Sunday, December 27, 2020

Blog Passes 50,000 Visits in 2020

Just a note of thanks to everyone who’s dropped by to visit … 52,000 plus times since July of 2015.

Like most businesses in 2020, my writing went even more virtual and curious readers followed as the blog had nearly 17,000 visits during the year. If the blog had that rate since the beginning, I’d be writing about passing 90,000 hits!

And as in past years, book reviews were among the most popular in 2020, with five of the top ten posts falling in that category. The most visited one was my review of Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas in July. The book wasn’t released until October and since then, it has accumulated a 4.6-star average on nearly 600 reviews on Amazon ( I’m sure my review was the primary reason for its success 😉.

Most of the other, most-visited posts in 2020 covered several topics, which makes inferring the reason difficult, but number ten was the announcement that Killer in the Retroscape would soon be available as an audiobook. It’s out now at Audible and Amazon (

So, keep coming back and I’ll keep reviewing books and writing my own. And soon (perhaps February) you’ll see a second of my books out in audio. Maybe you can guess which?

Friday, December 18, 2020

Dystopian Fiction Lovers

I have something for you and you don't even have to face the end of civilization to win!

Enter here: 

For your chance to win a paperback of The Stand by Stephen King, Winter World by A.G. Riddle, After the Flood by Kassandra Montag, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and much more!

Then, skip the wait for the drawing and pick up some additional, free dystopian eBooks from the participating authors; luck is not required and you can unsubscribe at any time:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Complete Series Available at Your Favorite Online Retailer

For everyone who reads in an app other than Kindle, I've made the eBook versions Of Half a Mind and Mind in the Clouds available from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other fine, online retailers as well as Amazon. You can now have the complete series (including Mind in Chains) on your favorite eReader.

Of Half a Mind

Dark Technothriller, Psychological Horror

2019 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
2018 Wishing Shelf Book Awards Finalist

A dark science thriller that will chill your whole mind

Mind in the Clouds

Military Thriller, Technothriller

How do you match wits with a mind in the clouds, when you are not sure if it’s the cold logic of machine intelligence or the coldblooded urges of a human murderer?

Mind in Chains

Medical Thriller, Domestic Terrorism

"... riveting, original, and thought-provoking." - D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
"... Perrin is a master of the techno-thriller." - B. O'Hare, author of the Inspector Sheehan Mysteries

Monday, December 14, 2020

Book Review: You Only Live Once (A James Flynn Escapade Book 1) by Haris Orkin

 A Laugh-a-Page Spy Spoof; Just Don’t Read the Author’s Synopsis!

Don’t read the synopsis because I’m convinced that the “twist” the author gives in the first two sentences of it will be that much more fun if you walk into the story unprepared. Of course, the same can be said of this review, so I’ll give you the bottom line upfront so you can stop after reading it:

If you enjoy laughing and pulling for the underdog, then pick up a copy of You Only Live Once. Overall, it’s often politically incorrect, frequently profane, and always great fun.

Well, I guess you don’t want to be surprised (since you’re still reading), so here’s the twist that I suggested you skip. James Flynn is a double-O spy in Her Majesty’s Secret Service a la James Bond … or so he believes. In fact, he’s “… a heavily medicated patient in a Los Angeles psychiatric hospital.” The possibilities stemming from that satirical premise are many and largely humorous.  Author Haris Orkin picks one that bestows some of the characteristics we associate with a world-class spy upon Flynn—he can tell if his martini has been stirred or shaken, for example. But in other cases, Flynn’s confidence is just part of his delusion, e.g., his expertise in flying an Apache helicopter is all fantasy. And while this constantly shifting ground of factual vs. imaginary beliefs keeps the plot moving and the laughs coming, it also detracts a bit when Orkin wants to create drama. In particular, some of the fight scenes are vicious, but it’s difficult to feel too concerned about Flynn when you never know if he’s going to beat everyone with a single finger or his laser pointer. The dilution of drama, however, is a small price to pay for all the laughs.

