Review: IM by Rick R Reed

50535319._SY475_IM by Rick R Reed

Published on February 10, 2020 by Nine Star Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. They invite him over. He’s just another trick. Harmless. They’re dead wrong.

When the first bloody body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. Sickened by the butchered mess of one of his brothers left on display in a bathtub, he seeks relief outside where the young man who discovered the body waits to tell him the story of how he found his friend. But who is this witness…and did he play a bigger part in the murder than he’s letting on?

Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth, a truth that he needs to discover before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity…his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message…it stands for instant murder.

Rating: 2 star

Review: ***I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and NineStar Press.***

This book has an interesting premise, one that is becoming more relevant as the idea of social networking and hook up culture gains ever more steam. It plays on a lot of fears that people have. One side is spurring you on a hormonal rush to an anonymous lover, the other is wondering just how do you know the person you’re meeting isn’t a psycho? Ultimately, the book had it’s good points but it wasn’t done very well. The characterizations had a lot of inconsistencies, the story had gaping plot holes and the entire ending was written in a way that confused me as to what was going on.

One of the good things in this book was Peter. I really enjoyed him. I found him funny, sardonic and at times wise beyond his years. His romance with Ed was very sweet. I was rooting for the two of them because they were both nice guys that desperately wanted a relationship more meaningful than just hooking up.

I also really enjoyed that this book didn’t shy away from the depravity within its pages. Sometimes when an author feels uncomfortable writing something dark they tend to do a “fade to black” just when things are getting serious. I always admire an author that has the courage to see the depravity through. As an amateur writer myself I have written scenes that made myself feel ill and they are really hard to write. I was uncomfortable reading this book, so well done to the author.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get over some big things with the book. The first problem was the ever growing cast of narrators. Virtually every other chapter was “Meet Guy 2, he’s lonely and wants to hook up with a dude from online. He is wary that the person won’t be anything like they described themselves. Ahhh, he’s going to kill me.” Then the killer kills them and we move on to a chapter about Ed being frustrated with finding a killer. It got repetitive and boring, and the constant shuffling of narrators who were subsequently killed made it difficult to connect with the story emotionally. It’s hard to get an emotional investment in a character who is only around for ten pages.

There was also a very huge problem with the characterization of the killer. Sometimes he is portrayed as a victim of abuse and neglect, getting back at the homosexual world that had so richly abused him over the years. Then other times we’re treated to narratives about him being a psychopath and torturing animals as a child, or torturing lovers because the pain is a turn on. Those two things don’t really mix very well. Which one is he? I had a hard time reconciling both in my head as being the same person. Violent psychopaths typically don’t make for very easy victims.

 

SPOILER ALERT: The following paragraphs contain some minor spoilers.

 

A few of the big plotholes took away from the story for me too. First, the circumstances that Ed finds himself in with his job were weird. It literally made no sense and was never explained. Ed gets fired for allegedly “fabricating” the witness who discovered the first body. They allege that he had no witnesses so he made one up to make it seem like he had a lead. But here’s the problem. The witness was seen by several people. Several other people talked to him before Ed even arrived. When Ed arrived, he is directed to the witness by one of those people. But then the person is just too upset about the crime scene to remember clearly? That was very weakly done. There are plenty of options for having Ed be terminated through crooked means but this was just dumb.

I had a big problem with exactly how the killer seemed to be a full head (or more) shorter than everyone he killed, but it wasn’t a problem. He is described as “elfin” about a thousand times. He’s so short that he sometimes can’t be seen through peepholes. But yet, he physically overpowers and kills multiple men who are larger, more athletic and stronger than him. How does that happen? I have no idea. All the book told me is that he does. It’s not explained how that happened at all.

The ending was really confusing. I was being told about a lot of things happening at once and the way it was written made it all seem jumbled. All of a sudden Ed would be jumping up to attack the killer and I was thinking “Wait, but wasn’t the killer over by the door? How did he get here all of a sudden?” I started to skim it for the high points because I just didn’t follow it.

I think there are a lot of good bones to this book. The writing shows a lot of talent and the idea is a good one. It really needs a good edit or two.

Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

49112169._SY475_My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Published: March 26, 2019 by Berkley Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

Rating 3 star

Review: This book left me with a rather large challenge on whether I enjoyed it or not. For the first 300 or so pages, I was enthralled with this book. I loved it. I found the narrating character a bit bland but there was enough of other stuff going on that it didn’t bother me. However, the ending soured me on the rest of the book. It was an awful ending. Period. There was nothing redeeming about the conclusion of this book and it made the rest of the experience feel like a waste of time. So ultimately I can say that I liked it, but I can’t recommend it.

That was the short version that is free of spoilers. From here on out, consider yourself warned because this is a SPOILER ZONE:

Like I mentioned the husband was a bit bland, we’ll call him Tobias for the sake of the review but that isn’t actually his name. He’s a really big idiot. Similar to the level of idiot the husband in Gone Girl is. He should have known these things. He’s assisting his wife in kidnapping and murdering women, then he hears about all about her stories of her abusive sister, he finds out she kept one of the women alive for a year torturing her, she suggests making their crimes similar to a known serial killer, she just so happens to visit somewhere that she has no reason to be and then a witness comes forward to put doubt in the police’s mind about who is committing the crimes. Yet, through all of these things, he doesn’t realize for a moment that his wife is setting him up. I knew it. Every other reader knew it. The only person who didn’t was Tobias. Because he’s an idiot. Like his wife told him, “You always focus on the wrong things.” She was right.

I also don’t know how a guy like Tobias gets involved in something like this to begin with. I was promised Dexter meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Tobias was neither. He could barely stomach to hear a retelling of the murder on television, let alone actually commit one that wasn’t a complete accident. He can barely handle stalking a woman without having a panic attack. A psycho he is not. A killer he is not. An idiot, he definitely is.

Throughout most of this book I was really excited to find out what happened. I knew that Tobias was being set up, but I loved theorizing about how deep the deception went. Why was she setting him up? Was she involved with the prior serial killer too? Was she trying to frame him for not just these murders but those ones too? Her sister wasn’t really the abusive psycho one right? All these questions. All these theories. And yet, the ending didn’t surprise me or satisfy me. Every single one of those theories I thought up is exactly what happened. I don’t pretend to be any sort of genius. I don’t find myself particularly more intelligent than the average reader. But how exactly did none of this manage to surprise me and yet surprises others? I really don’t understand it.

Then, in the end, Tobias just walks away with his kids. The police listen to his whole story and think “well, he says he’s innocent and since the DNA at the crime scene is weird then I guess he is really completely innocent”. No, he wasn’t. While he might not have murdered any of the women that the police knew about, he did stalk and abduct several of them. At the very least he was an accessory to his wife’s murders. But it’s all wrapped up and he just walks away in about two pages. It was crap. Then we end with him using the same Tobias ruse on a woman that he used in the murder scheme with his wife. Why? Am I supposed to believe that this timid, beta male has decided to keep killing? He wasn’t the type before, why would be be now? It made no sense.

So while the writing was delightful, Millicent was spectacular, the resolution and narrator were just awful.

Review: Rain Will Come by Thomas Holgate

rain will comeRain Will Come by Thomas Holgate

Expected Publication: March 10, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer

Pre-order this title: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: A thrilling, page-turning debut about a twisted killer and a broken cop—both with nothing to lose.

Paul Czarcik, the longest-tenured detective in the Illinois Bureau of Judicial Enforcement, puts the rest of the team to shame. Ruthless and riddled with vices, Czarcik always gets his man. And fast. Until now…

A double slaying isn’t the open-and-shut case of urban crime he’s used to. Connecting it to a high-profile Texas judge, Czarcik realizes something bigger is going on. It’s the work of a serial killer for whom Chicago is just the beginning. Now he’s inviting Czarcik to play catch-me-if-you-can on a cross-country murder spree.

Going rogue, Czarcik accepts the challenge. But as the bodies pile up, he must come to grips with the fact that nothing—not the killer, the victims, or the rules—is what it seems in this bloody game of cat and mouse.

