Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Middle grade mystery, sci-fi

When You Reach Me

When she got the first note, Miranda was able to convince herself it was just trash–it wasn’t necessarily meant for her and didn’t mean anything. The second one couldn’t so easily be dismissed. Then she begins to unravel a mystery that involves her once-best friend, the crazy man on the corner, and a break-in where nothing was stolen. Can Miranda put the pieces together in time to prevent a death?

I am so glad I decided to see what this book is all about. Though it’s for a younger audience, it intrigued me when I saw it on a fellow blogger’s Top Ten Tuesday list a few weeks back. It was such a great read! I liked the book’s feel of living in a big city in the 70s, which was based on the author’s own childhood. The mystery was seriously engaging, and even the chapter titles were wonderfully themed!

The chapters are mostly short, some as short as 2 pages (on my Kindle, so probably less in a book format), which kept the story moving, even when a lot of the eralier chapters covered backstory that brought the reader up to date on the “present time.” Also, the main character’s mom is practicing to be on the game show The $10,000 Pyramid, and most of the chapter titles are themed around that (ex. “Things That Burn”), which is also explained well enough in the story that younger readers, who wouldn’t know the show at all, will understand it too.

I had my theories about who wrote the notes, going back and forth between 2 people before deciding on one. When the big reveal happened, though I suspected most of what was revealed, it still left my breathless for a moment. It was so well done!

I will say that I think Sal was maybe a bit more mature in his thoughts and decisions about friendship that makes much sense for a boy his age, but other than that, I loved everything about this book. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, with some time travel thrown in. It is middle grade fiction, but I don’t think it the younger audience makes the story any less readable for adults.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Self-Publishing Spotlight: The Treasure Map

Do you like…

  • …portal fantasy?
  • …stories of rebellion against tyranny?
  • …people standing up for their faith?
  • …books that take place at Christmas time?
  • …dangerous adventure stories with a message?
  • …magical maps?

If you answered yes to 1 or more of these questions, consider checking out The Treasure Map.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jack is a 10-year-old boy ready for a joyous Christmas vacation, but as punishment for a poor report card, he is tasked with cleaning out his family’s long-forgotten attic. Inside, he finds a chest with a treasure map and a letter that transports him to another time, place, and existence.

Jack finds himself living the life of a young man named Niko, an enemy of the State of Ariel, a martyr of the Faithful, sentenced to die during the Independence Day celebrations. When an earthquake strikes, Niko finds the opportunity to escape, discovers a guide known only as the Elder, and teams up with a group of the Faithful to change history.

About Tyler Scott Hess: Tyler Scott Hess is a believer, writer, and author of the new novel The Treasure Map out November 4, 2019.

Trained in the business world, uplifted in the church, and dedicated to the craft of writing, Tyler has spent years sharing his thoughts on the world through an ever-increasing collection of novels, including the holiday classic, Christmas in Pineville.

Tyler grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where he graduated from Oregon State University, before moving down to southern California, where he also graduated from Calvary Chapel Bible College. After working, marrying, and beginning to raise three children, he moved back to Oregon with his family.

He is a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ and seeks to emulate his favorite storytellers, such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Treasure Map was self-published by Tyler Scott Hess in November of 2019. It’s available on Kindle (and is currently on Kindle Unlimited) and as a paperback. You can read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Or see my review here.

Self-Publishing Spotlight: Hope Is a Dangerous Place

Do you like…

  • …small towns with dark secrets?
  • …mysteries about missing people from 75 years ago?
  • …teenage sleuths?
  • …stories where the setting is as much a character as the people?
  • …seeing revival?
  • …tornadoes?

If you answered yes to 1 or more of these questions, consider checking out Hope is a Dangerous Place.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Award-winning author Jim Baton believes revival is coming to America. This is what it might look like–

Seventy-five years ago, fifteen-year-old Hope McCormick disappeared. To remember her, the newly incorporated town was named “Hope.” When high school friends Kelsey and Harmonie begin looking into this unsolved mystery, they discover that someone will do anything to make sure the town’s secrets never come to light. Which neighbors are allies, and which face masks a violent enemy? And what will it take for their struggling town to fulfill its original destiny of hope?

About Jim Baton: Jim Baton (pen name) has spent the last 20 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray.

Jim also speaks internationally on the peacemaking themes he’s presenting through the thrillers he writes. These books contain a depth of understanding regarding the roots of the Christian and Muslim conflict, how to bring healing to Abraham’s broken family, how to combat terrorism with non-violence and love, and how to become a true peacemaker.

