Broken Sky by Saurav Dutt

broken skyBroken Sky by Saurav Dutt is a very cerebral and involved mystery, character study, and social commentary. The story begins on the streets of Manhattan as a middle-aged cop stops to talk to a very unique homeless woman. The woman has clearly been on the streets for some time, but is wearing expensive items, such as a minx coat and diamond rings. She carries with her two suitcases, the contents of which she seems to have no memory, as she claims to have amnesia.

The scene soon changes to follow Andie, a young mother recently moved to Manhattan with her son because she is divorcing her husband. Dutt’s portrayal of these characters, their situations, and their world is incredibly detailed. The reader soon becomes engrossed in their stories, wondering what these two seemingly separate situations have to do with each other. The story quickly becomes a mystery as the reader finds out that Andie’s father is a convicted felon, her mother is presumed dead, and the homeless woman is searching for something important, running from something sinister.

The cover of the novel is beautifully done. It depicts the figure of a woman carrying a suitcase back dropped with rich colors. The reader will immediately want to know who the woman is and where she is heading, a question whose answer is not simple or easy, but fraught with danger, hurt, and uncertainty.

Although the formatting has some glitches (sometimes two or three different characters talk in the same paragraph, making it hard to follow conversations, some sections have weird spacing issues, and in the first part of the novel, dialogue is denoted with a single apostrophe instead of two and then it switches, etc.), these errors cannot fully distract from the rich detail of Dutt’s prose and the intricate characterization of the people and their situations.

Despite small editing issues and bits where the timeline gets jumbled and confusing, Dutt spins a beautifully written mystery and commentary on relationships, both familial and otherwise.


True Feel by Ted Bernal Guevara

True Feel Cover 

True Feel by Ted Bernal Guevara is a crime novel staring a reporter, Marion Rafino, who is confined to a wheelchair. While he is investigating a string of murders across several states, he comes across a young stripper, Credence, who seems to be the prime suspect. There is a picture of her at the most recent crime scene, and Marion must balance his love/lust for the girl with his suspicion of her involvement.

Guevara spins an intricate mystery for the reader. Every person involved in this investigation has a rich backstory and connections that are unforeseen. Credence has numerous stripper friends, who all have a story to tell. Moreover, Marion interviews several witnesses, relatives, acquaintances, etc. Guevara definitely does not skimp on the details. In addition to the murder case, the romance between Marion and Credence is an interesting one, with the age-difference, social gap, and physical limitations.

However, the format of the novel makes it hard to appreciate the depth of the storyline. There are so many narrators that the reader may find herself confused and frustrated at times. Every friend of Cadence has a real name and a stage name, and they are sometimes used interchangeably with no explanation. Some chapters, it is obvious who is talking, and in others, it does not become clear until halfway through, and the reader must return to the beginning to understand what is being said.

True Feel is a novel with an interesting concept and an intricate plot idea, but it could have been executed better. The reader may find it difficult to become immersed in the story, as she will be trying to decipher whether it is past or present and who is narrating. This confusion makes it hard to appreciate the “aha!” moment when the perpetrator is finally revealed.

Tylenol Man by Scott Bartz

coverTylenol Man by Scott Bartz is a true crime story about the 1982 Tylenol murders. For thirty years, numerous branches of law enforcement have been trying to find the person who poisoned Tylenol capsules with cyanide, killing seven Chicago area residents. Bartz’s novel concentrates on one aspect of the case in particular—Jim Lewis, who was labeled “The Tylenol Man.”

Lewis became tied to the Tylenol murders in 1982 when he sent an extortion letter to Johnson & Johnson, asking them to deposit one million dollars into a bank account belonging to his wife’s ex-boss to “stop the killings.” Lewis admitted to writing the letter as a ploy to expose fraud in the company that swindled his wife, but denied actually committing the murders. Even so, for the next thirty years, law enforcement attempted to pin the murders on Lewis—causing him to be falsely accused of many things and be in and out of jail. They were using Lewis as a scapegoat, as they had no physical evidence to tie him to the murders.