The issues in craft are small. There are a few typos, e.g., “She was even more beautiful then he remembered.” There are a few changes in point of view within a single paragraph. And while the author usually refers to the protagonist as Flynn, occasionally he’d say ‘James’ did something. Those missteps, however, are more than offset by the humor and the affinity you’ll feel for Flynn and his band of reluctant followers. In fact, by the end of the book, you may want to join them in the next installment. I know I do.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Tales for listeners on the go!


What you need to know about this promotion: many of the audiobooks are short (e.g., less than an hour) and several are about cats (for all the cat lovers out there). But there are also full length audiobooks in a variety of different genres.

So, do a little detective work and find the topic and length you prefer. With more than 20 short stories to complete novels, you’ll find a free listen to love.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Audiobook Giveaway


Through December 7, AuthorsXP is sponsoring an "Audio Book Giveaway". And while I suspect you will get several offers of a free promo code from the sponsoring authors, actually AuthorsXP will be gifting a subscription to Audible!

So, check out the details and enter for your chance to win.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Killer in the Retroscape is on sale

Killer in the Retroscape: A Near-Future Mystery is on sale at your favorite eBook retailer for $0.99 (£0.99, €0.99), now through December 7.


In 2068, Doug Michaels finds his friend, Josh Unger, dead in his home. When law enforcement concludes his death was a suicide, Doug is dumbstruck – what could explain such a violent death in a future where such actions are unimaginable. Trying to unearth a killer, Doug creates a mental landscape of Josh’s past, a retroscape, starting in the mid-2030s.


Among its landmarks are:

  • An illness, sensationalized in the media as the “zombie pandemic”.
  • A mysterious phrase uttered at the attack on a government official.
  • Josh’s machine-intelligence wife, Julia, who may hold the secret … if she can only remember.

In the end, determining guilt in a retroscape littered with suspects tells Doug more about humanity, technology, and himself than he ever could have imagined.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

St. Louis Writer’s Guild Virtual Book Fair

What do writers T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Tennessee Williams, and Irma Rombauer all have in common? Well, from the title of this post, you probably guessed it – St. Louis.

And while this year’s Book Fair doesn’t include any works by those mentioned above, the next great author, poet, or playwright from St. Louis may be there.

My entry to the Fair this year is Killer in the Retroscape, which coincidentally, is priced at only 99 cents until December 7. So don't wait; check it out for yourself.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Book Review: Ventures and Visions: A Short Story Collection by Kayla Hicks and Steph O'Connell

 A Fantasy Shines in a Collection Sometimes Missing Realistic Conflict and Suspense

Ventures and Visions is a collection of eight short stories, described by the authors as thrillers, action/adventure, and mystery. The stories representing the first two genres showed good pacing—there are plenty of battles, strange occurrences, and mass devastation as you would expect. And the stories that leaned toward mystery clearly raise the whodunit issue—who blew up the capitol, for example. But my favorite of the group, The Quietus, is more in the realm of a paranormal fantasy with a side of humor. One of the main characters, Sophia, is the grim reaper … or one of them, since being the grim is a job where the long-dead are guides for the recently deceased, rather than the harbinger of death. And because Sophia loves wearing black and has a flair for the dramatic, she dresses the part even though that’s not a job requirement. She comes across like a veteran tour host, with her canned lines and well-practiced patter. But her thoughts still reflect the mystery of being dead—what’s time when you live exist forever, strike-throughs being the author’s way to show these evolving mental concepts. I appreciated the technique. Overall, this short story was a fun reinterpretation of a common myth.

The stories, however, were not without some issues. Simple attention to detail was one when, for example, a character named Mick was occasionally called Mike. Several sentences, such as “Seizing my chance and I went for it” were unusual (conjunctions don’t usually connect a prepositional phrase and an independent clause). Some word choices were incorrect, e.g., “Mateo hadn’t seemed phased at all.” From the context, it should be “fazed”. And telling something before it’s spoken happened often. “She ate so fast, I doubt she tasted it at all. ‘Did you taste any of that?’ I asked. The repetitions slow the plot. An additional, independent edit would have helped the flow substantially.

