All Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

The Lincoln Lawyer
Connelly, Michael
4 stars = Really Good

While I saw the movie before listening to the audiobook, I must say that I
still really enjoy the main character. He’s one of those guys you love to
hate, but he’s trying so hard to do the right thing, even if it means
defending a scumbag who deserves a lot worse. Of course, since I had seen the
movie already, I had an idea how it was going to end, but couldn’t remember
the specifics. Perhaps that’s a measure of a great crime drama: all the
misdirection makes it difficult to know “whodunit”, allowing future
rereads to be enjoyable.

But, back to the main character, Mickey Haller, I think one of the reasons
this book was a breeze to listen to was because the main character’s POV is
so well written. You can tell that he has some baggage from his father, which
is partly why he defends everyone, regardless if they’re guilty or not. The
fact that Haller knows his way around the legal system and uses it to his
advantage to even get the guilty an innocent ruling just shows that he takes
pride in his work, even if it labels him as someone who keeps the crime on
the streets.

The plus to this audiobook was also the narrator, who was awesome in bringing
all the different characters to life with his voice acting. Even if the story
is told from the point of view of the eponymous “Lincoln Lawyer,” there
are plenty of interesting people in this book, and each one certainly has a
different “sound” to them. It’s the attention to these details that
differentiates a narrator just reading a book to you and a voice actor who
can bring the events happening in the words he’s speaking to life.

A great start to an interesting crime drama series, I give The Lincoln Lawyer
4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Brass Verdict
Connelly, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good

Another book, another trial for the Lincoln Lawyer. While I appreciated the
stand-alone nature of this book, I also liked that knowledge of the events in
the first book of this sub-series helped to provide context for the
challenges Mickey Haller now faces. The main case of this novel was pretty
predictable, especially if you read into the insinuation of the title. I
would have liked a little more attention on the side-case surrounding the
death of Haller’s lawyer colleague. It seemed to be more of a Harry Bosch
story, though, so I can understand why the focus was on Haller’s case.

Once again, Michael Connelly creates an easily readable series of events that
unfold in the courtroom. Some twists at the end were exciting developments
but were definitely easily guessed if the reader was paying attention.
There’s almost a guilty pleasure in following Haller along as he embeds
that reasonable doubt into the jury’s minds. Something about the justice
system being used to make absolutely sure someone is innocent or guilty just
sits right, even if it’s in the defense of a completely unlikeable
character. This character’s final fate was equally as satisfying, even if
it wasn’t in court.

As noted above, my only qualm with the novel was that it seemed to be only
one side of the story. While we followed Mickey Haller, there was another
story unfolding with Harry Bosch that probably could have filled up another
volume. There was a lot that Bosch did behind the scenes that made his story
also seem quite interesting, even if it wasn’t expressed in these pages.
The connection between these two characters at the end of the book was also
nice, and I am curious how often Bosch will come back into play in future
Mickey Haller books.

A straightforward courtroom drama with predictable twists, I give The Brass
Verdict 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Reversal
Connelly, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good

After two novels of Mickey Haller defending guilty scumbags, Michael Connelly
changes it up with The Reversal. Not only does the title refer to the
reversal of a 24-year old conviction, but also to the main character’s swap
over to the prosecution. While there seems to have been a book between this
one and The Brass Verdict, I have a feeling it was mostly about Harry Bosch,
since the hinted details in this book give me a good idea of what happened
and it didn’t change the last reference point of Mickey Haller.

Now that these two main characters were tied together in this case, one of
the issues I had with this book was how often it switched between first and
third person POVs. Perhaps I was too used to the story being told from Mickey
Haller’s perspective and there was so much that happened outside of his
direct involvement that it was necessary. However, there were times where
Haller was present in the scene and it seemed to switch between the two POVs
somewhat inconsistently, adding to my confusion as to who was speaking. I
only hope the next book in the series focuses more on Haller than splitting
the time between him and Bosch.

Furthermore, while I did appreciate the change of Haller being a part of the
prosecution team with his ex-wife, the story unfolded much in the same way
the others had. Most of the trial was pretty predictable with the twists
being easily recognized well before they were revealed. The unpredictable
ending is almost part of the template now, so even though it was an exciting
development, I had come to expect it.

