Fox Hunt by S. M. Stelmack

Brian Chanse a high adrenaline stunt guy picks up a hitchhiker on the highway who looks almost dead. Out of compassion, he revives her and is curious about her story. Delta (alias Fox) is running for her life from underground gangsters. Not having any cash on her, she’s hitchhiking her way back to L.A. to investigate who wants her dead. Meanwhile, Brian is much fascinated by the girl and offers to help her which she refuses. Much later in the story, their paths cross again, with a hired assassin on their trail…

Fox Hunt is a fine blend of romance, mystery and suspense. The beginning chapters are gripping and fast paced urging the reader to look for more. A well thought out plot and heavily developed characters. However, on getting to about 3/4 of the pages, I found the story losing some steam and a couple irrelevant details added towards the end. The fireworks between Brian and Delta got unnecessarily long. I found the car chase a little muddled and the art of weaving in flashbacks became somewhat clumsy. At a point, it started to seem as though the author was looking for ways to stretch out the story as much as possible. I am not one to give up on a story, so I prodded on to the end.

This book has a fascinating story line but would do better with more compelling elements throughout the book to sustain readers’ interest.
I give it 3 Stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

Author – S. M. Stelmack
Publisher – S. M. Stelmack; Second edition (November 13, 2013)
Pages – 306 pages
Location – L.A.

About The Author:
S. M. Stelmack is our pen name, short for Serge & Moira Stelmack. We aim to give what we like in a story— gutsy men and women, high stakes and LOL lines. Serge is the storymaster who blasts out the beginning, middle and end. Moira comes behind, clucking and hemming, as the story undergoes countless rewrites till it meets our vision…More @ smstelmackauthor.com

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61 HOURS -Jack Reacher by Lee, Child

Given how much I love mystery thrillers I can’t believe I never read any Lee Child’s books especially his popular Jack Reacher series. I have to tell you, all the accolades given to these series are well deserved. I borrowed an ebook copy from my local library which I read over the weekend.

Already, there are a lot of reviews about this book so I will go ahead and list some important take aways – From the title – 61 Hours you can already tell this is a count down to a major event. Jack Reacher the protagonist, an ex military man turned private investigator is a drifter. This time he hitches a ride and finds himself in a rural small town that has very limited police capabilities. As things begin to happen, a sense of an impending doom is imminent. The count down is already on which keeps you at the edge of the seat.

The author writes in simple and straight forward language – only facts that are relevant to the story – no fluff, all read meat. The book starts at a break neck speed and continues that way. The writing is third person POV, so the reader sees every angle which increases suspense.

The plot is complex where you peel away the narrative like an onion. The author creates various plot threads with each chapter ending in a cliff hanger. I love that the author takes time to build relatable characters. The reader gets to know the characters well enough where you establish some connection. As a result, I really found it hard letting some of the characters go at the end of the book.

This is a book to read when you have enough time to devote to it because you can’t put it down. Your heart’s racing and you feel you’re on roller coaster ride!

I’m not usually a huge fan of series, but I like that Jack Reacher series do not have to be read in order. Even though this is #14 in the Jack Reacher series, you can start from any book without feeling as though you’re missing anything.

If you’re a mystery thriller fan and haven’t read this book, please do yourself a great favor by grabbing one!

I really would like to read a similar book from a new author, please feel free to suggest anyone, I would really appreciate it!!

Author – Child, Lee
Publication – 2010
Pages – 528
Location – South Dakota

About the Author:

“Lee Child is the #1 internationally bestselling author of the Jack Reacher thrillers. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and the Barry awards for Best First Mystery, and The Enemy won both the Barry and the Nero awards for Best Novel. “Jack Reacher”, the film based on the 9th novel, One Shot, stars Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, and David Oyelowo and debuted in December 2012. Child, a native of England and a former television director, lives in New York City and the south of France with his wife and daughter”~ Amazon

Behind The Facade

“Katherine Pearson is happy with her life. She has a successful, doting father, a rewarding job and is soon to be married to a man who adores her. When she is kidnapped by an Irish terrorist, her world is destroyed. Years later, she still suffers from disturbing flashbacks and an inability to form new relationships. When she meets the enigmatic American, Michael Hunter, she believes she may have finally found love again. However, can you ever really know what is beneath the surface? Her new-found peace of mind is shattered as the reasons for her kidnap are revealed and dangerous secrets come to light, linking her father to murder and sexual exploitation.” ~ Blurb from Amazon

My Take:
I really enjoyed reading this book! This debut novel written by two sisters is loaded with intrigues and suspense. The first couple pages are captivating and has a lot of action, but the middle part seemed a little like the story ran out of steam. But that didn’t stop my excitement for what I thought was great story.

