Monthly Archives: July 2015

Think Murder


By Cassidy Salem


Adina Donati works at a think tank in Washington, D.C. One night she and a friend go out for drinks and the friend ends up dead in the restroom. In time, Donati comes to believe that the project on which her friend was working may relate to her murder. When she begins investigating, she puts herself in danger.

Basic plot. Not complex or intricate.

Adina Donati: 25, administrative assistant for Drake University for Policy Planning and Research, dark wavy hair, fair complexion, brown eyes, enjoys photography, fluent in several languages

Jonathan Saks: Homicide detective, average features, former New York cop

Daniel Sullivan: lawyer, tall, dark hair and eyes, homosexual

Kaye Blunt: Human Resources Director at Adina’s employer

Matt Murphy: Director of Energy Programs, mid fifties, large stomach, has five children

Grayson: has the title of Doctor, director at Adina’s employer

Michelle: 25, works with Adina

Duncan Fletcher: Adina’s former boyfriend, sandy hair, almost 6′

Bruce Dunn: dark hair, olive complexion, green eyes, over 6′, physiotherapist

A lot of characters, very few with physical descriptions including the main character. I didn’t get a picture of her.

I thought with the number of characters, there might be some red herring suspects thrown in, but most of the cast is filler. Duncan, who could have been a prime suspect, was demoted, as are most others, to a minor role. Bruce and Jonathan get some spotlight, but where Bruce might have made for another wonderful suspect, nothing portended possible danger. Ditto with coworkers.

Conversations tend to stay short with not much action going on during them. A little, but not much. As I mention below about Adina doing things that don’t relate to the murder, there are several conversations that are wasted space – talking with friends, family, etc. Many conversations ran to sympathizing with Adina about her friend’s death, have the police any leads, no not really, okay how about your love life. Again, with so many characters, conversations could have added tension, suspicion, clues.

First person from Adina’s POV. Relatively short chapters. Pretty quick read.

After the murder is committed, nearly 45% of the book is covered before some link to the mystery is seen. There is a lot of Adina doing stuff – talking to friends, visiting the zoo, etc, that doesn’t do anything but fill space. I kept wanting her to find a clue to the murder.

The entire motive seemed a bit weak because I didn’t see any solid ‘stuff’. Connections were too loose. The explanation was too pat. No surprises. The climactic scene near the end wasn’t very tension filled and when it ended, so did the story, for the most part.

Clean writing. No grammar/punctuation/spelling problems. I just didn’t feel close to the story.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt



Devil’s Nightmare

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By Robert Pruneda


Three children are slaughtered in a cemetery. The fourth, the lone survivor then watches as his parent are similarly murdered. Who…or what killed them? Detective Aaron Sanders’ investigation leads him down a dark path, one where he can’t believe his eyes…or his dreams. Or can he? As the case deepens and the body count rises, Sanders enters a world where evil reigns and the fate of one child rests in his hands.

For a murder mystery horror, it’s hard to beat a good scary tale. This one has suspense and the supernatural.


Aaron Sanders: Austin homicide investigator, drives a black ’81 Corvette, divorced twice, parents dead, ex smoker, played football in high school

David Hernandez: police chief

Cody Sumner: blond

Donald Luther: medical examiner

Kenneth Chandler: tall, middle aged, married with son, owns dogs, owns a Corvette

Gene Bukowski: psychologist

Robert Smith: married with two children, works in advertising

Reggie Santiago: works in a funeral home with his dad, played football in high school

Steven Riley: detective, tall, twenties, black hair, father was a cop, former youth minister

Jerome Hadley: director of a youth home, British

A nice cast although I had difficulty getting a mental picture of some of them because physical descriptions weren’t prevalent. Sanders comes off as a walk-the-line cop who takes chances when he believes he’s right. There is the counselor who plays the romantic interest with just the right amount of play-hard-to-get.


Some good voices, especially from Hernandez. Dialogue is succinct with the right amount of humor, sarcasm, etc.


Chapters are titled. Profanity. Most of the book is first person from Aaron’s POV. Some punctuation problems (commas in the wrong places). However, I won’t count off too much since I was reading an ARC.

The author did a good job of showing reality when it comes to DNA testing.

There’s an interesting twist at the end but at the end I didn’t quite understand the relationship between the monster and the child. Not when other characters had other explanations of what needed to happen.

Action might have used a bit more show than tell but it was still tight and good. The fight scenes lasted long enough to be real.

There was a long build up to the scary stuff. This doesn’t mean the story dragged. The build up lasted awhile which was okay.

