Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (Blog Tour Stop)

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Welcome! I’m a stop today on the blog tour for a new book titled Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. A few key facts about the book before I share my review and other information about the blog tour:

Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: Crooked Lane Books on April 30th, 2019
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
9781683319979_fc

Overview

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

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My Review

Little DarlingsLittle Darlings by Melanie Golding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding is a story about pain, hope, psychosis, fairy tales, motherhood, lies, and drama. It is the type of book where you do not get all the answers and must interpret for yourself what actually happened in the final pages. For some, this will be a great opportunity to decide what is fantasy and what is real. For others, it’s a foray into an unknown world of uncertainty. Whether you lean in either direction, one thing’s for sure, it’s good writing.

Lauren Tranter just gave birth to twin boys. Her husband, Patrick, is committed and loving, but there’s something slightly off about him. There are no grandparents or siblings involved (okay, a minor scene with Patrick’s sibling later on, but it doesn’t impact the plot). Lauren doesn’t work outside the home. They seem to have little to no friends except a soon-to-be mother’s group who drops off peculiar gifts. When this happens, who do you turn to?

For Lauren, she’s happy in her cocoon until the birth is way more difficult than she expected. The doctors almost lose her to excessive blood loss at one point, but she bounces back and begins to care for the little tykes perfectly. Except during the first overnight in the hospital, a weird witch-like woman threatens to swap the babies because hers are bad and Lauren’s are good. Maybe they each keep one good and one bad, she suggests?

How would you handle the situation? Lock yourself in a bathroom to avoid anyone trying to steal them? Good plan, except on video tape, there’s no one attacking you. Was it real? Was it supernatural fantasy thing? The fairy tales tell a very different story… one about a woman who demands you drown your children in order to save them. Lauren is trapped. If she does nothing, the woman comes nightly to haunt her. If she does something, the cops and/or hospital threaten to commit her. What a paradox! To love, you must hurt. How would you handle the situation?

Golding tells a wicked story with heart. Readers will be uncertain where to lend their loyalties as a few twists and turns convince you Lauren is crazy, but then easily show you she’s not seeing things. For me, it drove me nuts! I like clarity, but I appreciate the variables at play here enough to indicate this book is a challenging read in a good a way. As a side story, one of the cops struggles to believe Lauren. Through research, she finds something that might confirm who kidnaps the kids, but in the end, all is not what it seems.

A psychological thriller, readers have a chance to determine how to interpret a story that can be told in many ways. Golding’s talent sits in the ability to walk a fine line of confusion and power. We will all feel differently, yet it’s the same words and story. Which part will you connect to? Definitely worth a read, you’ll find hidden gems in the life lessons and fairy tale history we learn along the path. I recommend it for those looking for something a little different than the normal family drama.

Many thanks to the author and Crooked Lane for the chance to read this book. I voluntarily participated on the blog tour and am excited to spread the word about this novel.

View all my reviews

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About the Author

Melanie Golding is a graduate of the MA in creative writing program at Bath Spa University, with distinction. She has been employed in many occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. Little Darlings is her first novel, and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.

golding author photo credit michele calverley

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Who Else is on the Blog Tour?

The tour has ten (10) days of stops and you can see the blog names listed below. Stop by to check out everyone’s opinions or to enter the giveaway contest and win a free copy…

little darlings blog tour

I hope you enjoyed stopping by my blog to be part of this fun tour. Many thanks to Sarah @ Crooked Lane Books for including me in this opportunity. I’ve come to love Crooked Lane as a publisher and read many of their books. It’s been a blast… can’t wait until my next tour with them in early 2019. Tell me what you thought of the blog tour, the review, and whether you’re gonna read this book! Only time will tell, I suppose… right?

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

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Flesh and Blood (Kay Scarpetta #22)Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Kay Scarpetta series clearly shows the work of a brilliant imagination, clever plotter, intelligent and savvy mind who understands people, and intense soul. After 22 books, I’m unable to put them down… and knowing what it’s like to write a series, I’m in awe of Patricia Cornwell’s talent. With Flesh and Blood, the 22nd of ~25, she continues building and developing a set of characters I often feel are so real, they’re sitting in my living room or bedroom as I’m reading… being their usual sarcastic and bitchy selves… poking a stick in my direction to do more with my life… urging me to push the boundaries. That’s the kind of character I love to experience.