Another Michael Connelly standard with a few changes to make it interesting,
I give The Reversal 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Fifth Witness
Connelly, Michael
4 stars = Really Good

In the fourth installment of The Lincoln Lawyer series, The Fifth Witness
follows Mickey Haller as he navigates another murder trial. This time, the
real scenario of the foreclosure crisis is brought in to help set the stage
for the trial. Using a historical event like this helped to bring the story
together in a way that felt more real and relatable than the previous entries
in the series. Most Americans I know who were affected by the housing market
crash would certainly be entertained by this story of corruption and
underhanded dealings, if for no other reason than to justify how screwed up
the system is.

Gone from this part of the series is detective Harry Bosch, who I felt
distracted from the main storyline centering around Mickey Haller and his
court battle in the previous two books of this series. This time, it’s all
Mickey. What helped to make this book stand out from the rest was the amount
of soul-searching and character development our favorite defense lawyer does
throughout the events unfolding around this trial. Because of his work as a
defense attorney, it was easy for him to become cynical, thus making his
aloof attitude more entertaining than endearing. This time around, he starts
to become self-aware and sees that his life isn’t heading in the direction
he wants.

I appreciated the slight bit of meta-humor in this book, not only in its
title but considering it came out around the same time as The Lincoln Lawyer
(2011) movie. And while some of the numerous “sudden evidence” events for
the trial was a bit of a cheap way to add twists to the story, Connelly
expertly hid the true twist ending until the final moments of the book,
something that was somewhat missing from earlier parts of the series. With an
interesting nod toward some future storylines, I felt The Fifth Witness is
the strongest entry in the series so far.

A great courtroom drama pulled straight from the housing crisis, I give The
Fifth Witness 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Ryan, Jeanne
4 stars = Really Good

Nerve is about a coward named Vee who decides to try this game online called NERVE. In this mysterious game, you can either be a player or a watcher.

Watchers must pay money to watch, and players get paid to do dares. Vee thinks this is a stupid idea, but then begins to wonder if it actually a fun thing to do. She decides to try it out. One challenge leads to another, and the dares begin to become deadly. Should Vee risk her life for a good prize, or will she lose NERVE?

This is a great book for anyone obsessed with online games, or thrills in general. I definitely recommend this book for any thrill seekers.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin V.
Angels & Demons
Brown, Dan
3 stars = Pretty Good

While Angels and Demons is not nearly as popular as its sequel, the famous (if not infamous) The Da Vinci Code, the elements which led to its successor’s success are certainly all contained within this first book in the Robert Langdon series. Of course, just because you have the materials to build a nice house doesn’t mean that it magically becomes a mansion. Despite containing many of the elements that made The Da Vinci Code so good, Angels and Demons feels a little underdeveloped in quite a few areas.

First, the protagonist, Robert Langdon, is supposed to feel like an “Indiana Jones”-type character, but with a specialty like symbology as his background, I just can’t buy the action-hero transformation of this everyday academic. Add to this the almost repetitive nature of his “discoveries” wherein he makes an assessment, then goes to the location of the assessment only to find that he didn’t think of it in the right way and thus requiring the whole plot to shift gears as he rushes to the new location. He eventually had better predictions, but by then it felt repetitive.

Secondly, the whole “treasure hunt” to find the antimatter (of which I feel CERN is a more recognizable name than it was back in 2000) seemed to take a back burner to the parallel plot of the pope’s death and finding his replacement. It is hard to focus on both plotlines, especially since both of them had pretty predictable endings. Finally, the romance aspect of this novel seemed quite forced, even to the point where the final scene of the book felt like it was ripped out of a James Bond story. Wherein a modicum of charm from the male protagonist makes his female counterpart swoon with undying affection that wasn’t in any part of the prior plot.

A rough start to the Robert Langdon series, I give Angels and Demons 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Da Vinci Code
Brown, Dan
4 stars = Really Good

What a difference three years makes! Even though it contains all the same tropes and motifs that Angels and Demons did, The Da Vinci Code eliminates the fluff and focuses on the strengths of these individual pieces to create an enthralling adventure through Christian history. I will admit that I first read this book because I was curious about the controversy that surrounded it. While Dan Brown is a fantastic storyteller, and many of his connections and links to Christianity made sense, I still maintain that, at its core, The Da Vinci Code is just well-written fiction.