Katherine’s character is presented as a sad and edgy young woman who is nursing some inner issues. As the story goes on, the authors release bits and pieces of information to keep you interested as you keep reading but not enough to explain entirely what’s going on. The plot is layered and the story goes back and forth between the present and the past. This made me stop a couple of times to reread some parts in order to make sure which time period is being discussed. Apart from that, it is overall an enjoyable book to read. As you read on you discover other interesting plot threads that would keep pulling you in, this strategy created so much anticipation in mind that I couldn’t wait to get to the end.

While Katherine is a troubled young lady, I find her character endearing. In the story, she enters into a complicated relationship, while still distressed from a past event. This decision kept me wondering “what” could have happened to Katherine in the past. This smart strategy forces the reader to feel for Katherine and at the same time hope for the best for her.

Even though the ending was a nice surprise, there was quite some rigmarole and unnecessary details leading to the wrap up. That not withstanding, Behind The Facade is a fascinating piece of work that I would hate to spoil it by going deep into the plot. I love the human trafficking angle and how it shines light on what goes on behind the scene. If you love mysteries with complicated plots and surprise ending, then you’d have fun with this plot which flows similar to opening a can of worms with a lot of twists and turns!

I purchased a Kindle copy of this book during a recent give-away for – I think $1.99 – not a bad deal…

Author – Rebecca and Victoria Heap
Genre – Mystery
Publication Date – Jul 28, 2013
Pages – 304

About The Authors:

Our names are Victoria Bracegirdle and Rebecca Bentley. We are twin sisters and we live in Bolton, a multi-faceted and friendly town in Lancashire, UK. Our maiden name is Heap so this is what we have used as our pen name. We can’t say if we are identical or fraternal twins as no-one, least of all our parents, seems able to agree on this. It doesn’t matter to us. What matters is our mutual love of reading and literature and our symbiotic relationship, which has facilitated the inception and creation of our first novel… Heap Twins.com

Waiting to Be Heard

Author – Amanda Knox
Publication Date – April 30, 2013
Number of Pages – 480
Genre – Memoir
Geographical Setting – Perugia, Italy

This is a true story which made headlines first in 2007 when Amada Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were accused of the murder of Amanda’s room-mate Meredith Kercher a twenty-one year old foreign exchange student from outside London. Amanda and Raffaele were both found guilty and spent four years in an Italian prison after which the conviction was overturned by the supreme court acquitting them of the murder. I saw snippets of the interview Amanda Knox gave on CNN recently which got me really curious about this story, so I quickly headed out to my local library where I found a copy of this book. As soon as I started reading it, I was enthralled. I’m mostly impressed by her detailed writing, and chronological organization of events. This gut wrenching account is bound to keep the reader enthralled until the end. I was so engrossed that I read this book in one day under covers.

In this memoir, Amanda talks openly, while giving a comprehensive account of her experiences in Italy starting from her arrival in Perugia, as a free minded American girl looking to study Creative Writing at the University of Foreigners, through – when her life takes a sudden turn the day the body of her room-mate was discovered in the apartment they shared. The reader eagerly follows the story of Amanda’s court trials, conviction and eventual acquittal. Amanda bares her mind in this compelling argument making a case for her innocence using notes from her diary, news articles, court papers and documentation. She talks about questionable police conduct, the use of false and unreliable witnesses, and then launches into her four years ordeal in an Italian prison.

This book tries to answer a lot of the questions about what really happened the night of the murder and the reasons for Amanda’s “bizarre” behavior after the body was found. You will also find blow-by-blow explanations of all the accusations labeled against her as she tries to clear up any ambiguities that has clouded the case. Her argument is geared towards poking holes in the prosecutor’s hypotheses while maintaining the lack of physical evidence placing her at the murder scene. She points out how evidence were thwarted and manipulated to fit the prosecutor’s theory of what may have happened that night.

Irrespective of your position on whether Amanda and Raffaele are guilty or innocent, this book tries to get the readers understand exactly Amada’s emotional state at the time and why she may have reacted the way she did. It also uncovers the many details the media may have missed or exaggerated upon. In the final analysis, some readers may still not find her argument logical enough, however, this is an interesting and riveting account of an unfortunate period in a twenty year old girl’s life – in a foreign land with limited language skills.

I recommend this as a great read for those highly interested in the Amanda Knox’s case or those who love murder cases in general. I plan on reading Raffaele’s book also to get his point of view.

