Suspense Magazine September 2014 Reviews
Inside the Pages
BEAUTY WITH A BOMB
By M.C. Grant
This opens with one of the most dramatic and shocking scenes I have ever read. The first sentence, “Heavily pregnant, the woman stands on the precipice of the parking garage,” can’t help but hook the reader. But the opening scene is far more than a pregnant woman who is in despair over her situation. As we soon find out, she isn’t even pregnant. She is a victim of a horrendous ring of criminals who take trafficking in human lives one step further than terrible.
The narrator, Dixie Flynn, is a journalist on the San Francisco crime beat who has no qualms about getting personally involved with the victims of crimes she reports. She is soon in league with a group of fearless Polish women out to destroy the ring of traffickers, and especially their leader, known as Jacks, who cares nothing for the human lives he destroys to make a profit.
The author tackles an issue that is more and more a concern around the world today, and while some of the details of the story are a bit over the top, Grant’s exploration of this issue in fiction makes it more than a gripping story. His skill with words draws the reader in to make the characters come alive, and the book is filled with outrageous characters, including Dixie’s personal spy Jakob and the brave but horribly scarred Berta. Protagonist Dixie Flynn is larger than life, a real superhero, and I was cheering her on with every page. Interspersed in the narrative, Dixie gives “tips” from the obvious to the outrageous, such as “Pointing out irony doesn’t always endear one to others. Sometimes it’s best to pretend you’re actually being sincere.” Grant does what every writer hopes to do—entertain and enlighten at the same time. I applaud this book.
Reviewed by Kathleen Heady, author of “Hotel Saint Clare” ■
By Gina Fava
Gina Fava provides a fresh voice in a genre that can be predictable. Mara Silvestri, a grad student in Rome, is the daughter of a glamorous tennis star and a deceased photojournalist. As she and the other grad students make their way to Rome University, RU, they hear that The Sculptor has taken another victim. The serial killer who has been stalking the students of Rome’s three major universities for the past seven years has just killed another beautiful coed with movie star looks. The killer seems to be killing these women for one reason…so he can cast different parts of their bodies in order to build the perfect woman.
Upon arriving at the university, Mara discovers that the latest victim was to be her new roommate. At RU’s orientation, Mara meets Jesse Tonno, an Italian grad student with rock star looks and an ego as big as his smile. He is just the first in a long list of characters to enter her life. From students to faculty to the Italian police, it seems everyone she meets could possibly be The Sculptor.
Gina Fava takes the reader on a ride so fast and twisted that you will be dizzy trying to figure out who to trust. You will be riveted to the page as you discover along with Mara that everything she thought was true is a lie. Come along as she races to uncover the truth before she becomes The Sculptor’s next victim.
Gina Fava has a winner on her hands with “The Sculptor.”
Reviewed by J.M. LeDuc, author of “Sin,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine ■
STALKED: THE BOY WHO SAID NO
By Patti Sheehy
Although the title of this book may be misleading to some, this is a truly incredible tale of a young man, Frank Mederos, who utilized his talents to get away from Cuba’s Communist system of government under Fidel Castro.
Born in Cuba, as Frank matured, he grew to dislike the things that Cuba’s government stood for; not to mention the tyrant who truly wanted to destroy his own people. When he was still a Cuban citizen, Frank was taken into the army and became a member of Castro’s Special Forces. While there, he received privileges, gaining access to top-secret military information. Being a member of Special Forces gave Frank a look into the schemes and lies that ‘made’ some of the most powerful people in the world; people that the Cuban military were not comfortable with.
This is a realm that Frank simply can’t stand. He cannot conform to what is expected of him under the Castro regime, and wants to join his girlfriend who left Cuba and is now living in America. Escape, however, is not exactly easy. Making two attempts by sea, Frank is unsuccessful, and he begins to look for another ‘seat’ on the next available boat. Turns out that the departure of the boat he secures coincides with the date of his military exercises. The conundrum is dangerous: stay and miss the boat or run and be hunted down by soldiers who will never stop. Do or die, Frank must make a decision that will put his life at risk.