But the primary limitation of most of the stories was that they failed to develop sufficient conflict, tension, or suspense, and the reason varies from tale to tale. In some, the story just seems to end—no twist, no surprise, no thought-provoking question. Others are too implausible to generate tension in the reader. After the Shock, for example, involves a bombing in Washington DC sufficient to destroy the capitol and several nearby buildings. But since there are no first responders for days, the devastation had to be wider. And there’s no communications, so all the cell towers must have been destroyed. The secrecy, expense, and expertise that such a large-scale operation would require is far beyond the capabilities of the culprits revealed, making the story seem surreal rather than gut-wrenching.

Overall, this debut collection shows promise, but for short stories to work, they need more conflict, tension, or realistic suspense than some of these supplied.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Mystery/Thriller Giveaway

If you have the following on your must-read list:

  • Where Lost Girls Go by B.R. Spangler;
  • Devoted by Dean Koontz;
  • Verity by Colleen Hoover; or
  • The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne
Then this giveaway is for you!

Subscribe and you could win all four books, a $20 Amazon gift card, and more. You can unsubscribe whenever you want, although we hope you'll stick around for a while.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Like Science fiction or Fantasy Stories?

Then find your next favorite author in the “Free Fall Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books!” collection on Storyorigin.

Busy? The collection includes short stories, too.

With over forty free science fiction or fantasy tales, there’s one that’ll fit your day.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Killer in the Retroscape Audiobook Released

Killer in the Retroscape
, a dystopian mystery/thriller, has been released as an audiobook. It's currently available on Audible and Amazon, and should appear in iTunes soon.

Give the sample a listen and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Things that Go Bump in the Night Giveaway

Follow and like some amazing authors on social media for your chance to win
4 spooky paperbacks:

Born in Fire by K.F. Breene
Micaela's Big Bad by Tijan
The Haunting of Brynn Wilder by Wendy Webb
Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg
Plus some frightening swag
And a (not at all scary) $20 Amazon Gift Card!
The more you follow and like, the more chances you have to win.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Review: The Kafir: The Unbeliever by Abigail Rook

 A Web of Secrecy and Bad (Political) Assumptions Keep the Thrill Going

 If you’re looking to get away from talk of viruses (e.g., the coronavirus) for a while, The Kafir will let you escape into a world of international, political intrigue and espionage (although the story revolves around the threat of an epidemic). And if you haven’t had enough about these infective agents, the novel still works. Though I have no background, the medical information in the book feels authoritative, which is further supported by the fact that the author is a doctor. I greatly enjoyed the interplay of life-and-death drama with medical information about viruses, manmade vs. natural. It’s a great combination to keep the pages turning.

Our heroine, Carolin Falkenberg, is a German doctor investigating a virus outbreak in Zimbabwe on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO). Not all is what it seems and eventually, she forms something of an alliance with Nathan Cole, a National Security Agency (NSA) agent. Together, they try to disentangle a web of misinformation and bad assumptions involving secret biological warfare programs, religious groups, and military organizations. The author kept me guessing about the true culprit long into the tale, although at least part of the mystery is maintained by the number of possibilities; there are quite a few characters to keep straight. And along the way, the American military system and intelligence services receive some criticism, as they too frequently opted for political answers over evidence.

There are a few, minor issues that probably came from the translation from German. For example, when a man was described as boarding a plane in Washington DC, he is actually getting off the plane. These confusions, however, are limited and detract little from the tale. More concerning to me was a somewhat inconsistent characterization of our protagonist. At the start of the book, she seems quite uneasy with people, and yet later, she’s described as extremely empathetic, seeing through Coles’ fake identity almost immediately. Perhaps under the circumstances in the tale, her transition is supposed to represent a personality change, but it seemed too abrupt and too extreme. And finally, the event that allowed the epidemic to occur is a bit too convenient. In the context of authoritative medical information on viruses, how the virus was obtained felt contrived.