This time around, Robert Langdon is much better suited for the task of finding the “Holy Grail” instead of being a glorified Roman tour guide. His expertise in symbology certainly helped to drive the plot forward, even if it sometimes was in a misleading direction for the sake of a twist. I did appreciate how, even if a clue didn't immediately come into play, it became useful later to help round out the plot. It wasn’t just a series of “find me a rock” exercises but had a parallel set of intersecting strings and subplots that drove the story forward to its exciting conclusion.

And while the female protagonist was much more developed than the one in Angels and Demons, the villains also had more depth to them as well. Instead of a few individuals using the name of a huge organization like the Illuminati to create the conflict, a singular man with a singular goal helped to create the “chase” that propelled Robert Langdon across Christendom to find the Holy Grail. While both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons share almost identical plot structures, the former shows that the execution of such a story is precisely what makes one a great read and the other an exercise in eye-rolling.

An exciting treasure hunt filled with fictional historical connections, I give The Da Vinci Code 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Emerald Atlas
Stephens, John
1 star = Yuck!

It's not that good.

Reviewer's Name: Klement
The Screaming Staircase
Stroud, Jonathan
4 stars = Really Good

Fans of Bartimaeus will not be disappointed by Jonathan Stroud’s series, Lockwood & Co. The “Problem” started about 50 years ago in London. Ghosts became true, dangerous, and very real threats to the living. Only young people have the ability to “see” and eradicate these creatures of the night. Enter Lockwood & Co., a company of three who go out nightly to defend the city. Great adventure, ghost story, and humor interweave for perfect storytelling in The Screaming Staircase, the first in the series.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Spy School
Gibbs, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This book is about a 12 year old boy named Ben Ripley. He got invited into a spy school beacuse he is smart. When he got in, he has to find a double agent. Also he has to prove he belongs to stay in the school. This double agent tried to kill him while he is sleeping and many other times. After he finds this agent the agent offers Ben the opportunity to go evil.

This book is in a series and I can't wait for the next book.

Reviewer's Name: Ayden
The Gods of Guilt
Connelly, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good

Despite The Fifth Witness leaving the door open to an interesting diversion from the same defense lawyer story we’ve come to know and love from Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller, The Gods of Guilt puts Haller back in the hot seat as the counsel protecting a digital pimp from a murder conviction. Some of the depth of the Haller character developed in previous books in this series was eliminated after his unsuccessful District Attorney run, but there was still enough humanity in him to advance his story. After all, his coping mechanisms and needs are some of what we all deal with in our own lives.

While I have come to expect a twist ending from Connelly, it was surprisingly missing from this book. For once, Haller’s client wasn’t as bad as everyone made him out to be, and that’s saying something for the digital pimp of Andre La Cosse. Perhaps that’s what made this story a little more uncomfortable than the others: the seedy underbelly of the adult entertainment industry is harder to relate to than simple foreclosures. Still, I can’t help but think that the same strawman tactics that Haller used in this case were quite similar to some of his other defense cases.

All this being said, Connelly is still a master of his craft. The pacing and advancement in the plot was excellent and the peril Haller found himself in after getting too deep into some serious side-investigations helped to make a rather standard book in the series an entertaining read, nonetheless. As was the case in The Fifth Witness, I appreciated the meta nature of this universe where the Lincoln Lawyer movie was a real part of Haller’s life.

Yet another predictable entry in the Mickey Haller series, I give The Gods of Guilt 3.0 stars out of 5.

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Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The Crossing
Connelly, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good

Having already blasted through the rest of the Mickey Haller series, I finally arrived at a book that didn’t center around the defense lawyer. Instead, The Crossing follows Harry Bosch, Haller’s half-brother (which we learned back in The Brass Verdict). I realize that Mickey Haller is merely a spin-off series from the main Harry Bosch series, so it was interesting to finally enter the main storyline of Connelly’s longest-running character. Now I see that he writes Bosch books in third-person, as compared to Haller’s first-person, which was why I was confused when the POVs switched in one of the previous books featuring both of them.