This is a very moving, fictionalized version of a true story that will pull the reader into Frank’s courageous and dangerous tale. This is certainly a thrilling history lesson that you won’t soon forget, as audiences cheer for the boy who faced Fidel and said, ‘No!’
Reviewed by Amy Lignor, author of “The Charlatan’s Crown,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine ■
MADE FOR YOU
By Melissa Marr
Both YA readers and folks who are a ‘mite’ older will join together immediately to enjoy this book.
This creepy tale centers around Eva Tilling, a young girl who seems to have everything, yet unlike the ‘norm’ is not stuck up or stuck on herself in any way. Attending a party, Eva searches the crowd for her ex-childhood pal, Nate. Nate is a bit of a rebel and would probably not be the perfect ‘catch’ for Eva, but she likes him all the same, and wants nothing more than to rekindle their friendship. But while Eva’s gaze longs for him, another watches her like a hawk.
‘The Judge’ is highly disappointed in his prey, as Eva pays him no attention whatsoever. Although her lack of interest is benign, the boy is sure that she is deliberately ignoring him. And right then and there, he makes the decision to end her life.
Shortly after the event has passed, Eva finds herself at a local café. Leaving at dusk to walk home, Eva is hit by a car and left for dead. When she wakes up in the hospital, she has no memory of the accident, but a new ‘talent’ has developed; if someone touches Eva, she can see the scene of their eventual death. Believing that the injuries she sustained in the accident are simply causing hallucinations, Eva dismisses the ability as nothing more than an aftereffect. However, when she sees images of the deaths of friends, Eva soon realizes she has been given a horrific gift she doesn’t want.
Eva remains completely oblivious to the fact that ‘The Judge’ is still watching. Convinced they are meant for each other, her stalker continues to kill others while insisting that he and Eva will one day be together. As his twisted psyche meets up with some definite surprises from the newly ‘gifted’ girl, the games begin.
Pick up this book for a great afternoon read, just finish before dark. This one is scary!
Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian & Co-Owner of The Write Companion ■
By Frances Fyfield
A British story set in an English town in a house by the sea. (In other words, readers can name the town anything they want while wondering exactly where it is so they can avoid it for the rest of their lives.) This is a true psychological thriller telling the tale of Di, a seventeen-year-old thief from the wrong side of the tracks attempting to live in this storybook village. Another resident happens to be a wealthy art collector by the name of Thomas Porteous.
Di was in the collector’s home at one time in order to steal anything she could find; caught in the act, she was sent straight to prison. While she was incarcerated, Thomas sent her art books, and when she was released back into society, they became close. Despite their age difference, this unlikely couple form an unlikely alliance and eventually a marriage takes place. Thomas and Di are real soul mates, and the two of them soon find abandoned and forgotten paintings, choosing to hang them on the walls of their seaside home.
When a death takes place, kin come from all directions in order to get their hands on the expensive loot. Family members are dissected…with a very sharp straight razor. Apparently, these people from hell are sure there is a gold digger within their midst, and both mind games, and violence commence…without anyone giving a care in the world for Di, Thomas, or their utter devotion to each other. Greed is at the forefront of this tale, with each character having their own plan and making the biggest mistake of them all. They each underestimate the ‘enemy’ they’re going up against.
Di is a strong character that builds her courage throughout the tale. Resourcefulness is the name of her game, and for a story that begins with a calm, easy air the build-up of twists and turns will have readers completely enthralled.
Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion ■
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT
By David Shafer
Part paranoid thriller and part trippy sci-fi, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is an entertaining read that takes our current surveillance society to an all-too-believable next level.
The novel leisurely introduces three central characters: Leila Majnoun, a nonprofit worker in Myanmar; Leo Crane, the conspiracy-minded black sheep of a wealthy family; and Mark Devereaux, author of a vacuous self-help book that has inexplicably catapulted him into the limelight. Leo and Mark were once best friends, and a series of coincidences will tie them back together along with Leila in the mix. All three characters have reached turning points and, for various reasons, are watching their lives spin out of control. Desperate to get themselves back on track, they find themselves drawn into a struggle between the Committee, a multinational corporate conspiracy taking control of private data, and Dear Diary, the radical underground movement trying to hold the line against plutocratic overlords.