Overall, if you look beyond the epidemic’s initiating event, the medical information on the virus, the individuals involved in investigating and spreading it, and their motivations make for some captivating reading.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Gigantic Book Fair

Books and prizes? It’s a Win-Win!

With over 50+ free and discounted books and a chance to win a Kindle Fire, a $25 Amazon Gift Card, and a one-month subscription to Owl Crate, you can't miss with this book fair.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Midwest Book Review (preview)

Mind in the Clouds will be featured in the November release from Midwest Book Review and they’ve been kind enough to share a preview with me. Their review highlights the main character’s attempts to understand human and machine intelligence and so, find the factor that will shift the deadly cat-and-mouse game in his favor. “… the buildup will delight readers who value depth and complexity over the facade of fast pace alone.”

Their summary of the book as a whole: “Thriller readers who like more than a casual dose of high tech in their story lines will find Mind in the Clouds just the ticket for an involving, compelling read. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Book Review: Old Bones (Nora Kelly Book 1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

What Do Grave-Robbing and Murder Have in Common?

Grave-robbing and murder. Those two crimes are perhaps not the most common of bedfellows, but they make for some fascinating reading in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s new series, Old Bones. The hero of this new set of tales is familiar—at least for readers of the Pendergast series by the same authors—Nora Kelly, archaeologist. When she is approached by Clive Benton, Stanford-educated historian, to lead an archaeological expedition in search for the “Lost Camp” of the ill-fated Donner Party, a compelling historical setting is added to the story (the Donner Party was believed to have resorted to cannibalism to survive when they became snow-bound in the California mountains in 1847). But to sell the expensive archaeological expedition to Nora’s boss, Benton adds evidence that one of the party was carrying gold, now worth 20 million dollars. That, of course, is sufficient motive for murder, but wait. Two murders occurred before the expedition even started. And both happened in the context of grave-robbing where all that was apparently taken was part of a skeleton. Since when is a skull worth killing for? That question remains until the final pages of the novel.

It is via one of these murders at a grave site that a second, familiar name is added to the tale. Corrie Swanson, an angry, bullied teenager when first introduced in the Pendergast series is now a freshly minted FBI agent. And when one of the grave-robbers is executed on federal land, she is given the case—her first. She finds another similar murder and a disappearance, all connected because they were the descendants of a Donner Party member, Albert Parkin. Convinced that Nora Kelly’s expedition is just a cover for robbing Parkin’s grave, Agent Swanson joins the archaeological team on site. Sparks fly between the women, Swanson believing she is on the trail of a crime, it’s exact nature unknown, while Kelly sees the agent as nothing but a waste of time and money. But then, things start getting deadlier.

Preston and Child are exceptional story-tellers and this novel is no exception. The pace is good, the mystery compelling, the characters developed. There were a few places when relatively minor events were dealt with in greater detail than necessary to advance the plot, but these were rare. About my only concern of any significance is the way the authors linked the quite disparate crimes of stealing a skeleton and killing. To do so required two, quite dissimilar approaches to a single objective. In other words, the twist felt a bit strained.

Overall, Old Bones is a solid start to a new series and I look forward to the next installment. Let’s see what Nora gets herself into next time.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Congratulations, you have successfully moved into the library space!

That was the first line of an email from Indie Missouri, saying that Mind in the Clouds is now available to "... patrons of participating libraries all across your state/region."

I'm honored. And if you happen to live in the area, check it out (with just your library card).

Or buy a copy from Amazon - it's a lot cheaper than moving to Missouri:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Audiobook Coming Soon

Killer in the Retroscape is being made into an audiobook, with expected release on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes in October or early November.