Hope Is a Dangerous Place was self-published by Jim Baton in February of 2020. It’s available on Kindle, where the price has been discounted for the month of April, and as a paperback. You can read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Or see my review here.

Book Review: The Dandelion Killer

The Dandelion Killer
by Wanda Luttrell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery

Dandelion

When a town socialite is murdered and a 55-year-old mentally handicapped man is found with her dandelion pin, the police take him in for questioning, only for him to escape their grasp. It’s up to his best friend and sister-in-law of the victim, Elayna Evans, to try to prove his innocence before the police re-capture him. She has problems of her own, though, as someone seems to think the victim left something with Elayna before she died. Maybe she’d be wise to stay away from the investigation, but Elayna can’t leave her friend’s fate in the hands of the police…or the real killer.

I enjoyed this book overall. I think my favorite thing was the characterization of Jayboy, the mentally handicapped man. The mystery took some interesting turns, though there was a good deal of predictability in it too. I liked the added pressure of the rising river that threatened to flood the town.

The chapters generally alternated between Elayna’s POV and Jayboy’s POV (always 3rd-person though). Watching Jayboy’s progression through being suspected of murder, then escaping, and then where he goes from there, which I won’t say, was one of the more engaging things about the book. The repetition that I noticed in the author’s style was was prevalent throughout these parts too, but seemed a lot more natural.

Elayna herself was all right as a main character, but she began to grate on me a little. For one thing, there was the repetition I mentioned, which came out a lot in her thoughts about the murder and about her absentee husband (who had taken off one day and was gone for 10 years, but she refused to move on). She also was a bit too wishy-washy for my taste.

There’s a character introduced part way through the book who was another favorite of mine. His story has a unique angle to it, if not a little awkward and coincidental. He’s the main place that the Christianity comes into this book, though to be honest, I don’t know why he had to be a pastor. It seems pretty common in these kinds of books, but it’s not like everyone who has a strong faith has to be a pastor. I did find it weird that his full name was pretty much always used, both in narration and in dialog.

As for the mystery itself, I don’t want to be too specific about the ways that it was predictable, because that would give away a lot of the ending from early on. But it was almost like the author tried to make it less predictable by setting up the narration in a way that we get used to, and then changing it on us without us realizing it. However, I don’t know if that was intentional, or just something I read into it. And there’s a New Age angle that feels so against the tone of the book, and I think it’s mostly there as a vehicle for the Christianity.

One of my favorite things about the book was this one scene in a restaurant that was newly opened by the pastor mentioned above, where there was a guy singing a song that was described but not named. From the description, I knew the song was “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Wayne Watson, which is a favorite of mine. So that was pretty cool. Overall, I’m glad I read it (though it wasn’t the first time–I was given this book by a sibling and read it a few times after I got it, but that was at least 15 years ago), and would recommend it to people who enjoy Christian mystery books.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Hope Is a Dangerous Place

Finished Reading: Hope Is a Dangerous Place
Hope Trilogy #1
by Jim Baton

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, suspense

Hope

A recent transplant to the small town of Hope, Colorado, high schooler Kelsey already knows that there are certain families who hold a lot of power in town. When a journalism assignment leads her, her best friend, and the class loner to dig into the origins of the town, they find an unsolved mystery. A teenager disappeared 75 years in the past, and when the town was incorporated not long later, it was named as a memorial to her. What Kelsey discovers is that all of the towns oldest and most powerful families were potentially involved in that mystery. And someone doesn’t want the past dug up.

The prologue drew me in from the beginning, making me wonder how the premise could tie in with what was set up there. Though I found the characters a little weak, I was intrigued and wanting to know more about the mystery. And then I hit the wall at the end.

The mystery of Hope’s disappearance was a slow burn, but was interesting enough to drive the story up to a point. From almost the first point that Kelsey and Harmonie began to look into the disappearance, they were targeted in increasingly dangerous incidents. It certainly seemed like something really bad happened all those years ago.

Kelsey, unfortunately, does not make a very interesting main character. She’s all over the place in regards to Christianity. She seems to be a believer, and even has some insight for her pastor father who goes through some rough times. Yet she’s also belligerent and doesn’t seem to care about the language she uses. She also doesn’t seem like a high schooler in a lot of ways. Other characters aren’t much better–many of the male characters are chauvinistic to the point that I had to keep reminding myself this was set in 2020, not the 1990s or earlier. I think some of this might be because this book is clearly setting up the fictional town for a revival, and showing why it needs it, but it’s still strange to me.