This was a well-written story with some good scary. Keep the lights on and…maybe watch those dreams at night…

My Rank:

Purple Belt


The Intern


By Dale Wiley



1995. Trent Norris in an intern for the NEA. One day he intercepts an enigmatic message and soon after a murder is committed that Trent connects to the message. Now he’s on the run, framed for the murder and committing crimes himself to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

An amusement filled story that tells of ‘an innocent caught up in something he can’t escape’. Interesting time frame too, before the Internet became the rage, before Smart phones and tablets.


Trent Norris: 22, National Endowment for the Arts intern, formerly an intern for many groups and individuals, drives a Toyota, owns a guitar, majored in English at Emory University

Joe: Trent’s boss, bearded, barrel chested, baritone

Kurt: office manager in Trent’s department, homosexual, blond, handsome

Stephanie: 25, average height, shoulder length brown hair, brown eyes, law student at Georgetown, attended Charleston College, majored in English and Engineering, athletic

Tabitha Robertson: Stephanie’s friend, blonde, father is into horse racing, majored in engineering, mother dead, has two brothers

Angie: Trent’s roommate

Many character’s, including the girlfriend, don’t have last names and/or not much physical description. I don’t recall Trent’s last name being given till several chapters in.


Some good voices. Trent does a good job imitating voices.


First person from Trent’s POV. Book divided into Days. A bit of mild profanity. A few punctuation mistakes that I can let slide because I read a pre-release copy. I’ll assume the final copy will have been proofread and corrections made.

A few small lol moments and general light-hearted scenes throughout despite the serious nature of the situation. It’s one that if you don’t think too deeply about it, it’s enjoyable.

Good use of period technology – intranet, zip disks, etc.

However, I have a small problem with the cause of Trent’s reason for running. Without playing spoiler: at his workplace, he intercepts a message about somebody ‘taking care of a problem’. He puts the message on a supervisor’s desk. Then later, after the murder and Trent’s connecting it to the message, he places another ‘I know what you did’ message under the supervisor’s door. Then the troubles begin. My question is: how did the supervisor and/or the bad guys know it was Trent who took the original message and placed the second under the door. It’s not like he signed them. The explanation given later is not exactly a leap over a chasm, but maybe a gap. Not too far-fetched but not rock solid either

The other problem is: yes, I know the author, to make a story, had to have Trent run all over town, but the sensible thing would have been to go to the police-as Trent had originally thought about-and explain everything. He wasn’t in all that much trouble at first.

This author has a similar problem I have in my first person writing, which is staying close to the character in scene. Sometimes, in the moment the narrator-first-person steps in and takes the reader out of the action/tension/emotion. The reader loses touch with the character.

Some unnecessary ‘ly’ words. A bit tighter writing all around is needed, but still a decent mystery that just gets crazier by the moment.

My Rank:

Green Belt


No Time To Lose


By Matt Baak


Bank robbers have stolen far more from a high secure vault than what expected to find. In addition to hundreds of millions in movie companies’ bearer bonds, they looted a national treasure given to the United States by Japan, and plans for a new submarine. Enter Kip Keplar, FBI consultant, who takes on the case.

It starts as a pretty good who- and how-dunnit. However, with ‘no time to lose’ there seems to be an awful lot of time that goes by with nothing happening. The mystery and the investigation get shoved onto a back burner amidst all of the extra stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with the main story. Plus, the plot gets more un-believable as it goes along.


Kip Keplar: 36, athletic, long flaxen blond hair, cobalt blue eyes, married with three children, operates a charity, drives a black A8 Audi, inherited wealth, former FBI and CIA agent, has a brother

Cam Walker: 44, senior VP of American Trust Bank, black curly hair, black eyes, 5’10”, on his second marriage, drives a silver Mercedes SL550 Roadster

Enrique ‘Ricky’ Alvaro: ex Marine

Mogul: smokes, criminal, missing the both small toes, average features

Reginald G. Parrington: bank president, nervous personality, short black hair, wears glasses

John Brozski: L.A. FBI Branch Assistant Director, 6’2”, athletic, steel gray balding hair,

Jessica Eggins: 45, small stature, works for the Smithsonian Institute, 5′ dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin

Sam ‘Little Sammy’ Cirrelli: father, brother and son dead, 5’9”, dark hair, mobster

One problem I had with Kip is I didn’t know what his job was until I was farther into the book. FBI employee or consultant or John’s friend? He ran a charity but there was no solid connection to the FBI until a much later explanation. (See continuity problem below.)