That means I’ve been listening to new chapters from my producer every couple of days. And since the first few chapters deal with a pandemic in 2035 (albeit one that comes from a parasite hosted in cats), it’s been a bit like listening to my life. Check out this five minute clip:

Click Here for Sample

The pandemic in the book is only a precursor of things to come and hopefully, life stops following the plot soon, because … well, it is a dystopian tale, after all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Book Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala

Suspense Drives this Historical Fantasy of Nosferatu and Necromancers

You have to wake up from this ridiculous dream world of yours. There’s no nosferatu, necromancers, or missions from God. It’s just two crazed foreigners, a dead girl, and a pair of dim-witted detectives involved in a set of bizarre circumstances.” So said Nathan Brannick, protagonist of Consumed to one of those “crazed foreigners” about three-fourths of the way through the book. And it highlights one of the main reasons I really enjoyed the story. There are so many twists, so many paths I thought I was on but wasn’t, that for much of the story I was no more confident of my interpretation of events than Nathan was of his reality. I really enjoyed the suspense.

Underlying this tension is an intricate web of crosses and double-crosses among the forces of evil. A master tasks a slave with retrieving a source of power, but the slave decides to use that power against the master. The slave, in turn, takes an apprentice, who then plots to use that same power toward his/her own ends. And so on. It’s a fabric of evil, slowly unraveling violently as the plot advances. And then, there is the question of whether Nathan’s observations can be believed at all or are they just the product of the opium he turned to after his wife died? Perhaps his partner is the better source of fact? Can we believe the foreign witch-hunters who are apparently driven by the vision of an obsessive father? And finally, the unease is supported by a skillful mixing of history (e.g., Vlad the Impaler), folklore (e.g., Spring-heeled Jack), and fiction (everything else). It’s difficult to tell in which world you’re standing.

There are, however, a few issues that may reduce the effect of the book for any particular reader. For one, there are a number of errors in word usage and grammar. Most are minor, such as the misuse of then/than, but others may produce a bit of confusion, “… maybe he’ll at least confirm who that nutter, Mr. Feld, was why we found sitting outside the pub door.” More significantly, the story is told from the perspective of at least four different people, but these shifts come without warning. I was sometimes a couple of pages into a chapter before I figured out whose thoughts I was reading. Perhaps the author did that intentionally, but for my taste, the technique is more confusing than suspenseful.

While the shifts in point-of-view are somewhat disruptive, overall, Consumed is an exceptional read, filled with well-told, often-violent scenes of the unmasking of evil in Victorian London.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Mystery and Thriller Giveaway


The techno-thrillers that I write are part SciFi and part thriller. So, after a couple of months of science fiction giveaways, it was time for some mysteries and thrillers.

This time, you can choose from twenty-eight works from short stories to complete novels. They are all free, although you will subscribing to the author’s newsletter. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Review: Syndrome by Ryan Krol

Myth-Chasing Scientists Unravel the Mystery Surrounding a Secret Lab

Syndrome is the debut novel of college-film-major turned writer, Ryan Krol. I mention the author’s educational background because even before reading his bio, I noticed a “movie feel” to the book. Perhaps it was the location and time period—small-town Nevada in the late 1950s. Perhaps it was the events of the early chapters—three curious boys investigating a meteorite crash site on land that was closed to the public. Perhaps it was the existence of a secret, underground research facility nearby funded by an eccentric billionaire. It was easy to imagine these elements coming together in a movie about life from outer space, unauthorized research in the secret lab, and a team of scientists turned myth-chasers to figure it all out. But as it turns out, this drama unfolds across pages rather than on the silver screen. Overall, this mix of plot elements and how they play out are both classic and quite entertaining.

Krol’s film background, however, may have influenced more than plot and setting. For example, he spends considerable time describing how people look and what they are wearing. “So on this Friday morning, Jim and Elizabeth were doing their regular routine in t-shirts, jeans, and boots. Jim had on his jacket. Elizabeth had her shoulder-length brunette hair in a ponytail.” Of course, writers try to paint a scene with descriptions of appearance but the regularity of these updates when they do little to further the plot was unusual. As a new writer, there were also a few glitches in craft. For one, the editing process was cut short and as a result, there are quite a few minor errors in grammar or spelling, e.g., “He seemed to knew something.” For another, characters are introduced with a full accounting of their background rather than covering the relevant aspects of their history as part of the story.