I don’t want to seem like it’s all negative, though. Though Kelsey is the main character, there are several large side characters that I felt were stronger.

As for the wall I mentioned…the book ended right as a huge puzzle piece was going to be revealed. I felt incredibly let down, and at first thought maybe the book was just missing a few pages. Originally, I thought the story goal was not resolved at all, which is a huge no-no. Even in a series, trilogy, etc., each individual book often has its own internal story goal. I thought that goal was something that I won’t state to avoid spoilers. But I did wonder after I’d had some time away from the book if the story goal was actually something else that was resolved, albeit in a somewhat anti-climactic way. However, if that’s the case, I think it could have been written in a way to make the unresolved plot not seem like it was just about to be resolved, only for the book to end. The upside, though, is that if does leave the reader wanting more.

I know many don’t like books with such cliffhangers, but for some, just knowing it will end that way in advance can help a lot. So you’ve now been warned. At this point, it’s difficult for me to recommend the book without knowing the outcome of the trilogy. I’ll be interested to find out how the story continues when the next book comes out, and I’ll be steeling myself for another major cliffhanger.

One final note: As I touched on above, there is a decent amount of language in this book, at least for a Christian book. I know Christian authors often have to decide which way to go in this regard–I’ve had this internal debate myself. But the amount used in this book doesn’t seem like there was any uncertainty on the author’s part, and the fact that the apparently Christian main character swore quite a bit really puts me off.

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Book Review: Head On

Finished Reading: Head On
Lock In
#2
by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Sci-Fi mystery

Head On

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the first book in the trilogy, Lock In.

In the near-future world set up by Lock In, some of Earth’s population are paralyzed and are only able to interact with the world through robot bodies or by stepping inside another human known as an “Integrator.” In this world, a sport known as Hilketa becomes popular, which features these paralyzed people (known as Hadens) on the field in their robots (“threeps”) basically using weapons to beat each other up and score points by removing each others’ heads and running it through goal posts. When one of the players dies during the game, the FBI is brought in, which gives us a chance to see Haden FBI Agent Chris Shane in action again.

This book had a lot of what made Lock In so amazing, with the same easy-to-read and smoothly flowing writing and dialog, the same intriguing world where the prejudice toward Hadens emulates both racial prejudices and bias against disabled people, and the same complex conspiracies behind the initial death. I didn’t like it quite as much as I did the first book, but only subtracted half a star for this sequel.

In the first book, there was a major legislation on the horizon that would seriously financially hinder most Hadens, basically cutting off most government funding for them. The looming question of whether or not it will pass plays a role in the book. This book, set about a year later, shows some of the downfall after it did pass, and many Hadens–and by extension many companies that were involved with Hadens in some way–are worried about their financial future. It was interesting to see how the dust had started to settle after that decision.

We saw a lot more of the housemates that Chris first met in Lock In, and I really liked the way they added to the story. There were some fun scenes and conversations involving a cat that brought smiles to my face. And speaking of smiles, while I was reading this book, my husband made multiple “apply directly to the forehead” references, which made it all the more noticeable (and amusing) to me when I caught a reference in the book (I won’t presume to say for sure that it was intentional by Scalzi…but the way it was worded does not seem like it could be coincidence).

The mystery as a whole, and some of the rabbit trails the agents followed to solve it, wasn’t as enthralling to me as in the first book, which is the main reason for my slightly lower rating. However, overall, it was still a lot of fun to read. I would be quite happy if Scalzi decided to write a third book in this world. I would recommend this book for fans of near-future sci-fi and for mystery lovers, and while I will say that it’s probably very possible to read this book without having yet read the previous book, Lock In was really good and explained the whole Haden syndrome more anyway, so I’d still suggest starting there.

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Book Review: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Finished Reading: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor
Once Upon a Dickens Christmas
#1
by Michelle Griep

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian historical mystery, romance, Christmas fiction

12 Days.png

With Christmas 2 days away, this will be my last Christmas review for the year! So sad, and yet, I had so much fun focusing on holiday-related fiction and will definitely do it again next year! Now, onto the review!

When seven people are invited to spent the 12 days of Christmas at Bleakly Manor and offered some sort of reward for staying the entire time, the clash of personalities, not to mention the lack of food and heat, provide the backdrop for the re-igniting of a relationship. Clara Chapman is offered enough money to save her from the poor house. Her ex-fiance Ben Lane is offered his freedom from a prison sentence that he doesn’t deserve. They’ll have the chance to discover the truth behind what broke them up, but only if they can survive the other guests–especially after the revelation that only one of the guests can get the prize.