Bartz writes an enthralling mystery. In the beginning, the reader thinks that maybe Lewis is the guilty party because of certain events that happen. However, Bartz makes it clear throughout the story that things do not add up and the whole process is suspicious. The investigation that unravels is fascinating and horrifying all at once—the reader will not know whom to believe at times.

At some points, the timeline may be a little hard to follow as Bartz jumps back and forth in an attempt to explain fully key figures and their roles. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of detail about the case is amazing. Bartz keeps the reader hooked until the very last page, and she will be compelled to read his other two novels on the subject. If the reader is expecting an answer to the mystery, however, she will be disappointed, as the case has not been solved to this day…

Appointment With Death by David J. Dundas

AppointmentAppointment With Death by David Dundas is a crime thriller with an interesting premise. The main character of the novel is Mike Murphy, who becomes a cop in the small town of Silverton despite his parents’ disapproval. The first chapter draws the reader in, showing snippets of Murphy’s time in training and significant busts he makes as a rookie. At the end of this fast-paced and interesting chapter, Murphy is promoted to detective. Upon making detective, Murphy stumbles onto the case of his career. There is a killer out there murdering prostitutes and gouging out their eyes.

In an attempt to add suspense to the story, Dundas switches back and forth between multiple points of view. In the space of a chapter, the reader encounters thoughts from Murphy, other officers, reporters, and of course, the killer. This is a wonderful technique, but it is executed poorly. Instead of adding mystery and suspense, it merely creates confusion because there is no rhyme or reason to the point of view changes. Moreover, there are no transitions between the changes. In one paragraph, the reader could be watching Officer Reyes being paranoid in her apartment, and in the very next paragraph, it could be a week later and now the reader is watching the killer select a victim. Point of view switches happen as often as every paragraph and can be extremely confusing to the reader.

The plotline of this book is acceptable. As a crime novel, it does its job. The reader will be left wondering who the killer is until almost the very end. For the reader who loves mystery, this story will be a treat. The characters show real promise. Detective Murphy is extremely likable and the reader will want him to succeed. However, there are so many different characters that it makes individual character development sparse. Dundas does some things very well, such as creating an elaborate town and a crime mystery that’s hard to solve, but his writing style falls short of excellent in some areas. If the reader can push through point of view and sequence of events confusion, he or she will still enjoy the overall story.

Grim by Joseph Spencer

Grim by Joseph Spencer definitely lives up to its name: the tale Spencer tells paints a grim picture of murder, suffering, and moral corruption in the town of Prairieville.  It begins with Heath Grim awakening naked and covered in blood, performing a bizarre ritual while staring into a mirror at his reflection with demonic eyes. Immediately, the reader knows that the tone of this story will be bleak and terrifying.  This terror continues as the scene shifts to Detective Adam White as he investigates a crime scene at Marino State Hospital; the murders are so gruesome that they cause White to vomit…and he has been on the job for over ten years.

Over the next few chapters, the reader gathers the back-story for the main cast of characters.  In the town of Prairieville, the Marino crime family used to run the show with The Reaper doing their dirty work. Now, the Black family is in charge, The Reaper is supposedly dead, and the mayor is in Cyrus Black’s pocket.  In addition to the seedy deals of Cyrus Black, two years ago gruesome murders started happening again in the same place that The Reaper did his work.

This story raises numerous questions for the reader: who is Heath Grim? Is The Reaper really dead? Are the gruesome murders and Cyrus Black connected or are they two separate evils?  In order to answer these questions and more, the reader must continue down the path of terror and suspense to find the truth.

Ultimately, the murders are solved in a period of less than two weeks; the short time frame of the novel adding to the overall suspense. Readers will be amazed at the amount of detail that Spencer uses as he weaves a tale about numerous characters that all have elaborate back-stories.  By the end of the novel, the reader questions what he thought he knew as new details are brought to light about past events.  Up until the very end, the mystery is maintained as to how all of the murders are related.  Grim is for readers who enjoy elaborate stories full of terror and suspense; the mystery is not just about who is committing the murders, but also about the human condition overall – what causes people to develop a taste for blood? Is anyone immune or does every person have their breaking point?


Joseph Spencer

Copyright 2012