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.

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.

Meltdown: A C.A.S Novel

meltdownMeltdown by Christopher Albert Summerfield is a modern thriller. The story begins in London at King’s Cross Station during a typical 21st century day; people are walking around attached to their MP3 players and their cellphones—escaping the reality of the recession by escaping into themselves and ignoring the world. Then suddenly there is an explosion in Central London that emits a cloud of thick, dark-green smoke. Minutes later a second explosion rocks the ground and communication goes down. In the aftermath, there is utter chaos—people are running without direction, and for some unknown reason, begin to attack and kill without provocation.

It is in this bedlam that the reader meets Mary and her son Mathew. They are running to the Underground in an attempt to reach Mary’s husband. Along the way, they see the senseless slaughter of men, women, and children by people who seem to have gone mad. Underground, they meet up with Ron, a tube worker who has barricaded himself in his office. Because the surface is full of dead bodies, crazed people, and looted shops—with no help in site—they decide to travel along the tracks in search of assistance.

On the way to the next tube station, they meet up with John, Jake, and Emma. John is a police officer and they hope he can shed some light on the situation. When they reach the next station, they find more dead bodies and an injured woman, along with more supplies and a radio. John decides to check the surface once more. They only form of rescue he encounters is a police helicopter with the message to head for Parliament Hill.

Now that the group has a destination, they decide to scout the tracks before they head for the surface. As the group waits for John and Jake to return, they settle in and share with each other their version of what happened…

Meltdown is written in multiple point of views; in the beginning, the point of views are somewhat jumbled, but if the reader can follow the action, this confusion actually fits in with the chaos that is happening and emphasizes the fear and uncertainty of the characters. A majority of the story is the internal dialogue of the characters thinking about their loved ones and their lives prior to this event. The reader will enjoy getting to know each of the people in detail. It seems that the reader is privy to every thought in their heads. For the reader who wishes to puzzle out the mystery of the explosions, this in-depth characterization could get frustrating. The mystery remains unsolved until almost the very last page. The entire book, the reader will want to know: what caused the explosions and why have they made people bloodthirsty?

One Rode In by Albert Zayat

One Rode In is classified as a psychological thriller, so the reader expects an intense and complex plot; Zayat does not disappoint.  The story begins with Cal, an aging New York journalist, whose career is in jeopardy.  Cal has been tipped-off about a violent gun-fight in an upstate New York bar that was barely reported; he hopes that this will be the story that saves his career, so he decides to take a road trip and solve the mystery of what happened there.

From the very first page, the reader is privy to Cal’s thoughts and the book seems to be written as a sort of stream of consciousness – at times it seems that Cal is talking about, but also to, himself.  Cal’s journey begins in his old, beat-up car as he listens to a radio show featuring a doctor who believes people come back from the dead.  It has been stormy, so the radio’s connection is spotty and sometimes it cuts off in such a place that the radio seems to be answering Cal, which is just the beginning of the mysterious things that happen to him on his road trip and beyond.  On top of the talking radio, the gas station attendant seems to know things about Cal’s past, present, and future.  And if that is not weird enough, the map Cal has been using seem to be changing as he drives along.

After an exhausting drive, for both Cal and the reader, he arrives in the town of Fate and locates the bar in which the gunfight took place – named Destiny.  Those names alone foreshadow important events and revelations to come.  Inside the bar, Cal finds photographs of a man named Malcolm.  As he is pondering the photographs, a strange man appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and Cal begins his long journey to find out the story of Malcolm and the town of Fate.

From the start of the novel, the reader can tell that this will be an epic tale; it is the story of a man on a journey to find answers.  The premise alone creates a sense of importance – this news story is a matter of life and death for Cal’s career and maybe his legacy.  In addition, Zayat personifies certain elements, such as the thunder and lighting, which creates a sense that all details and components are important to the story.  The first chapter alone is so full of details and references to past and future events that the reader almost feels unqualified to puzzle out the mystery with Cal; sometimes the details are so muddled together that the reader has no idea what is happening and if he missed something crucial to his understanding.

This confusion may make it difficult for some readers to continue the novel until the end.  At times, it is hard to follow the plot, but the shear detail and the amazing prose are worth the extra effort.  The reader may not fully understand what is happening on a given page, but he must hold out hope that all will be revealed in time – much like Cal. The novel in itself is a mystery up until the very last chapter.  The vivid details, and the way Zayat arrives at the solution to the puzzle, engrosses the reader so deeply that most of the time he will be as lost and confused as Cal; however, in the end, this means that whatever Cal learns and however Cal grows – so shall the reader.  This novel is so rich in details and ideas that one read-through is not enough – this is the kind of novel to be read multiple times, with each time unearthing something new.