If you have to time, please check out these links…

ABC: Amanda on Meredith and the British girls ABC: Amanda on Meredith and the British girls

CNN: Amanda on her interrogation CNN: Amanda on her interrogation

Are you familiar with this case? – please feel free to share your thoughts…

Deceptions of the Heart

Author – Denise Moncrief
Publication Date – October 15, 2012
Number of Pages – 258 pages
Genre – Psychological Mystery
Geographical Setting – Virginia / California

What would you do if one morning you awoke in someone else’s body? Surviving as Jennifer Cristobal isn’t easy for Rhonda Prentiss. Three years ago, a sudden, fatal trauma stripped Rhonda of her middle-class, stay-at-home mom existence. A brand new shock prompts Rhonda’s essence to invade Jennifer’s soul, suppressing the other woman’s memories and replacing them with her own. When Jennifer’s heart transplant surgeon, Dr. Crane, can’t—or won’t—help her understand her unusual body-swapping dilemma, she turns to the only man she can trust. But can she fully trust Jennifer’s husband, Anson? Multiple threats from her past shake her fragile hold on mental stability. If one of her enemies succeeds, he will kill Rhonda’s soul… or Jennifer’s body… or both “. Blurb ~ Amazon.com

I received an electronic copy of this book during a recent free a give away on Amazon. So I took it with me on our family trip to the Wisconsin Dells over the weekend and just finished it last night. This book was so irresistible, I could not put it down. Written from the first person perspective, the crisis is introduced right from the first page. From then on, the reader is anxious to find out exactly how and why Jen woke up in a strange room and in a strange body.

My Take
The author skillfully paints a poignant picture of a protagonist who seems to be tortured by two different personalities while caught in between her past life (as Rhonda?) and her present life (as Jennifer?). The reader painstakingly journeys with Jen as she uncovers layers of disturbing events surrounding her life. Conflicts are introduced through the mind of the protagonist which she immediately responds to creating tension for the reader. And because Jen can be unpredictable sometimes, the reader is uncertain of her next move this tends to heighten suspense. Additionally, dialogues between characters help the story develop, letting the reader evaluate and make their own determinations about the various characters. I see Jen as a woman with fuzzy and muddled mind trying to figure out who she is and not knowing who to trust. I like that Anson’s character – on his introduction, may or may not be trusted. Other secondary characters also develop well over time. Without much memory of the past and with people around her acting hateful and suspicious, the reader is forced to share Jen’s anxiety about her safety. As tension mounts, sometimes one might expect Jen to take a particular action but instead she does the opposite thing keeping the reader anxious and nervous about the outcome.

I have to add, as the story unfolded I kept wondering who exactly she was – a frail, helpless Rhonda that needed saving or a conceited, calculating Jen who deserves no good. Admittedly, on a few occasions I got caught up in the confusion and had to go back to re read some sections. Honestly, this got me thinking soooo much!

I find the theme very fascinating and intriguing. It’s filled with lots of twists and turns. One of the tricky things about this book is, as the reader starts to feel as though they have a sense of a resolution, the author quickly throws in an unexpected dimension which keeps the reader guessing till the end – note that it’s a very short book just 258 pages!

This is indeed a quick and refreshing read. Such complexities and intrigues are uncommon in most Mystery books. I also like that it is a psychological novel with a lot of mind games leading to unraveling of the mystery (think a little bit of Gone Girl by Flynn). I’m surprised this book isn’t getting the popularity it deserves. I commend Monciref’s plotting skills in this novel. If you enjoy thriller and mystery, you would thoroughly love this book – I found this book gripping, utterly suspenseful, intriguing and exhilarating.

About the Author

Denise lives in Louisiana with one husband, two children, and one very chubby canine. Her family not only endures her writing moods, but also encourages her to indulge her passion. An accountant by day and a writer of romantic suspense by night, she leads a very busy and joyous life. She’s been writing off and on since she was seventeen, and with several stories already published, she has no desire to slow down. ~ Amazon.com

Author Interview withM. J. Kane
Link to recent Author Give-Awayblogspot.com

Death of a Nightingale

Author – Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Publication Date – November 5, 2013
Number of Pages – 368 pages
Genre – Mystery
Geographical Setting – Europe

Death of a Nightingale was one of many free pre publication books I received during the recent ALA conference here in Chicago.  It is a Nordic crime fiction from best-selling authors of The Boy in the Suitcase.  I had never heard about the authors so I was not sure what to expect but I went ahead and read it. I have to say, I loved it! If you are familiar with Scandinavian crime fiction novels, then you have a pretty good idea of the background of this novel.