So… why just 3 stars? I think the question for this book and my opening paragraph really goes back to the definition of a book review. Is it an honest opinion of a standalone book? An opportunity to highlight what you liked about it so others might read it? A chance to just complain because you prefer to focus on the negatives? A comparison of it to other books in its genre? A focus on its place within the entire series? A commentary on how well the author conveys something (a) new, (b) different, (c) above standard, (d) comforting, (e) I could go on forever… I often see other people’s reviews and wonder… what were they thinking? do they just like to be mean? Are they so easily contented they give high ratings because they love the author? I’m not judging anyone at all, I’m merely highlighting different ways of writing a review.

That said, I ask again… why just 3 stars from me? To me, a 3 star book is one that is a good read, has interesting parts, has not so interesting parts, doesn’t stand out from the rest of its genre/series/author/type, has no egregious errors, and leaves me feeling okay but not thirsting to read a sequel or another book by the author. Given I love this series, I will read them all, but I might think twice about picking up a different series.

Flesh and Blood has all the gore, science, technology, and deep-rooted psychology I’ve come to adore in the author’s style and books. The writing is good, but not stellar. It didn’t force me to read more chapters, but I didn’t feel it was painful to read. I think it fell prey to average plot with no standout characters other than the main 4 (Benton, Lucy, Marino, and Kay). If we had a powerful viewpoint from the killer, or a strong secondary character who was loved or hated by one of the main ones, I might have latched on a bit more.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I wouldn’t rate is one of the higher ones in the series. I didn’t rush at night to get to bed to read. Thankfully, it was a buddy read with my friend Medhat which is always fun… so that helped since we could discuss it along the way. I’ll still be borrowing the next one from the library in March, so stay tuned for more on this series from me.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Off Center in the Attic by Mary Deal

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Off Center In The AtticOff Center In The Attic by Mary Deal

I’ve read all of Mary Deal’s novels at this point, except for two non-fiction ones that I’ll eventually dive into. Off Center In The Attic is a collection of ~40 short stories where the theme or characters are slightly askew or peculiar in a way that will entice and excite you. Some are just a few lines; others are ~15 pages. All are well-written and showcase her fantastic talent as a storyteller, author, and creator.

On the shorter side for a collection–ending up around ~125 pages in totality–you can devour these tales all in one sitting or over a few night before going to bed. A few frights, a few laughs, you’ll undoubtedly love some more than others because of a character’s description, the ingenious plot twist, or the clever and witty writing tone.

I recommend reading one of her novels first so you understand how strong of a writer she is, then hop to the short story collection so you can see the immense range of her work. Then hop back to her other books where you can travel the world and visit serial killers through her talented writing skills.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

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Tear Me ApartTear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read a few J.T. Ellison books over the last two years. When Tear Me Apart came out, I quickly added it to my TBR and looked forward to getting it scheduled in the queue. After reading lots of light cozy mysteries, I needed a stronger thriller or suspense last week and moved Tear Me Apart up on my list. I enjoyed the book a lot and walked away with tons of mixed emotions, ultimately settling on a solid 4 stars.

Mindy Wright is a 17-year-old competitive skier who is likely about to join the US Olympic Team. An accident on the slopes derails those hopes but also reveals she has leukemia. The rest of the book is an explosion of lies and secrets all culminating in discovering (1) Mindy’s real parents, (2) how she became adopted, (3) what happened to several young girls in a psychological institute, and (4) what is the relationship between parents and children versus sisters. Since I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, what you need to know is that this book will delve into how far a person will go to protect someone they love or something they desperately want.

The book starts in complete discord and chaos — in a good way. Different characters lead the first few chapters. We have perspective and POV from a few primary people in the book. We don’t know how everyone relates to each other until at least fifty percent into the book. It’s a suspenseful tale that draws you in… not immediately, but with each unraveling layer of the onion. It’s a bit sweet, sometimes make you cry, but always leaves you with something more to keep discovering. Who’s telling the truth? Who’s leaving out some info and embellishing other history? It’s confusing and all leads to a rather huge explosion.

Let’s start with the good. Character, plot and writing are all solid. They are well-depicted and keep you interested. Ellison chooses to only show Mindy’s point of view in a handful of not-very-important scenes. The focus is on her biological parents and her adopted parents, as well as other interested parties and one kind aunt. How everyone fits together is intriguing, especially once you discover who’s behind the letters Mindy finds in a locked closet in her house.

Let’s dance around the odd. One character goes from completely in control to completely out of control. I can support her slow unraveling… history coming back from the dead… the powers of psychosis taking over… but it was way too far. If you’re crazy, you’ll do some crazy stuff. But I still don’t understand why 17 years later you go off the rails in a spectacularly insane finish. If the secret comes out, it does. You could have kept a bunch hidden and just said: “here’s who your parents were” and “this is how you came to live with us.” Also, we don’t have nearly enough clarity on what was wrong with the bio mother to do the things she did. I understand depression can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do, or feel things you shouldn’t feel, but… the progression wasn’t enough for me to completely believe it. For those reasons, I couldn’t give this 5 stars.