This is a nice Christmas-adjacent mystery with some romance, set in 1850. I enjoyed the way the guests interacted, for the most part, and while the mystery elements were fairly predictable, I still liked the way it all came together at the end. I liked the atmosphere that was built both with the descriptions and in the writing itself.

One of my biggest disappointments with this book was the way both Ben & Clara were so quick to assume the worst of each other. Even when they began to understand their misconceptions, they still took longer to let go of them than I thought they should. I know that 9 months of believing the worst of someone else can sour the mind, but…in the end, 9 months isn’t really all that long. And even later, without spoiling anything, both of them had opportunity to trust in the other after they have had a chance to get past their issues, and both failed, at least to some degree. It’s not the most solid basis for a relationship.

There was one particular guest that I really didn’t like–both his personality and how he acted, but also how he was described and portrayed in the text. And in the end, he was barely involved in much and left without making much of an impact. There were a few other things here or there that never ended up making much sense for the story, but they were mostly minor things.

Overall, it was a fun read, short and sweet. I liked the old-fashioned traditions involving Christmas that were shown, and there was one particular thing that was revealed at the end that I felt like I should have guessed, and think many would, but I didn’t, which made it better for me. It definitely has some Christian elements scattered throughout, and the romance is clean (there are some physical desires brought up, but not acted upon). I recommend this book for anyone looking for a quick Christmas read, for a historical book with mystery elements, or for a Christian romance.

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Book Review: Strands of Truth

Finished Reading: Strands of Truth
by Colleen Coble

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, romance

Strands of TruthHarper’s mother died just before Harper was born, and she never knew her father. At the age of 15, a man named Oliver took her under his wing and became like a father to her in many ways. His own children detested Harper, though, because of how much attention their father paid to her, and assuming that Harper was only after their father’s money. As an adult, Harper looks up to Oliver as a mentor, and now works with him as a business partner. At the start of the story, a DNA registry site has found a likely half-sister for Harper, and upon meeting, Harper realizes that both sisters have a similar story, with their mothers dying when they were infants, and neither knowing their father. At the same time, both women become the target of attempted kidnappings. Oliver is also attacked, and his son Ridge is determined to find out why, while also attempting to expose Harper for the fraud he believes her to be.

 
This book was a jumbled mess, and my mind feels a bit jumbled when trying to organize a review. I will start with what I did like. The premise was intriguing, and the mystery did hold my attention for the first half of the book. The descriptions of the Florida setting were good, and it was easy to imagine a warm, humid environment. The book brought some subjects to my attention that I otherwise might never have known about (for example, sea silk and other things related to pen shells).
 
However, this also leads me to my first issue. Many things came up in the book that were completely foreign to me, and I was left to figure out on my own what on earth it even was. Or the explanation would come so late that I was confused for a while. At one point early in the book, it says a character was in the “Weeki Wachee parking lot,” but really never actually says what Weeki Wachee is. My first guess was that it was a common supermarket chain in the region. Or maybe restaurant. But after Googling it, it’s apparently a state park and spring in Florida. It would have been really easy to explain this in the book, along with many other things, but instead, I had to Google more than I would prefer while reading a book.
 
Speaking of Google, there was a lot of mention of food and restaurants in the book that weirdly came across like name-dropping. As if, to make the book feel more authentic to the location, the author had done an internet search for popular restaurants in the real-life town in which the book is set, and even went to the online menus so that the characters could mention specific dishes that really do exist in those restaurants (I looked one up; it’s real!). Maybe this shouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it got to a point where it was just a bit too much, and took me out of the narrative enough to bother me.
 
And then there was the really weird part where the narration compared the main male character (Ridge) to “Chris McNally from Supernatural a bit, right down to the thick black hair.” I had to stop right there and look him up. I’ve seen Supernatural quite a bit, but I didn’t recognize the name, so I looked him up. He was in two episodes, 6 years apart, as basically bit roles! I have my theory about why Coble included this bit of obscure trivia, but no matter the reason, it was completely out of left field and made no sense. This reference is not going to help anyone envision the character, and to top it off, this still of McNally in Supernatural does not show him with “thick black hair.” This is indicative of what I felt was a greater issue in this book–it really could have done with another round of intensive editing.
 