Coming into this series at the twentieth book was a little jarring to me, but not entirely disorienting. There were plenty of references to previous books I had not read; but by the sounds of them, these predecessors were certainly exciting. What probably helped with my transition into this series was that Bosch retired from his job in the police department, thus creating a new start for the character that could be used to explore some interesting scenarios without being burdened by the bureaucracy of his job.

While Connelly’s writing is still superb and suspenseful, the one aspect I found to be a bit unbelievable was Bosch’s innate sense of what was “wrong” with the current investigation. Just based on one single, minor detail, he was able to unravel the deeper conspiracy involving other, corrupt police officers. What if he hadn’t noticed? Would he have still managed to get to the bottom of the truth? Either way, I might have to pick up the earlier books in this series, just so I can get more of the story behind the briefly referenced excitement Bosch had to go through in the past.

Proof that sometimes it’s difficult to quit a job after having done it for so long, I give The Crossing 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The Zero
Walter, Jess
3 stars = Pretty Good

I’ll be honest and say that I had no idea what this book was about before I started listening to it. Once I got into it, I could clearly see how the title and cover image related to the story at hand. It’s interesting to think that a mere five years after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, a book like this could be written. Of course, there is plenty of highly descriptive language that helps to cement the story to the reality of the tragedy. That being said, there are many situations in the plot that feel quite cynical, if not downright dark in their humor. Perhaps it’s this mixture of the absurd and the tragic that gives The Zero its interest.

I did find the memory gaps experienced by the main character to be an interesting literary device, especially in their transitions. For the main character to have a series of memory gaps to add to the eventual reveal at the end of the book, I almost felt like I was listening to the film, Memento (2000). Considering how much I love Memento, this was a good thing. The character only knows as much as the reader, which leaves him and us piecing together what happened at the same pace.

Despite its ability to poke at the ridiculous nature of the nationalism that resulted from this disaster, The Zero does show the effects of this national tragedy on its citizens. Loss can be hard to deal with, and everyone does so in their individual way. The poignancy of the narrative is true even today, more than 15 years after the events that transpired that day.

A cynical and often darkly humorous examination of the effects of 9/11, I give The Zero 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Agent of Chaos
Garcia, Kami
4 stars = Really Good

When Fox Mulder was just a kid, his little sister was kidnapped while he was babysitting her. That event has haunted him and his family ever since. So, when children start to go missing and then turn up dead from what appears to be a ritualistic serial killer, Mulder knows that he has to do something.

While I like the X-files, I'm certainly not the world's greatest fan - I've probably seen around 1/2 of the episodes, and I haven't watched the reboot. However, this book jumped out at me as I was perusing the stacks, and I'm glad it did. In fact, if you are just a fan of mysteries and/or the paranormal, this book will totally meet your needs. You can go into this without knowing anything about Mulder and the TV show, and you'll still have a great reading experience. If you are an avid fan of the show, there are several "easter eggs", cameos and cute references throughout the book (the smoking man shows up in the first chapter!). Also, it's got some entertaining historical fiction elements as the book is set in 1979, and that is very much reflected in the music and technology.

Garcia does a great job with the character development. Mulder quickly teams up with two other "genuis" types, and this book could've quickly devolved into some variation of "three teen geniuses solve a crime caper" a la a number of middle grade/YA books out there, but Garcia fleshed the characters out to the point that this pitfall was, for the most part, avoided. Mulder is, understandably, obsessed with finding his sister, and his parents are separated. His best friend, Gimble (a D&D name), has a father who is so enmeshed into conspiracy theories that he's been fired from the Air Force (he may or may not be an influence to young Mulder). His other best friend, also a love interest, was not as well developed, she was easily the weakest character, and I could've done without her and the romance. The story itself was a well done serial killer mystery, though the end felt a little abrupt with a ton of loose strings. The mystery is only mostly resolved, so I'm assuming there will be a sequel.

