Review Tuesday #truecrime #ghost and #thriller #bookreviews

Ciao, amici. Sleepless nights lend themselves to reading. I’ve got a list of books for you today.

True Crime Book:
Fatal Charm: The Shocking True Story of Serial Wife Killer Randy Roth

★★★★☆ A No-Frills Account of A Killer

This was a fascinating look at the life of Randy Roth and the unfortunate people who crossed his path. With all the information presented (from childhood through incarceration), you can see the way his personality was shaped. It was chilling to see how duplicitous he became and even more disturbing was his fervent belief that he had the right to do what he did.

I couldn’t give this five stars because I found the organization a little hazy and the writing “telling” and not very immersive. Even so, this was a compelling portrait of a tragic tale.


Ghost Story:
Forgotten Bones

★★★★☆ 3.5 If I Could. Promising Premise; Ultimately Predictable

I’d really been looking forward to this one. I was intrigued by one of the lead characters having schizophrenia. I was excited to read a story in a genre I love where the person with a mental illness wasn’t the antagonist.

He (Eric) ended up being my favorite character. In fact, the most interesting thing about this book was his relationship with Jake, another character who was a “freak” (that’s the term he used). Their interactions were warm and genuine and were the best of the novel.

I thought the clues were obvious and couldn’t believe it took Susan (the female lead and a cop) so long to piece the puzzle together. And her actions at the end were completely illogical.

Like my title suggests, I found the premise intriguing. And Eric and Jake save the story. It’s worth reading for their interactions, but not for the mystery itself.


Psychological Thriller:
The Stranger Inside

★★★★☆ Red Herrings Abound

I love psychological thrillers—the chilling atmosphere, the frightening anticipation, the pulse-pounding desperation. My favorite part is figuring out who did it and why.

This book had its fair share of the first, but it fell short of the second.

The author crafted strong main characters. Visceral. Relatable. Even if you didn’t like what they were doing, you understood what prompted the words and actions. As far as character development, this book is almost a clinic. The author nailed the dialogue and internalization. At least, until the end, when some decisions were made that were pretty hard to swallow, especially given one character’s complete turnaround.

It’s the killer that I had a problem with. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m choosing my words carefully here and being intentionally vague. I think the author was trying so hard for a surprise reveal that she didn’t leave enough clues. (Even that might be saying too much.) When I figured out what was going on, I went back to see if I missed the breadcrumbs that would lead me to the right destination. I didn’t. There weren’t enough. There were some, but too few. Given how this character is perceived by so many and by sheer logistics, the reveal seems more like a gimmick than a horrific truth.

This is a fast read. The characters are compelling even though the ending is unbelievable. And I wish there was a bit more forecasting. Keep it subtle, but get it in there. This one fell just short of a four-star for me, but not low enough to give it a three.


Police Procedural:
Hey You, Pretty Face

★★★★★ Multiple Plots Woven into One Wonderful Story

This is my first Jack Rutherford novel, and I enjoyed every word. The characters are so much better than trite, cliche placeholders easily exchanged with any number of others in this genre. This is a well developed, three-dimensional cast with fully developed personalities. Some are lazy and annoying, some are sweet and pitiable. A few are reprehensible. And the lead is stalwart and true. His relationship with his wife warmed my heart, and his interactions with Billy, Chloe, and Mary warmed my soul.

The author did a remarkable job of tying up all the threads into one tidy bow. While I saw how it was all going to come together very early in the story, it didn’t diminish my pleasure at all. It was the character progression that carried the novel.

Like I said, this is my first jack Rutherford novel. But it won’t be my last.

38 thoughts on “Review Tuesday #truecrime #ghost and #thriller #bookreviews

Add yours

  1. Question for all the mystery writers out there; does being a mystery writer yourself hinder you when ready mystery books? Do you guess whodunnit straight away? Do you get sucked into the red herrings or see them for what they are? I’m a total doofus when it comes to mysteries… I rarely guess whodunnit and take everything at face value. Curious how it is for you guys!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think an understanding of story structure gives any writer of any genre the ability to see what’s going to happen. Even when I was primarily a romance writer, I could figure out who the murderer was early in a television show or movie. The hard thing for me to do is turn that text-analysis part of my brain off and try to read or watch for pleasure. (Sadly, I can almost never do that.) Try to appreciate NOT seeing the breadcrumbs until the author points them out. Or train yourself to find them as you go. (You’re an excellent storyteller, so you must understand how to build a plot; you just aren’t looking for plot points and clues as you read or watch, and that’s not a bad thing—unless you’re trying to build that muscle.)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the chilling cover aspect of thriller novels. Most give a good foreshadowing of the storyline and prepare the reader for the thrillride to come.
    Insightful reviews, thanks, Staci. I think The Inside Stranger sounds good!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read a few good, but disappointing books lately, so I just downloaded Hey You, Pretty Face (awful title). I rarely read psychological thrillers/true crime anymore but I need something new for a minute. This one sounds good. Great reviews. And I agree with Craig. Honest reviews are refreshing, and I learn from them. I never give 1 or 2 star reviews, though, either. Books I can’t even finish are some peoples’ favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honest reviews are important.

      That title is awful, but the book was good. I do like a good thriller, though. And you’re right; not every person will like (or dislike) every book. If you read it, I look forward to your opinion on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent reviews, Staci! And even though they weren’t perfect, I’m intrigued by Forgotten Bones and The Stranger Inside.. I think I may have Hey You Pretty Face on my Kindle. Either that, or I was checking it out recently. I’m off to Amazon to do some poking around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I seem to be drawn to the teal-and-orange covers, for some reason. And not because I’m a Miami Dolphins fan (go, Steelers!). It is a compelling color combination. But it’s weird because I don’t shop covers; I shop blurbs. Who knows.

      If you download any of these, I can’t wait to hear your take on them.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jacqui. I’m in sci-fi writing mode, but I’m in thriller planning mode, so I’ve really been reading a lot of them lately. I don’t know how many true crime books I can tolerate; I may stick to just watching the History Channel specials. Knowing that horror is out there… you’re right; it stays with you.

      Like

  5. Very honest and helpful reviews, Staci. With that cover, I had high hopes for Forgotten Bones. What you said about the reveal being a gimmick in The Stranger Inside is disappointing – you’ve got to leave at least some subtle clues in there. Bruce Willis in Sixth Sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many people were surprised at the ending of Sixth Sense. I got it right away. (Well, pretty early.) But I still loved the movie. Because it was so well done. There were clues; they were apparently more subtle than I thought, but they were there. Not too many, not too few. Not too blatant, not too obscure. It was masterful. That’s why the ending of Forgotten Bones was such a disappointment. I saw going into the climax what the author was doing, and it just wasn’t set up correctly. Fabulous cover, though. And a decent read to that point. I wish someone at the publishing house had made her handle the plot a bit differently. It could have been amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My family has stopped asking me about endings because they say I ruin it for them. It was fun for them when they thought I was guessing, but now that they realize I understand story structure and it’s not a “guess,” it’s sucked the fun out of it for them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t want to be mean—I’ll never do that, both as a professional courtesy and just as a general rule for how I treat people. (That’s why you’ll never see me give one- or two-star reviews), but you have to be honest. It’s not fair to people who rely on the reviews to make a decision. I hope I was diplomatic. Thanks, Craig.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess Jack Rutherford (the main character) has many books, and in multiple eras. This one is in the 1990s; I think others might be modern day. I know I’ll read more. It was a good book, but the characters were what really sold me.

      Liked by 1 person

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