This is another novel I’ve read recently that takes you back and forth in time. The plot runs across cities in Europe stretching from – 1934 Ukraine through present day Denmark. Death of a Nightingale features the Nina Borg series – a red cross nurse dedicated to the cause of immigrants and the poor who cannot afford official legal representations. Nina is at this time frantically protecting an immigrant single mother Natasha and her daughter Katerina even though the police is after Natasha who they suspect to have murdered her husband in the past and recently her Danish fiancé. At the same time, the reader also follows Natasha’s story as she desperately searches for her daughter who Natasha fears might be in enormous danger regardless that her daughter has been placed under police protective custody. It does not help that while Natasha is secretly and desperately looking to find and rescue her daughter, the police is chasing after her as a suspect in the murders. The authors – Kaaberbol and Frills masterfully constructed a heart pounding complex plot that leads the reader to anxiously flip the pages as they try to uncover the shocking mystery.

My Take –

Although this story starts out with a measured pace – which almost caused me to put it down, it picks up intensity as the reader gets to the middle and continues on a break neck speed with ending twists. Death of a Nightingale is a complicated story line where the discovery of two separate bodies has police detectives piecing pieces together and racing against time in other to find the killer. I find this an emotionally charged story which draws the reader in as they watch Natasha missing her daughter terribly is over come by this fear of some evil thing be falling her baby.

The authors did a great job of creating some confusion in the minds of the readers by weaving in the aspect of a rogue detective which plants doubts about who the real killer is. Thus, the reader grapples with some questions as they read along – Why is Natasha afraid to talk about her past life in Ukraine, could that have anything to do with the murders? Natasha might be psychologically unstable, but is she capable of inflicting such substantial wounds and killing both men? And why would she also want to harm her own daughter?

This book is loaded with revelations of heart breaking secrets and deceits as a roller coaster of sad and unfortunate events from the past are brought to light.

I classify Death of a Nightingale as a great book, not only because of the detailed writing, passionate and persuasive voice, but the background elements exhibiting such a strong sense of place. I was particularly fascinated by the insights of eastern European countries as they are vividly portrayed in the novel. The reader gets some perception of the history of these cities as well as some political and cultural differences that exist among them –  which I truly appreciate as one who has never traveled that far.  This novel fed my curiosity about other cultures, that while reading the book I engaged my map app on my iPad which allowed me to follow the story and maintain a real connection with the places and times.

I would recommend this for all crime fiction readers, however readers of Scandinavian crime fiction would especially be excited for this new addition. And – Watch out as this book gets published November 2013!!
(Now I want to read their first novel – The Boy in a Suitcase which has garnered a lot of buzz …)

About the authors –

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the Danish duo behind the Nina Borg series. Friis is a journalist by training, while Kaaberbøl has been a professional writer since the age of 15, with more than 2 million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and has been translated into 27 languages ~ Authors’ info from Amazon.com

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Nightwatcher

Author: Wilson, Charles
Pages: 288
Genre: Mystery
Published: 1990
Setting: Mississippi

This novel is about the brutal rape and murder of Judith Salter a nurse at the state hospital for the mentally insane. Featuring – three escaped psychiatric inmates, suspicious police officers and a guilt stricken dad turned “detective”. Brandon Richards, the victim’s dad abandons his life and career in other to help bring justice to Judith’s killing. Is it a coincidence that these three inmates got out the same night of this tragic incidence? Evidence found on the murder scene has detectives suspecting either or all of the escaped inmates – or could there have been someone else? Judith’s ex husband, a person of questionable character becomes a suspect. Also “someone in the police force” could be killer. While grieving his daughter’s death, Richards is determined to leave no stone unturned investigating his daughter’s murder. Meanwhile, an inmate claims he might have witnessed the killing. How believable is an assertion made by a mentally ill patient?

What prompted me to read this book in the first place was the recommendation on the cover of the book given by John Grisham – an author I’m truly fond of. “Splendid! A lean tight compelling story that was over much too fast. I wanted more”. Another person described the book as “dark, scary, and truly menacing”. Regarding the last statement, I don’t find Nightwatcher that terrifying, neither does it read as spooky as the cover picture depicts.

It is rare that you find a complex plot presented in such a simple format. This is a very quick read. The author did not try to stretch the story with unnecessary details and rigmarole like you find in most mystery novels. Richard’s character very systematically obtains valuable tips and information that helps move the story rapidly. The author methodically builds up a compelling tempo while all the time leaving you guessing who could have committed this horrid act. The excitement lies in the process of walking the reader through layers of unveiling lies, deceptions, conspiracies, and cover ups by the people who were close to the victim. Gradually, shocking revelations are made of the victim’s past life which further complicates the plot. At this point, suspicions about who committed this crime becomes an open-ended question.

It is thrilling to watch as the story culminates in a surprise revelation of the murderer. This is a fun mystery/thriller read – great for the weekend. Fast readers could finish this book within a day.

If you’ve read this book, please let me know what you think…