Rating: 3 star out of 5 stars

Review:  **Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Please note, changes to the manuscript may take place after publishing. Thank you Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer!**

I love a good cat & mouse story. A jaded, surly detective pursuing a psychopath story. In some ways this was a good fit, in other ways it didn’t live up to expectations. I feel it’s important for me to note right up front that this book is not breaking any new ground in the genre. Czarcik is like so many other surly over-the-hill detectives in detective novels. He likes booze, cocaine and hookers and doesn’t like following the rules. Nothing new to see here. The killer styles himself an avenging angel, a vigilante bringing justice to the helpless victims. Again there is nothing new here. So, if you aren’t bringing anything new to the table, you really need to give me a good chase.

Ultimately that is where this book failed for me, the chase. We find out who the killer is in the 3rd chapter and find out his whole plan about 40 pages after that. Once we know those two things, there’s not much left to do except chase him down and stop him, right? That was a very slow process, it seemed to take a long, long time. We spend about 275 pages on the first 3 victims, then rush through the entire last 2 victims and finally stopping the killer in less than 75 pages. We spent way too much time on the first half, not early enough time on the second half.

Another odd point for me was the writing itself. Technically, there is nothing wrong with the writing. The grammar and spelling are solid. The narrative is enjoyable. But the author seemed to occasionally throw things in that were just strange. And because they didn’t make sense, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what he meant rather than enjoying the narrative. For example, in a single paragraph the author managed to change a single character’s eye color 3 separate times. First her eyes were described as deep blue, got it. A sentence later they were “more like opal than ice”. Um, okay, opal is generally iridescent though. I have seen blue opals, but they aren’t deep blue but then neither is ice. So is it deep blue? Or blue opal? Then two sentences later they were sapphire. Which again, is a totally different color than either deep blue or blue opal. So I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out what color her eyes were instead of continuing to read. I think the author tried to get too fancy.

Two more minor gripes. First, can we stop giving people psychic powers but insisting they aren’t psychic? The not-psychic-but-kind-of-psychic “rush” that Czarcik gets was strange, never explained and didn’t make a lick of sense. At one point he is tipped off by someone mentioning how they wouldn’t want to be the insurance adjuster who has to come out to the murder scene. Although I have no idea why an insurance adjuster would be necessary at a murder scene but somehow this leads Czarcik on a long, winding path from insurance adjuster to….AH HA! Someone is keeping a secret from me….about insurance….sort of, but in the end not really. Very weird.

So, I know this sounds like a book I didn’t really like, and on the whole it was disappointing. But it did keep my interest. I did want to find out how it ended. I enjoyed Czarcik as a character. I enjoyed the writing. So overall, it was not a great book but it was entertaining and worth the read.

Review: The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

the seventh victimThe Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

Published January 29, 2013 by Kensington Books

Synopsis and cover image provided by the publisher.

 

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon/ B&N

 

Synopsis:

If At First You Don’t Succeed

It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared…

Kill

Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin…

And Kill Again…

He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands—right before he ends it forever…

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Let me tell you a little story about this book.  I accidentally requested to get an ARC.  I thought that the author was a different author whom I have read and enjoyed before and I jumped out of my chair in joy at thinking she had a new book.  After I realized that I was mistaken about who the author was, I ended up not caring too much because the story still sounded really fantastic.  Oh, how I was wrong!  Despite having an excellent cover and an astounding synopsis, this book was just a mess.  I bring you, bullet points!