There’s a scene where an FBI agent makes a joke to a man who’s wife in the hospital? No!

A lot of secondary or minor characters with way too much background info.


I couldn’t sense any voices. Some characters spoke very formally, others tried to sound like a baddie. Conversations tended to be short or very long explanations.


Some chapters are headed by date, time, and location. Short and long chapters.

A few misspelled words.

There is a lot of ‘telling’ by the narrator especially in the action scenes. Just once did I get anywhere close to a character in scene. By staying at a distance, there are POV shifts within paragraphs and I lost the sense of tension. The narrator sometimes went farther out to make a general statement about matters, then back in toward the action. By doing this, the feel for the moment is lost, there is no emotion/feeling shown.

Some paragraphs have several sentences in a row that begin with the same word. One I saw had every sentence begin with ‘He’. Another word was ‘it’.

One strange thing I didn’t understand: Kip is desperately needed at the FBI office to discuss the case but when he arrives, he waits a long time before seeing anyone, and then is rushed again, but in the next scene he’s waiting around to hear a lengthy story.

Continuity problem (sort of): In a flashback several chapters in, it is told that Kip was a new FBI agent when he met his future wife. Then just paragraphs later, he decides to quit the CIA. This problem was solved a few chapters later with an explanation but it made for confusion before. The reader needs to know who and what Kip is before a third of the book is gone.

A lot of the writing, especially from the narrator, could have been tighter. (Example: With Kip by her side and Mette, as they could best determine, being within an acceptable state of stable health and of sound mind, they were sat down and told, that for her, the birth of a child was no longer possible.) This is a convoluted sentence that could have been written in a clearer manner. As best who could determine? ‘That for her’ – well, who else would we be speaking about? Certainly not Kip. (Example: “I’ve made arrangements with the hospital to see her early tomorrow morning to see if we can learn anything from her directly.”) ‘Directly’ is not needed. It’s understood the patient is the person to whom the agent will be speaking. (Example: One chapter starts with a discussion of a town and Cam’s inability to have a house across a state border. Then the scene switches to a hospital room. What was the point of the opening paragraph?

Not believable: The Navy keeping plans for a secret submarine in a bank vault. Navy personnel discussing the details of the secret submarine to FBI agents and consultants.

A lot of material in many scenes are extraneous and too long.

This is a lot of scattered stuff with a hint of cohesion. I had thought for awhile I’d give this a rank of yellow, but the more I read, the more matters stop being believable.

My Rank:

White Belt


Just Recompense


By Douglas Spencer Wallis



Britsher Basil Ackroyd, mayor of the French town of Durac, is in trouble. He owes his Italian uncle a lot of money. An insurance investigator has questions regarding a fire. One of his buildings is desired by the local constabulary and Basil’s wife, but is reported to be available as a refuge for illegal immigrants. An old ‘friend’ shows up with another scheme to pay owed debts…but winds up dead instead. Meanwhile, a young woman in the government is outraged at the reports of illegals and plans to make Basil pay.

Add in a Russian and a Chinese and this makes for a crazy complex concoction. The plot jumps from item to item so try to keep up.


Basil Ackroyd: British, mayor of the French town of Durac, smokes cigars, has a sister, owns a motorbike, rotund stomach, has children, has a mustache

Elizabeth Lindy Ackroyd: Basil’s wife, company owner

Sid: cafe owner

Jack Waldo ‘Ginger’ Frampton: drives a Mercedes truck, divorced

Leticia Frampton: obese, Ginger’s sister

Claudine Dubois: insurance investigator

Abdul Bin Avay: has some gold in his teeth, dark skin, notary public

Jean Paul Beauclaire: has the rank of Captain

Everybody in this book is nuts. Basil reminds me a bit of Cleese’s Basil Fawlty. Not many physical descriptions for characters, but I could get a vague sense of them through their personalities.


Basil’s secretary’s voice comes through because of her personality. So does Leticia’s. Some conversations tend to go back and forth at a rapid pace like an old radio comedy. Near the end there are lengthy explanatory conversations.


Some profanity.

This reads like a comedy show. There’s some corny humor, prat fall type antics and a roundabout way of getting to the end. It’s a different read than most. With so many characters with so many connections, it took me awhile to get into it and even when I started too, it veered off around another corner.

Still a pretty good read. I debated awhile on what rank to give it but decided that the clean writing (I didn’t see mistakes in grammar, spelling, etc) earned it:

Purple Belt