While the issues above were somewhat distracting, it was the unusual shifts in points of view that caused me more pause. The book is written as third-person omniscient—we should know the thoughts of every character. But often, we jump between the thoughts of two, three, or more characters in a single paragraph including what they didn’t yet realize (i.e., the lack of a thought). And sometimes, it seems the point of view is what we, as readers, should be thinking. For example, after one character (Hill) makes a phone call, we have this: “To Hill, it was a matter of life and death. And who was he talking to?” Obviously, Hill would know who he called, so this seems to be what we should be asking ourselves.

Overall, Syndrome is an engaging tale filled with many classic plot elements from sci-fi film and literature. That aspect of the novel is fun and produced (for me anyway) feelings of nostalgia. Some breakdowns in craft, however, reduce its overall effect.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Save on a Copy of Mind in the Clouds

“… a crazy wild ride through modern day technology with a little advanced AI thrown in to create an action thriller par excellence.” 

Pick up your copy of Mind in the Clouds while it is only 99 cents, now through August 17.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Book Review: How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds, and Funny Bones by Terry Sprouse

 An Interesting Historical Self-Help Book

If there was a genre called historical self-help, How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds, and Funny Bones would be in it. I don’t mean a self-help book written long ago, like how to trim the wicks of your coal oil lamps. Rather, I mean one written today but based on an historical figure—in this case, Abraham Lincoln. Terry Sprouse has compiled numerous quotes and examples of how Lincoln dealt with the pressures of the long road to the US Presidency and his tenure during the Civil War by using storytelling as his means to influence foes and win friends. In Lincoln’s words, “Stories are the shortest path between strangers and friends.” But Sprouse takes it a step further, showing how you may be able to learn from Lincoln to achieve your (probably more modest) goals in life.

I had heard (as I expect many have) that Lincoln had a self-deprecating wit, often directed at his homely appearance—“I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would be wearing this one?” But Sprouse took my appreciation of Lincoln’s gift for wit and storytelling much further. Lincoln made a practice of learning stories and putting himself in them using his own gestures, facial expressions, and voices. He often added a touch of wit or a moral, as appropriate, and he could tell his stories, again and again, seemingly enjoying them immensely each time. That’s an enviable skill.

Storytelling to win friends and influence people may not be the path for success for everyone, but if you’re so inclined, How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds, and Funny Bones will give you a leg up on your journey. And if not, it’s still a fascinating read to see how one of the greatest US presidents used this ability to accomplish all that he did.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Recognition for Mind in Chains

Touting itself as “Your trusted source for the best in self-published books,” the Indie Book Readers Appreciation Group (indieBRAG) awards it’s medallion to about 20 to 25 percent of all submissions. I’m honored that Mind in Chains is among their 2020 honorees. 

In response, I’m making the ebook more widely available. In addition to Amazon, it's now sold at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other online retailers.

Pick your favorite retailer here

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: Murder Creek by Jane Suen

Entertaining Mystery Novella with Something of a Paranormal Feel

Have you ever driven by some land feature with an unusual name—dead horse creek, lost miner’s canyon—and wondered what had happened there? The hero of Murder Creek, journalism student Eve Sawyer did when she drove over the bridge at Murder Creek. But for Eve, her reaction doesn’t stop with curiosity. Soon, she’s having nightmares about the gold miners brutally murdered on the creek’s banks in the 1800s. And sometimes, she isn’t even asleep—she’s just having coffee at her favorite diner. But while there is a bit of a supernatural feel to parts of the story, Eve’s investigation into the case of a girl gone missing from that location twenty years earlier taps more into her persistence and her ability to read people than the supernatural. In fact, all she learned about the girl from her visions was that she might not be dead. Why did she think that? Because the girl wasn’t among the dead men she saw wandering the banks of the creek.