This book was half-mystery, half-romance. The mystery half was the only thing that kept me going, because the romance was half-baked at best. For one thing, I really didn’t care about either of the two main characters. I did not connect with them at all. Also, the main characters strongly disliked each other for a while, then started to warm to each other. Then Ridge tells Harper that he misjudged her and wants to start fresh, making it clear that he has some sort of feelings for her. But two days later, she’s panicking over an idea that maybe he just thinks of her as a sister. And since the turn in their relationship came halfway through the story, it was very predictable what the bump in the romance was going to be, and even that turned out to be weakly done.
 
As for the mystery half of the story, it really fell apart in the 2nd half as well. For one thing, there are flashbacks throughout the book showing the life of a woman who was murdered around 1970 in the year leading up to that event, but by the end of the book, I realized that the flashbacks added basically nothing to the story. Spoiler: And to make things worse, Ridge was able to watch some video taken by the murdered woman, that ended right before the murder. After the video is described, the same moment is shown in a flashback, and it didn’t even match up with the video!
 
This review is getting very long, so I’ll try to be more brief in the rest of my notes. Clues to the mystery were given in an order that did not maximize suspense for the reader. The main characters investigated more than the authorities (who didn’t really seem all that concerned about the abductions), and yet the main characters are constantly questioning if these obviously related events are even related. Most of the mystery was fairly obvious (to me) early enough in the book to make any twists near the end fall flat. Several things happen that make no sense and are never explained. Spoiler: There’s a bomb that never goes off and is never mentioned again, that I forgot about until right now!


All in all, this half-mystery, half-romance didn’t deliver in either department. And this time, I don’t think I can chalk my biggest issues up to personal preference. The book has many flaws that clearly others were able to overlook, but I couldn’t. I would not be able to recommend this book to anyone, and again I’d state that with further revision, it could have been a much more enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Find out more about Strands of Truth
Publication date: September 10, 2019

Up next: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Book Review: Lock In

Finished Reading: Lock In
by John Scalzi

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-Fi mystery

Lock In

In the near future, a disease ravages humanity, leaving a large population of Earth completely paralyzed. In the time period of Lock In, technology has been developed to allow those “locked in” to live as normally as possible, either putting their consciousness into a robotic being, or into the mind of someone who has the ability to accept the mind of someone else. Set against this backdrop, the book is a mystery that starts with a murder, but deepens continually as the story goes on.

I wasn’t really expecting to like this book that much, though I don’t know why. However, I ended up liking it a lot. The sci-fi element, mainly the roles the Hadens (those who were locked in) and the Integrators (those who could let a Haden use their mind & body) played in the mystery, really enhanced the mystery plot.

The main character, Chris Shane, is a Haden and an FBI agent, who interacts with the physical world in what they call a “threep” (basically a robot that is controlled by a Haden’s consciousness). In a lot of ways, the book was similar in this area to Ready Player One, which I only read recently, so it was fresh in my mind. I was interested reading about the laws surrounding Hadens and their threeps, when it comes to crimes committed both by and against them. I also enjoyed the main character’s intelligence, ingenuity, and stoicism.

Another thing that I found myself appreciating throughout the book was the writing style. There is not a lot of description or figurative language, which to my taste, at least, can slow a story down or add unnecessary filler. There were even times that I would read through an entire page and get this feeling in the back of my mind that I’d skipped some text (I do that sometimes, essentially accidentally skimming for a bit before deciding I need to go back), but when I’d go back to try to find what I’d skipped over, there was nothing. Conversations flowed quickly, with little in the way of descriptions of what the characters were doing. Some may find this a flaw, but I personally liked it. If the characters aren’t really doing anything but sitting and talking…maybe sometimes it’s okay to not add minor actions in just because. I usually write dialog this way too, but end up going back and adding more in, because I feel like it’s expected.

Scalzi’s world-building was brilliant too, from following the progression of politics, laws, and citizen response brought on by Haden’s syndrome in America, to the slang and lingo that seemed so natural in this world. My main detraction in the book is involved in this area though. At one point in the last quarter of the book, a side character who is an expert in a field that is needed for the investigation spends about 10 pages explaining some technological and coding mumbo jumbo that I had a difficult time wading through and understanding. I was at least able to come away with some idea of what was going on, though, so it didn’t cause enough problem for me to be more than a short frustration. I also feel it prudent to mention that there was a lot more language than I prefer.

I had seen that there is a follow-up to this novel when I wasn’t even halfway into reading it yet, and I didn’t expect to have much desire to read it. However, by the end of the book, I knew I had to read Head On at some point soon!