I thought about dropping it to a 3 or a 3.5, but ultimately, I couldn’t put the book down. I found myself in constant attachment and wanting to know how did it happen. Sometimes I poked holes in the explanations only to find those same holes being explored chapters later. It’s OBVIOUS the author went into extreme planning mode and truly wrote a complex thriller. It just didn’t complete the webbing for me. I respect her talent and think because of my obsession to know what happened, I feel comfortable with 4 stars.

Who else read it? What did you think? I will definitely read more from this author. She’s a wonderful storyteller.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Dust by Patricia Cornwell

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Dust (Kay Scarpetta, #21)Dust by Patricia Cornwell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Dust by Patricia Cornwell is the twenty-first book in the Kay Scarpetta series consisting of about twenty-five (and still counting) novels in the medical and FBI thriller mystery sub-genre. I began reading the novels nearly two decades ago but stopped for a while when I ventured into other genres. I recently picked them up again and want to get current before the next one releases in late 2019 (from what I can tell thus far). They focus on a medical examiner who’s worked for the states of Virginia and Massachusetts but now runs an even larger firm where she employs security, investigative and technical staff. Her husband, Benton, is an FBI profiler. Her niece, Lucy, is a tech whiz. And her best friend, Marino, is now a cop again. All in all, I don’t particular like any of them as people; however, as characters they’re strong, complex, and challenging… hence why I keep reading these books.

In Dust, the body of a young tech whiz who was suing a company for losing some of her money, is found dead on campus. A weird dust covers parts of her body and she’s wearing underwear that don’t belong to her. Scarpetta realizes the girl has ties to a serial killer several states away, but she shouldn’t know this because Benton let a few things slip about his case. Unfortunately, his boss is out to get him, which makes the case and any next steps quite difficult. Benton comes home for a surprise weekend and helps Kay connect the dots on the cases, which leads to an all-out investigation. What is Benton’s boss hiding? How is a dead person’s DNA still showing up on new murder victims? What does this have to do with a case Kay oversaw years ago where she thought the victim was murdered but her deputy filed it as a suicide? And how connected is Lucy to this new victim since they were both working on the same tech inventions? Phone records show many people were connected in secret.

Overall, the plot is intense and complex. It’s the best part of the book. The story unfolds with a great deal of medical and technical details; some is over the top, but much of it is easy to follow. The conclusion has a nice surprise twist and made the book feel quite strong. That said, I had a few concerns which I can’t help but wonder how they slipped through in the final editing process. The reason the first victim was killed is still unclear. Unless that’s the plot of a future story, that’s a problem for me. The who/what/when/where/how of why the killer is connected to someone else in the story isn’t explored enough. It’s just dropped as a suspenseful cliffhanger mid-book, then shares a one-page explanation near the end where we’re supposed to connect the dots on our own of how it all began. It needed more development in those areas to tie things together more closely.

There were a few other incidents like this which prevent me from giving it a 5-star rating. I end up with 3.5 star rounded higher on the book sites, but I really hope the next one is cleaner. I’m ordering it this week and will buddy read with my friend, Medhat, in the near future.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

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The Howling Cliffs (Sara Mason Mysteries Book 2)The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Deal has become one of those authors whose books always deliver strong story, memorable characters, and beautiful narrative that’s easy to read and highly engaging. The Howling Cliffs, the second book in her ‘Sara Mason Mysteries’ series is the sixth book I’ve read in the last two years from her growing list of works. Between the title and the cover, it’s no wonder I loved the book, but I’ve also been reading several books with tropical locations such as Hawaii in the last few weeks. I’ve apparently got a theme going…

Sara has had a hard life, but she is a survivor and will never back away from a challenge. Months after solving a major crime involving a serial killer in the last book, she heads back to Vietnam to search for MIA heroes for two close friends: Esmerelda, a widow whose husband was murdered in the first book, and Huxley, Sara’s potential future husband soon. Esmerelda’s daughter never returned from her medical mission. Huxley’s brother, a strong leader of his group, also disappeared. Both are surely gone, killed in action during the awful Vietnam War from decades earlier. After finding a few scattered remains, the crew heads back to California (and other places) to see if they can find a DNA match. Sara returns to Hawaii where she’s renovating a house for travelers to stay when going back and forth on missions to Vietnam. She’s also visiting old and new friends and recuperating from a tough few years. Only it’s gonna get worse.