If that sounds like an entertaining blend of amateur detective work and the paranormal, I’d agree. Eve tackles the mystery with the straightforward zeal of youth, opening many of her interviews with, “I need to know whatever you can tell me about her” or the like. And while I expected that to end in phone hang-ups and slammed doors in most cases, she got people talking. And slowly, she uncovers facts that even the horde of crime reporters failed to find twenty years earlier.

There were a few, minor stretches in plausibility that were not related to the supernatural. For example, in one case, Eve is checking twenty-year-old records after their owner said they kept them for seven. And she finds a pivotal clue, one that could easily have been destroyed any time in the last twenty years. Several of the emotional reactions seemed a bit strained as well. Take the reaction of a character that she accused of knowing the girl’s murderer:  “‘Oh no, no.’ He cried out, shoulders trembling. ‘Please don’t.’” For a man who has been hiding the truth for years, his total meltdown after a couple of questions from a student fifteen to twenty years his junior felt strained. Another quick developmental edit would have helped the story. But the primary limitation of the book is its lack of tension. Eve did receive one threatening phone call, but for most of the book, she’s taking rides with men to lonely locales, having lunch at their home, meeting them at night, and so on. Often, it sounded like she was on a date, not tracking a vile criminal. And while Eve’s ESP, or whatever she has, might have told her it was OK, it’s difficult to feel tension when the hero doesn’t show much.

Overall, Murder Creek is a fun, fast read with a plucky, persistent hero who may (or may not) have some connection to the paranormal. All it needs to be a great story is a bit more realistic tension.

See on Amazon:

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Science Fiction eBook Giveaway

Enter for your chance to win 14 Science Fiction ebooks!

Two grand prize winners will receive all fourteen ebooks. Fourteen other winners will receive one ebook, randomly selected.

Enter before this giveaway ends on August 3.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Book Review: Hit the Road Jack by Willow Rose

Constant Action Pits Detective against Killer … But You Pay a Heavy Price for the Drama

I won’t need a spoiler to illustrate the type of action in this book; the synopsis will do fine. “But, when his black Labrador suddenly runs upstairs and comes down with a finger in his mouth, Ben knows he's not making it to school today at all.” That murder comes in Chapter 3, after another killing in Chapters 1 and 2, one chapter written from the victim’s point of view, the other from the killer’s. If you’re getting the idea that author Willow Rose has packed a lot of violent action into Hit the Road Jack, I’d agree. Besides those two murders, there’s a date rape, a suicide, and several other gruesome murders by a serial killer known only as the Snakecharmer throughout most of the story.

At the opposite end of the wholesome to vile continuum, we have our hero, Detective Jack Ryder. He’s a surf-loving, single father of three, one of them a black, teenage girl adopted when his partner was killed. He’s handsome (of course). And because he’s an experienced detective from a more violent city, he becomes the go-to investigator for his homicide unit in a small, county sheriff’s department. This situation anchors the primary plotline of the book, one that crime thriller readers will readily recognize: the virtuous detective single-handedly pursues the despicable serial killer through a series of heinous crimes amid a budding romance.

The best of the genre places the hero in this detective vs. killer setting using clever twists of fate and provide some basis for the sex. Less well-written books ride roughshod over common sense and unfortunately, Hit the Road Jack falls uncomfortably close to the latter group. When a child is abducted, Ryder doesn’t send out an Amber Alert or instigate any type of city or state-wide notification. That would spoil the one-on-one theme. When the killing escalates and it’s clear there is a serial killer, no other city, state, or federal agencies get involved. When someone takes a shot at Ryder, he doesn’t make an officer-under-fire call. Nor does he call for support to locate or apprehend the shooter. Rather, when he stumbles on the gunman’s truck at a motel, he goes in with an unarmed civilian (his new romantic interest) as his only backup. And so on. We, as readers, are asked to suspend disbelief much too frequently for my liking.

Overall, the book’s primary storyline is a bit stereotypic but appealing, and the breaks from common sense and police practice are disguised by constant, violent action. But if you’re the type of reader who wants a clever blending of fact and fiction, you may want to look elsewhere.

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