One Rode In

Albert Zayat

Copyright 2011

Bedbugs by Ben H Winters

Bedbugs is a horror novel narrated by an insomniac, unemployed mother who has anxiety problems.  Told through Susan Wendt’s impressions, the reader is never sure what is truth and what is imagined by this woman who is so influenced by media and her own insecurities.  The novel blurs the line between reality and imagination at every turn – it is not until the very last chapter that the reader learns the true story and knows who to believe.

The story begins with Susan Wendt searching for the perfect place for her family to live.  Susan has recently quit her job at a law firm to pursue her painting.  Her husband Alex makes decent money photographing jewelry and watches for a commercial company.  Their daughter Emma is a well-adjusted child who is watched by a young nanny in the mornings and early afternoon.  After months of searching, Susan has found a place that sounds too good to be true – it is a charming, two-story home in Brooklyn with a bonus room in which Susan can paint.  The house is everything they have been looking for and they can afford it; they fall in love with it on sight.  Susan even loves their landlord, an eccentric old woman named Andrea Scharfstein.  Susan and Alex decide to move in.

During the first night in the house, the reader learns that Susan is not as care-free and happy as she lets on.  After her husband and daughter are fast asleep, Susan continues to unpack because she has terrible insomnia.  She is sure that her husband resents her for not working and staying home to paint while he is stuck in a lousy job instead of taking artistic photographs, she chastises herself for not being able to paint and for wasting money on a nanny when she doesn’t work, she thinks about her mother’s untimely death…all these self-deprecating thoughts make her unable to sleep.  That first night she is sure she sees a man standing outside her daughter’s window.

Then things start to go very wrong with the house and her marriage.  Alex is stressed about work and Susan blames herself; she starts having horrible nightmares filled with blood and gore.  Susan begins to notice little problems with the house – there are cracks, loose outlet covers, uneven floorboards, and most bizarre of all – a faint pinging noise with no discernible source.  When Susan finally steps into the bonus room to paint, there is a horrendous smell and a strange photograph with a bloody fingerprint.  Andrea tells her the story of the couple who lived there before them, but something doesn’t seem right to Susan.  One day, Susan meets Louis – the elderly handyman and friend of Andrea’s – and learns that there was a tragedy in the basement and a subsequent darkening of the houses’ atmosphere.  But all of this is just the beginning of Susan’s terror-filled journey…how much is reality and how much is a product of her anxious brain? Is she losing it or is there a menace in her home?

Bedbugs is an intense and suspenseful narrative told from the perspective of a likable woman with glaring psychological issues. From the very beginning, the reader connects with Susan and feels like he truly knows her.  He wants to trust her and believe her reality, but at the same time, his objectivity is constantly questioning her perceptions.  This novel does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing – any time another clue is revealed it only adds to his confusion.  This story is a real page-turner – the reader will be hooked until the very last page!

BedBugs

Ben H Winters

Copyright 2011

 

Dark Passage by Griffin Hayes

 

Dark Passage is classified as a paranormal thriller and it definitely lives up to the hype; be warned, this novel contains images so chilling that it may keep some readers up at night, squinting into the dark corners of the bedroom, searching for signs of grotesque creatures…

 

The first chapter is a vague yet poignant look into the past.  An unnamed boy is alone in a house that is clearly run by a mother with OCD.  The reader learns from snippets of the boy’s thoughts that his mother is a germaphobe who is also abusive.  She uses the idea that there is a monster living in the room at the end of the hall to terrify her son into obedience.

 

The book then switches to the present where the reader meets Tyson Barrett.  Tyson has insomnia and has not slept in six months.  He is about to join a clinical drug trial for Noxil, which treats PTSD and is supposed to stop his nightmares so that he can sleep for longer than a few minutes at a time.  The next chapter switches to another narrator, Dr. Hunter, who has just begun at Sunnybrook Asylum.  Dr. Hunter learns that on the 8th floor, which is reserved for patients who have committed violent crimes, lays Brenda Barrett.  Brenda has fallen into a coma, but shows unusually high brain activity.

 

The reader is left wondering how all of these characters relate to each other.  When Brenda seems to speak to Dr. Hunter even in her comatose state and when things start appearing from out of Tyson’s dreams, the situation just becomes creepy and the reader cannot help but read on in hopes that the mystery will be solved and the nightmares that are bound to appear will be vanquished.

 

From the beginning, Hayes captures the reader’s attention with the image of a terrified boy and the terror does not stop there.  Page after page, the past is pieced together and the future becomes more and more frightening and uncertain.  At times, it may seem as if Hayes is falling back on psychological horror story stereotypes, such as a traumatized boy losing his mind. But this is not the case.  Readers will not be disappointed in the ending; the nightmare lasts right up until the very last page.

 

Dark Passage

Griffin Hayes

Copyright 2011