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.

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The Gnostic Prophecy by Mike Vasich

the gnostic prophecyThe Gnostic Prophecy by Mike Vasich is a mystery thriller with spiritual undertones. The story begins when Dr. Russell Kellar meets with a potential client to appraise an ancient scroll. During the meeting, Kellar realizes that the scroll could contain important religious connotations. After he texts a photo of the writing to his girlfriend, Professor Cerise Davenport, a mysterious being attacks. From that moment, Cerise is embroiled in a deadly mystery. Along the way, she meets an enigmatic little girl who seems to appear and disappear at will and enlists the help of an old friend who has a death wish.

Vasich’s writing is superb. The plot is intriguing, and the characters are interesting. The style and detail in the prose invokes an emotional response to the material. It is easy for the reader to sympathize with the characters and become involved in the action. The book is formatted and edited well, making it easy for the reader to appreciate the prose, the detail, and the story. The cover fits the novel well, using striking colors and images.

Readers will be sucked into this story easily. The mystery is an interesting one, with a variety of different players, all with their own roles to play. Who are the super strong figures that show up every time the scroll is mentioned? Where did the little girl come from? Is Russell still alive? The questions keep popping up, none with ready answers. Even agnostic or atheist readers can enjoy the depth and beauty of this tale.

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.

The House of Tomorrow by Adair Arlen

The House of Tomorrow coverThe House of Tomorrow by Adair Arlen is a tale of intrigue and romance that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. First, we meet Paul Gregory as he is closing his bar for the night. There is an elegance to this scene as Arlen describes Paul’s interactions with two different women and the ambiance surrounding them. Paul is painted as a suave heartbreaker type.  That night, he dreams of a third woman, who he saw in passing the evening before.

That woman is Lillian Greening. Arlen describes Lily as genuine and pure; she strives to see the good in people and is uncomfortable with deception. She does not know the allure she possesses for men nor the extent of her beauty. That is why she cannot believe it when Sam Meredith, one of the richest and most influential men in town, asks her to meet his family and, later on, become his wife.

Sam Meredith seems to be every woman’s dream—attractive, charming, attentive, and wealthy. And he seems genuinely to love Lily, even though his family disapproves of the match. However, things take an unexpected turn when Paul begins to insert himself into Lily’s life and Sam starts acting sketchy. Paul begins to show an interest in all things to do with Lily (and Sam), but he will not tell her why. And Sam, after proposing, becomes twitchy and distant. What is it about the Meredith family that has everyone speaking in riddles? And why is Lily suddenly of interest to two of the most attractive and mysterious men she’s ever met?

Arlen spins an interesting tale about secrets and how our past effects our present and future. Concentrating less of the details of the mystery, he focuses on the characters involved, giving them elaborate backstories and delving into their emotions. The beginning of the novel is beautifully written as the reader is introduced to the cast and the situation. Some readers may find the middle a tad on the slow side, as the action slows down and it’s mostly internal thought and introspection. But the end is fast-paced and action-packed. The reader will enjoy this story of relationships, both romantic and familial.

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.

Footprints of a Dancer by Bob Avey

Footprints of a DancerFootprints of a Dancer by Bob Avey is actually fourth in a series of Detective Elliot mysteries. Yet, the reader who has not read the first three novels will have no problem comprehending Elliot’s life and actions. Indeed, after reading this installment, the reader will be inclined to acquire the previous ones. Throughout the entire book, Avery spins a mystery so elaborate that it is almost impossible to gauge how the tale will end.

The story begins with Elliot taking an evening jog. Thinking he will be alone on the trails, he is surprised to find that a woman is running towards him, even more so because she is an old friend by the name of Laura who went missing years ago. To make matters even more bizarre, another old friend calls to tell Elliot that he has seen Laura as well, directly after she disappears on the trails. Elliot agrees to meet with Gerald, as there is something strange occurring, but when Elliot shows at the meeting place Gerald is gone, and no one knows where he went. Suddenly, Elliot is on the trail of two missing friends that he believes have been murdered. By who, he has no clue.

To make matters more complicated, there seems to be a supernatural aspect to the case. Something to do with an obsidian knife of unknown origins. Moreover, Elliot begins having visions, as well as experiencing fluctuations in time. Is Elliot going insane from the stress of being a cop and looking for old friends or is there something sinister at work? The reader must follow Elliot to the very end to find out the answer, along the multiple twists and turns and inexplicable events.

Avery spins an intricate mystery that the reader will enjoy, especially one who attempts to crack the case as it is happening. Every step of the way, the evidence is so detailed that it feels as if the reader is standing right beside Elliot. This is not one of those mysteries where the outcome is foreseeable; there are so many suspects along the way that the reader is thrown off the trail up until the very end. There are even times when the reader feels they have escaped the confines of time along with Elliot himself. As a detective novel, Footprints of a Dancer does not disappoint.

Protect and Serve by Robin Leigh Miller

protectandserveProtect and Serve by Robin Leigh Miller is a steamy romance novel and a nail-biting mystery all at the same time. The story begins when Lieutenant Kevin Smith is called to a domestic violence dispute. When he arrives on scene, a man—who is later identified as Briggs—is beating and kicking his wife. Just as Kevin is exiting his cruiser, a woman comes out and hits Briggs with a cast-iron pan, knocking him unconscious. Kevin recognizes the woman as Tami, the waitress he’s been eyeing up at the local diner.

In the aftermath of the assault, the reader learns that Tami is a take-charge, cocky, vivacious woman who keeps polite, kind Kevin on his toes and off-balance. Their flirty, sexual banter during his attempt to get her statement is soon interrupted by a chirp from Tami’s cell phone. He is surprised when she reacts in fear.

When the next chapter turns to Tami’s point of view, the reader learns that Tami has downloaded an app on her phone that is supposed to tell her when she is going to die. At first, it was meant to be a joke, but after the texts started coming several times a week, fear sets it. The app is just the beginning of the creepy things that happen to Tami. After work the next day, she comes home to a trashed house—broken dishes, spilled food—but when she searches for signs of a break-in, all the doors and windows are locked. Then, to make matters worse, she goes for a twenty-minute walk, and when she returns, everything is back to normal. Over the next few days, she hears inexplicable noises and experiences more weird events. Finally, she decides she has a ghost living with her and realizes she must find a way to get rid of it.

Interspersed between spine-tingling episodes are steamy, vividly detailed sex scenes between Kevin and Tami as they discover their mutual desire and respect for each other. Tami is wild and uninhibited; she knows what she likes and wants, and she goes for it. Kevin has always been reserved, brought up to treat women with a certain amount of decorum. The more time they spend together, Tami shows Kevin that it’s okay to have a wild side…and his wide side sure is something!

If the promise of erotic, intimate love scenes isn’t enough, Miller also writes an intriguing and puzzling mystery. Tami is so sure that she is living with a ghost, but what do the death app and the ghost have to do with one another? Are they related or are they two separate events? When people around Tami start to die, the question of who is haunting her becomes even more important. Can it really be a ghost causing all this mischief or is there someone out there gunning for Tami? Maybe it’s both. Until the very last chapter, the reader will be questioning every piece of evidence and every detail, much like Kevin and his fellow officers.

Robin Leigh Miller does a fantastic job of blending love, lust, terror, and mystery in Protect and Serve. It is a romance novel with a little something for everyone. For the reader who enjoys romance and intimate scenes, the wait is a short one. For the reader who enjoys puzzles that are hard to solve with unexpected outcomes, the pleasure lasts until the very last page.

Protect and Serve

Robin Leigh Miller

Ellora’s Cave

Copyright 2012