Some neighbors welcome her. Some do not. She’s an outsider, a haole, not of Hawaii’n birth. But it’s one neighbor, an angry and distant young man who lost his sister to a predator ~12 years ago when she was a child, whom attracts Sara’s focus. She wants to solve the cold case, and in doing so, digs up several secrets and lots of dirt somebody wants to remain buried. Through a series of near-death experiences, Sara explores her neighboring town’s beautiful landscape, researches and investigates the case, and tries to understand what makes the weird noise coming from the nearby cliffs. The Howling Cliffs is part-mystery, part-chronicle of life suspense. We follow Sara through several key changes in her life as she decides what she wants to do next. She’s a strong female lead with solid intuition and a zest for helping others. Admirable on many levels, she’s also forgetful about protecting herself. We see her deal with a little bit of pain and remorse, but also her desire (and need) to find new friends, like her neighbor who helps in the search for the child killer from twelve years earlier.

Deal’s novels handle complex, emotional experiences and tragedies while keeping a tight grip on the plot. We easily bounce from the main mystery to all the sub-plots that weave throughout the book, knowing it will come together, and thirsting for what’s the surprise waiting for us in the end. The author’s own life experience and knowledge of various remote parts of the world make the dialog, setting, and descriptions not only real but vivid and lively. You believe you’re trapped in a jungle with snakes and danger. You think the mudslide has trapped you in its grip. You enjoy the entire ride and feel satisfied with the ending. I’m really excited that she’s writing a third book in this series, which will have a takeoff from a plot in this book. I love when an author keeps those connections, and I’ll be the first in line to get a copy when it’s released. Thanks for another winner, Mary Deal.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

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The Bone Bed (Kay Scarpetta, #20)The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a five-year absence, I decided to catch up on the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. I read the 19th book last month and now I’ve just finished the 20th book, The Bone Bed. If this were a standalone book, I’d be totally thrilled… but after finishing two within a month, I know why I slowed down a bit. It can be a little much at times, and having a year in between is a good thing. I still plan to read the last few in the next couple of months so I’m fully caught up, but then it’ll be nice to keep them spaced out… assuming Cornwell keeps writing more. We’re over the 25 mark already… The Bone Bed is less of a technical thriller and more of a medical thriller. By getting back to the basics, I found myself more interested in the actual murders and autopsies. It’s amusing that I go from reading a light cozy mystery to a hardcore gruesome thriller, but I like to keep the balance in my life as tight as possible. Perhaps I’m a little too wound up?

A body is found at sea attached to a reptilian-dinosaur-turtle creature. A man is on trial for killing his wife but the body hasn’t been found. An archaeologist is missing in Canada. What do they all have in common? A few interesting things and perhaps the same serial killer. But why is (s)he doing it? Kay must find out except as things start to come together, people close to her begin hiding things from her. Then she’s called to testify at a trial only to see it’s a completely orchestrated game where she’s the intended victim. Her entire scene when she’s performing an autopsy then rushing to the courthouse for the trial is absolutely stunning. It’s about 5 to 6 chapters (~100 pages, 25% of the book) and it’s one of the most thrilling and immersive things I ever read. It bounces all over the place but I am completely mesmerized by its power over me. For that, I wanted to give it 5 stars. I was so angry at the judge and the attorney who were treating Kay horribly when she did the right thing no matter if it meant she was late to court. OMG, I wanted to kill them. Luckily my other half, who is an attorney, is not a trial lawyer. Or we’d have a problem!!!

Anyways… the rest of the book was strong, but there were some let-downs which prevented a higher rating. For one thing, we lost a major supporting character in the last book, and this person wasn’t at all mentioned in this book. WHAT? Then, we find out Marino did some stupid things again, and we never see him and Kay have it out. That’s not the kind of thing to leave for the next book. We needed recovery in this one from his antics. And the fine Kay pays for being late to court… I want justice against that judge and opposing council. I also don’t think we should’ve waited til the future for it (I’m making a big leap assuming it will happen in the next book). So… I was let down enough to drop 1 star. I also felt Benton and Kay’s relationship was a tad weak in this book… and Lucy’s sudden new relationship was a surprise but should’ve been more prominent. Lastly, in the final chapter, the man on trial might possibly still be guilty of coercing someone into killing his wife even if he didn’t do it and we know who really did. Are readers supposed to guess from the coy dialog? I wanted it to be firm, not vague. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic read… some frustrating moments but definitely improved by STELLAR courtroom scenes and vivid ME actions.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.