I would recommend Lock In for fans of near-future sci-fi and for mystery lovers too.

Find out more about Lock In

Up next#NotReadyToDie by Cate Carlyle

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Finished Reading: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Mystery Thriller

(Recommended by amusing2write)
7.5 Deaths

Imagine coming to consciousness in the middle of a dark forest, mid-sentence, with no memories of who you are, where you are, or why you’re in the middle of a dark forest yelling someone’s name. That is how this book begins, and it only gets more interesting from there. The main character & narrator eventually finds out that he is going to relive the same day 8 times, and that each time, someone will die (the same someone). Only if he can solve the murder will he be released from doing all of this over again, wiped of memories at the start of doing it again.

I had my ups and downs with this book, but in the end, the ups did outweigh the downs. I’ll start with what I enjoyed.

The murder-mystery itself was intricate and well-planned. It kept me guessing throughout the book, especially in the later half, when answers were finally starting to come, yet kept being not what they appeared to be. No one is ever quite who they seem to be, even the people that you are certain couldn’t possibly be hiding something. And I really appreciated the way that the narrator’s different hosts contributed their own abilities toward solving the murder.

As the same day is being relived by the narrator, it reads a lot like a time travel story, as the narrator sees the same events happen over and over. The author did a good job with the continuity in this respect. There were a few things that confused me in this area, but they were intentional (not intentionally confusing, but intentional as in not a continuity issue). I can’t say more without giving some spoilers.

I was certain throughout the book that there would never be an explanation given for the greater mystery–who or what was behind the narrator being trapped inside the various guests at Blackheath, forced to solve a murder. A combination of some reviews that I read and my own assumption that this wouldn’t be explained, due to the why not being the focus of the story, led me to this certainty. I was pleasantly surprised to find that an explanation was given, and while I was still left with some questions when the book ended, a Q&A section at the back of the book clarified things. To be clear though–this wasn’t a cheat on the author’s part to leave out some information and fill in the blanks later. It didn’t bother me to be left with the questions I had–it was the kind of thing where the reader was left to infer their own answers, and it turned out I had inferred them correctly.

Here were the downsides to the book for me (as spoiler-free as I can be), which can be mostly chalked up to personal preference:

Early on, I struggled with how long it took to get into the mystery, and what was happening that seemed to be completely unrelated, or at least very different, from what the book was going to be about. Between the title of the book and the inside of the book jacket, I knew a lot more than I feel like I was meant to know, and grew impatient waiting for that information to be presented in the book. Even the name of the narrator is right there on the book jacket, but that information wasn’t given until at least 1/4 of the way into the book. I don’t think this is the fault of the book itself though, so much as the fault of the blurb and, to a lesser degree, the title.

The book is written in 1st person and present tense. It works well for the premise, but the downside to this is that certain events are a little too up-close and personal for my taste. This mainly relates to violence and death, but other situations as well. By the end of the book, I felt like I should take a shower, as the mustiness and decay of Blackheath and the alcohol- and smoke-covered guests is described so often, and in such intimate detail that at times it felt like I was swimming in it. I also didn’t care for the extreme way that the author portrayed one of the narrator’s guest’s overweight body, with such disdain, and not to mention as if the host could barely walk 10 feet without being out of breath. I was as thankful to be out of that host as the narrator was.

The last downside I want to mention is that I didn’t personally care for the author’s style. There was so much figurative language that, by the end of the book, I actually said to my husband, “I’ve read this sentence 5 times, but I can’t tell if something big just happened, or if it’s just a metaphor.” There is also quite a bit of description, so between that and the figurative language, the narration often bogged down the story for me. I came to appreciate the dialog, because it was much more straight-forward, but a lot of the story happens in the narration. By the last third of the book, though, I had started to skim the descriptions (how many different ways can you tell me that a new room we’ve entered is dirty, run-down, and dark?), hoping I wouldn’t miss anything important along the way.

To sum up, I did enjoy the book, and once I really got into the mystery, I found myself wanting to come back to it whenever I could. I would recommend it for people who enjoy mystery, especially those with intricate plots. I think many would struggle with the complexity of it though. I would not recommend it to my friends and family, however, as I think the violence and debauchery might bother them as much as, if not more than, it did me, so keep that in mind if you don’t care for that sort of thing.

Find out more about The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle*
*This is the US title. The book is elsewhere titled The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Up next: The Oath by Frank Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!