The book, perhaps, takes too much time developing these separate strands before pulling them together. Most readers won’t mind the roundabout route; the characters are well drawn, the writing clever and evocative, the tone balanced between serious issues and moments of levity. Still, revealing integral elements of the story that veer into science fiction late in the book is a bit jarring. The first part of the story could be happening right now in the real world, so by the time some outlandish sci-fi gadgets show up halfway through, it’s a little like you’ve turned the page into a different book.
Despite these speed bumps, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a compelling character-driven story with plenty of action and contemporary issues behind the plot twists. Be forewarned, however, that the book ends on a cliffhanger for a follow-up which has not yet been announced. It’s a rewarding read that leaves you impatient for the sequel.
Reviewed by Scott Pearson, author of “Star Trek: The More Things Change” and cohost of the Generations Geek podcast ■
By Judith K. Ivie
In “Dirty Tricks,” the seventh Kate Lawrence Mystery by Judith K. Ivie, Kate and her partners in Mack Realty, Margot and Strutter, investigate the sometimes adversarial relationship between authors and publishers and the frightening consequences of thwarted creative egos.
When Margot’s aunt, well-known mystery writer Maybelle (May) Farnsworth, moves to town a few weeks before Halloween, she soon becomes the target of a neighborhood prankster, or so she believes at first. When the dirty tricks escalate from annoying (bats loose in the house) to terrifying (all exit doors of May’s home are glued shut), May’s secret sideline as the publisher of a line of sexy romance novels comes into play.
On the real estate front, the Vista View retirement community, the mainstay of Mack Realty’s client roster, has a new business manager who takes an instant dislike to Margo’s Aunt May. When the two strong-willed women inevitably clash, will Kate and her partners lose the lucrative account?
“Dirty Tricks” shines a light into the dark corners of today’s ultra-competitive publishing industry, including unethical ploys used by some misguided authors to gain readers’ attention, such as fraudulent claims of prize nominations and paid-for reviews. What makes this mystery unique, however, is the peek inside the two sides of the publishing industry: authors who want to be published and publishers who reject many manuscripts. Here’s a hint: good grammar and spelling count! Not only is this mystery a good read, it’s also educational.
Reviewed by Susan Santangelo, author of “Funerals Can Be Murder,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine ■
ONE OF US
By Tawni O’Dell
Danny Doyle, the boy that feared the mines growing up, is now Dr. Sheridan Doyle. A snappy dresser, residing in Philadelphia having made a name for himself as a psychologist, is now on his way back home. Sheridan’s grandfather, Tommy, is getting on in years, and Sheridan has come to visit him.
Lost Creek hasn’t changed all that much. The mines that have defined the town are still operating. The town’s history is mired in the legend of a group a miners that dared protest and ended up being hanged for their trouble.
When Sheridan arrives in Lost Creek, he discovers the body of man and is reunited with Rafe, a detective that took Sheridan under his wing when he was a child. While investigating the death, Sheridan slowly loses his big city persona—well, except for his clothing, which he was always fond of—and reverts back to being Danny Doyle.
Wow! This is one twisted serial killer thriller. A spooky mining town that is rumored to be haunted by the Irish miners who were publicly hanged and the sudden odd deaths that are more than unusual in such a small community. Danny begins to learn some old family secrets and boy, are they explosive. Danny’s voice isn’t the only one we are connected to. We also are given access to another first person perspective, but you will not know who this is until deeper into the novel. If you are like me, the wheels will start turning in your mind. The suspicion I had, had me in deep denial. How on earth could someone actually do all these terrible things? But deny all you want, the truth will still be there.
For Danny, a small amount of peace will come from the conclusion of the case, but he will be stinging from this one for a long time to come. If you like dark, twisted, thriller suspense novels you will not want to miss this one!
This one gets 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Julie Whiteley ■