  • Predictable plot is predictable.  By the second or third time we have the killer introduced into a scene, I knew who it was.  It was so painfully obvious that it was…well painful.  Also, by about the halfway point I had figured out what the twist was and by 70% I knew who the twist would revolve around.  I don’t know whether to credit my obsession with the TV show Criminal Minds for this or maybe the plot was just that obvious and unimaginative.
  • Stubborn heroine who insists on protecting herself but seems to be incapable of doing so.  Every time we talked to Lara she was insisting that she could take care of herself, but them proceeds to do completely idiotic things that seem to suggest otherwise.  For example, going to a recent crime scene when it is nearly dark outside…by yourself…with just a camera…and a shotgun (that she left in a locked car).  I mean, what good is a shotgun going to do you if it’s locked in your car 20 yards away?  I’m pretty sure an assailant isn’t going to allow you to run 20 yards to the car, unlock the car, get the shotgun, load the shotgun, and then shoot him.  She has a darkroom and leaves it unlocked while she is in there with her back to the door and in the dark.  And then she ignores her dog when he starts barking at something from outside.  Gee, that sounds smart!  And don’t get your hopes up that the other female characters are any smarter, they aren’t.  One notable moment is when one girl gets a flat tire, on an abandoned road at night, without cell phone service, hasn’t seen another sign of human life in at least a half hour, but is ever so grateful at the person who has been following her the whole time for offering his help!  I sincerely hope that there are not that many stupid women in the world.
  • Cops who are either oblivious or inept.  Anyone who has watched Law & Order knows that when a person is attacked, most of the time the attacker is someone they know.  Yet, these cops mostly seem to sit around wondering which unknown stranger it could be without even bothering to look at people close to Lara.  Their justification is, well it’s a serial killer so he probably doesn’t know the victims.  That doesn’t hold water either.  Criminal Minds has taught me that serial killers have their distinct signatures because the actions satisfy some need or fantasy they have.  If a serial killer does not rape his victims and then suddenly a similar crime appears with a rape, it’s not the same guy.  If a serial killer is going after prostitutes and homeless woman, and suddenly it’s a young blonde college student who was a big risk then it’s not the same guy!  But all of this is overlooked too, despite the claim that a FBI profiler was advising them. Really?  He must be inept too!
  • Lame romance.  It was very cliche for the head cop to fall for Lara.  And I just didn’t feel it.  I knew that they had feelings for each other because the author told me they did, but that’s the only reason.  Their actual actions and words didn’t lead me to that conclusion at all.  Then they decide to have sex after the most traumatic and violent scene in the whole book?  What?  Nearly getting killed is an aphrodisiac for Lara?  Yeah that was weird and made me feel like I needed a shower with bleach.  Oh and let’s throw in another cliche, simultaneous orgasms.  Has this honestly ever happened to anyone in real life?  It’s never happened to me!  The sex scene made me laugh though.  In one paragraph Lara removed his pants and then on the next page she was undoing the button on his pants…when did he put them back on? *snicker*
  • Name a cliche, any cliche!  Any cliche you can think of for a murder mystery/suspense/thriller and this book probably had it.  Surviving victim becomes the obsession of the killer.  Obsessed cop who couldn’t let this case go and is now sticking his nose into the current case.  Lead cop falling for the poor surviving victim.  Female characters with no sense of self preservation.  The miraculous “ah ha!” moment that answers all of the questions surrounding the case just pages before the end.  The police miraculously bursting in the door just in time to save the poor female victim with a few well placed bullets that never miss.  I could name more but I think you get the idea.
  • Suspense?  Where?  This was supposedly a suspense novel, but I never once felt that rush in my veins that suspense novels usually give me.  Mostly I just got bored.  I started mentally counting cliches in my head and coming up with a scorecard for how well I predicted the book’s plot.  There was no suspense, I knew exactly what would happen chapters before it actually happened.

So, there we have it.  If you want to read a serial killer novel that is exactly like thousands of other serial killer novels then this is a book for you.  If you’ve never read a serial killer novel then this is perfect since you won’t have a clue about how cliche it is!  But otherwise, give this one a pass unless you’re suffering from insomnia…because then it might help.

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you Kensington books!  This review is based on an uncorrected ARC of this book, certain things may differ from the final copy.

Review: Red Island by Lorne Oliver

Red IslandRed Island by Lorne Oliver

Published May 23rd, 2012 by the author

Synopsis and cover image from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at Smashwords / B&N / Amazon

Synopsis:

Was it the nightmare that woke him or the late night phone ringing that brought on the dream? Sgt. Reid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police brought his family to Prince Edward Island, “The Gentle Island,” to get away from crime and homicides. He had to get away from the nightmares and concentrate on his family. PEI is a lovely place to live. The sound of the ocean crashing against sandy beaches, sand dunes covered in tufts of dancing green grass…

…And then there was the young woman hanging from a tree. It wasn’t a gentle island any more.

