t quit comprehend or believe, her attitude about her child being taken. In fact, the entire kidnapping confused me.

The more the story went along, the more these characters acted out of the ordinary. Bain wants to kill James then doesn’t when he has the chance. James’ boss’ reaction is, “Oh well, get back to work.” James’ reaction is, “Okay.” Huh? He spends most of the book hiding out from a guy who wants to whack him then all of a sudden puts him on the back burner? There was a point I about called it quits on this book because some of these people were off the wall, and not in a humorous way.

Dialogue

One instance of missed quotes.

Too many extra stuff after tag lines. One instance had …said with a smile. Then: …said with an appreciative smile. Then: …said with obvious pride in his voice. Three of these in a row. And, there are many other additions of a tag line with long action bits afterward. Sometimes it’s okay and helps the reader stay in scene, but if there are too many, the reader tends to lose focus on the important stuff. Plus, sometimes stuff that is mentioned after the tag lines can’t happen because it’s indicated that the action is happening at the same time as the dialogue: …he said, exhaling smoke from his nostrils. Really? He said something and exhaled through his nostrils at the same time? Good trick.

This is the third book in a row where I’ve run into instances of two tag lines for the same speaker in one paragraph of dialogue: “Well that’s probably the best offer I’m going to get in this one-horse town,” said Sandersen with a smile. “I’ll let you get yourself together and give you a call in say half-an-hour,” she said…

The second tag is not needed because the reader already knows who’s speaking. And again, there is a long action sentence after the second tag line which probably should be its own paragraph.

Speaking of tags, and again, I’ve mentioned this in a recent review, ‘said’ is a perfectly good tag. No need to insert other vocalizations. This book had too many uses of ‘added’, especially when it’s the first tag in a conversation. You can’t add to your side of the conversation if you haven’t spoken yet.

Writing

Sections are headed by location. Some missing punctuation and other punctuation problems. Profanity. Long paragraphs. Some repetitious words here and there.

Continuity problem: In the early part of the book, the serial killer had taken four victims in the first spree. Later, the number changes to five.

Much of the plot is not believable, because even with creative license, the events just would not happen or be allowed. One example is: a vicious criminal is put into a Supermax Prison for fifteen years minimum before parole would be considered is allowed to be interviewed unshackled and without handcuffs at a television station, which subsequently provides opportunity for escape.

The difficulty in reading this book, as well as others with similar mistakes or things that don’t work, is that, I discover said mistakes early. Trying to finish the book with them glaring at me is arduous. For instance, in this book, most of the stuff mentioned above was found in the first 20% and continued throughout. Plus, the above mentioned un-believable plot just kept getting more so the longer I read.

For awhile I contemplated Yellow, then Orange, but by two-thirds of the way through all of the errors and things that just didn’t work added up to drop out the bottom.

My Rank:

White Belt

White

Prodigal Son

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00067]

By Kathleen Lopez

http://www.facebook.com/imkathleenlopez


Plot

Sheriff Martin Shuller returns home after solving a murder in a neighboring town. Soon, he’s involved in a new romance…and a new murder.

That’s pretty much it. About half and half between the murder mystery and the developing romance. However, there really isn’t any ‘mystery’. The killer is known and the procedural part is fairly easy.

Characters

Martin Shuller: sheriff, 6’1”, has a sister and a brother

Jeanie Jacobs: firehouse dispatcher, has a sister, drives a pickup

Vivian Nash: 67, widow

Levi Swanson: auto mechanic, drives a Mustang, adopted as a child, played football in high school, parents dead

Pretty pat characters. Martin’s reaction’s to the murder are just a bit unbelievable. He just came off of a gruesome murder and now this one, even though it’s a close friend who is the victim, really rocks him. Maybe part of it has to do with the ending, but the man is a cop for heaven’s sake.

Dialogue

Tag lines that can’t be tag lines. Error of POV in one tag line: “Take your time, Viv,” the shadow yelled back, hearing another clank of the knocker as he released it.–The POV starts with Vivian in the scene. This tag line shows the POV from the person on the other side of the door. It’s too abrupt a change if that is what is meant and the hearing of the knocker is unimportant anyway.

Two pieces of dialogue with the same person speaking do not need two separate tag lines if they’re in the same paragraph of dialogue. (“Looks like we can make it to the car before the heavy stuff hits,” he said. “Wanna make a break for it?” he said nodding to Levi.) In this instance, the second tag line isn’t needed.

Writing

A lot of misspelled words or wrong words. (Sometimes the words should be past tense but are present tense or needed an ‘ed’.) (A humorous misspell was the sentence in a piece of dialogue that Levi said while telling a story about when he was playing in the hay barn as a child: “I was fighting some epic battle or something; ducting and jumping between the stacks.” Now, I assume he was ducking between the stacks rather than putting in ventilation pipes. Another is that Shuller ‘…kept taking one or two peaks out the window.’ One that confused me was: ‘…the paramedics flacked her, and gingerly lifted her from the floor.’) (‘Inhale’ is not a noun. Inhalation is the noun.)

An instance or three of profanity. Not much, though. Grammar problems.

About a third of the way through, there was an abrupt scene change and an abrupt POV change that threw me.

Time problems: In one chapter Shuller and Jeanie are at a movie at the beginning of the film. At the same time, Levi is shown breaking into a house and the owner pulls a gun on him. The next scene is after the movie and Shuller and Jeanie leave the theatre. The next scene picks up with Levi, still with a gun on him. Really? The house owner and Levi both stood there for at least an hour and a half?

In one scene, Shuller see cops drive over to the murder victim’s house. In the next scene, a friend of the victim’s discovers the body and calls the police. (Yes, I’ve seen this type of writing done before, but here I don’t think it works.)

Except for the beginning of the book, where Shuller has solved a crime (happens before the story begins but mentioned at the beginning), nearly half the book goes by before there is any real action. Long set up scenes. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the ‘corpse on page two’ idea, but I remember another book written by a prolific series writer that I stopped reading (and never read her again) when the body didn’t show up until page 75.

In general the writing could have been a lot tighter. There are some sentences that, while not technically incorrect, just aren’t very smooth. Usually this is because of repetitious words. (Too many ‘headed over’ and ‘head out’ phrases, and ‘the boys’ in reference to both the police investigators and the firehouse crew.)

I realize that automobiles often are considered ‘female’, even muscle cars. That’s fine, but when the car is referred to as ‘her’ instead of ‘it’, the reader may be confused, especially if used in the same paragraph as when the driver of the car passed ‘her house’. I know that the ‘her’ is not referring to the car’s house but a person’s. However, the constant word ‘her’ is one of those tightening up areas needed.

There is an interesting twist at the end, but I don’t think there were enough clues to let the reader be truly shocked, so I think it ends up being too pat. Plus, with everything else wrong with this book, the twist can’t raise the rank above:

White Belt

White