Rating (out of 5): 3 star

Review:

***WARNING: This review may contain spoilers, stop reading now if you wish to remain unspoiled.***

This book is a hard one for me to put my finger on and say I liked it or I didn’t like it.  In the end, I really liked some of it and I really didn’t like some of it.  I liked the story, it was decent and well constructed.  I really disliked Sgt. Reid, he annoyed me on nearly every page.  And I absolutely loved Ben the serial killer, he was the shining star of this entire book!

Let’s begin with the story.  Like I said, it was decent and well constructed.  Sgt. Reid is still recovering from an emotional case involving young girls being murdered and brings his family to Prince Edward Island, where things like that just don’t happen.  But no sooner does he get there then that kind of thing starts to happen.  Bodies of young women are turning up, proudly displayed in public, and Reid must face everything all over again.  I thought that things progressed at a fairly good pace as far as the progression of the killings went.  It was logical and made a lot of sense.  All that was good.  But I really didn’t like the police work in this.  I give the author big props for doing so much research into police procedure and keeping it so real to life.  However, there is a big reason that TV shows and movies make police work so fantastical…it makes it interesting.  Reading scene after scene of the police scratching their heads and going “I dunno what to do?  What should we do?  Wait for another killing?  Go talk to more people?  I dunno.”, might be true to life but it’s also not very interesting.  I was sitting there screaming, “SHE SAID HE WAS A PHOTOGRAPHER!!!  YOU ALREADY TALKED TO HIM AND HE TOLD YOU THAT!!!  WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!!!??”  Maybe it was because Reid was too focused on his partner’s ass..ets, but more on that in a minute.  I was mildly perturbed about knowing the name and identity of the serial killer right off the bat, but since his scenes were so good I stopped caring at all.

Now let’s talk about Reid, and yes I have to call him Reid because we never learn his first name.  At first that was kind of amusing as people guessed and never got told, but it got old fast.  And when it was used as a cliffhanger at the end, I was just over it.  The woman says, “Do me a favor, tell me your first name.”, end of book.  I didn’t care anymore at that point, it wasn’t amusing anymore, so I didn’t mind that I don’t know his name.  I also firmly believe that Reid has a medical condition.  This man has the most tingly, twitchy groin that I have ever heard of.  Sees the dead mangled body of a girl, he thinks about her nice body and tingly groin!  Sees his partner walking around, twitchy groin!  Looks at pictures of the murdered girls before they died, tingly groin!!  Looks at a butterfly, twitchy groin!  About the only time there is no tingly, twitchy groin is when he’s with his wife.  I think he should see a doctor, he has a serious problem.  I also think Reid couldn’t solve the murders faster because his every single thought is about cheating on his wife.  The wife who is at home, calling to make sure he was safe and had dinner while you working his case, that controlling dirtbag!  She didn’t do a single thing except love him and support him and he’s thinking about screwing around on her constantly.  Even at crime scenes and during interviews.  No wonder you couldn’t find the killer bud, you were too busy thinking about your twitchy groin than the case.  Needless to say, I despised Reid very much.

So far all of this is mixed, liked some and hated some, but then we get to Ben the serial killer.  If this book had been Ben only, it would have been five stars all the way.  I loved watching him as a young boy killing small animals, to progressing and refining his skills as a rapist and then finally as a killer.  The look into this psychopath’s mind was fascinating and I loved every page of it. I never did quite figure out why Ben decided to taunt Reid which ultimately got him caught though.  Until then, the cops had figured out nothing and were waiting for him to tell them how to catch him.  If he hadn’t done that he could have gone on forever because they cops had nothing that he didn’t hand them.  I think this was supposed to be part of Ben’s de-evolution and descent into madness.  But it didn’t feel totally genuine to me.  He’d been completely stable until that point and then just jumped off the deep end.  I still liked it, but it felt rushed.  At the end of this book I have to take what I hated and take what I loved and I come away with one conclusion:  It was good and I would choose to read it again if given the chance, but I probably won’t reread it now that I have already done so once.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.  Thanks to the author for providing this book!