Anyone looking for a decent mystery with good characters, look no further. The X-files stuff is just icing on what is an already pretty tasty cake. I wanted to believe (I couldn't help myself), and this book didn't let me down. 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Written on my Heart
Rogers, Morgan Callan
4 stars = Really Good

Written on My Heart tells a tale of young Florine Gilham and Bud Warner, a couple soon to be married. As the wedding approaches, Florine's memory is drawn back to her mother. She disappeared when Florine was only twelve years old. Florine and Bud face the challenge of trying to solve the mystery of her vanishing mother all while raising a family. It comes to a path that shows them the power of families, not only the one's you are born into, but the one's that are because of friendship.
Overall, this fiction was fun to read, but does get a little bit boring in the beginning. It does speed up, and the author's impressive writing creates the whole scene for the book.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Kristin V.
And Then There Were None
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I often have a hard time with mysteries, but And Then There Were None was classic, suspenseful and just plain enjoyable. The audiobook version was especially entertaining, perhaps because the original story was written as a play under an alternate (and controversial) title. The characters feel like they were the predecessors to the characters found in the game Clue. They are equally sinister and sympathetic. I am particularly intrigued with the connecting reason all of them have been brought to the island and the psychological effects of that reason. To the very end Agatha Christie teases your deductive reasoning skills. You always feel like you are on the cusp of finding out who the killer is, and then you're wrong! I was completely at a loss by the end. Thanks goodness for the epilogue. This is a timeless mystery classic.

Reviewer's Name: Danielle
L.A. Mental
McMahon, Neil
2 stars = Meh

In L.A. Mental, after a freak incident with his brother Nick, Tom Crandall investigates his bizarre breakdown and discovers something gigantic.
He may be in over his head. I really liked the mystery that kept me intrigued throughout the novel. I didn't like how confusing it was, although every few chapters the book explains what is going on and helps you understand. I pick this book because I wanted something to keep me on the end of my chair, and while I was mildly interested this wasn't a book I just could not put down.
Mostly this book was completely predictable but it did throw in a few surprising twist and turns. I could partly relate to Tom because i don't have the best relationship with my siblings just like him. This book was an okay book definitely not my favorite but I would recommend.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gemini K.
Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls
Weingarten, Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good

In Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarton, June, a high school junior, investigates the mysterious "suicide" of her ex-best friend, Delia.
Throughout the book she discovers new mysteries and experiences betrayal and numbness. Her character develops quickly to adapt to what events occur. I liked how the book connects with June's feelings about the events, and describes them in detail, like any good book should. I did not like how the author only included two point of views, I would like to read what the other characters thought about and how they reacted in their thoughts. I pick this book because I wanted a mystery novel and the title as well as the cover piqued my interest immediately. Suicide note from beautiful girls had surprising moments, that made me think 'wow, I can't believe that just happened' but it had moments where I could predict what was going to happen.
I could semi relate to June, she as well as I have lost a best friend. I would say this isn't the best book I've read this year, but it is up there with a good story plot.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gemini K.
We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
4 stars = Really Good

i read we were liars before e lockart came to the library and i was soooo happy when i found out she was coming. her speech at the library was so inspirational and amazing. anyways its about a girl named cadence sinclair who has a really broken family and they wont accept this Indian boy named gat who she loves. her family goes to an island every summer and gat is never really accepted the end of the book is so heartbreaking and unexpected good for fans of john green, rainbow rowell, julie buxbaum, lauren myracle and more.

Reviewer's Name: elizabeth p.
The Girl Before
Delaney, J.P.
1 star = Yuck!

Would you like to read a book about psychopathic men exploiting vulnerable women? Well then, do I have the book for you!

After having a stillborn child, Jane needs a new start. What better way to start over than in a new apartment? One Folgate Street has weird rules to be sure, but the minimalist life style required by the owner actually sounds like the perfect way to reinvent herself. But after she moves in, Jane learns that a previous tenant, Emma Matthews, was murdered in the apartment. As Jane learns more about Emma, she finds that they have much in common - and that she might be the apartment's next victim. The Girl Before goes back and forth between Jane and Emma's stories.

This was...not good. The beginning of the book was intriguing, and until about 1/3 of the way through, I was thinking it'd be a 2-3 star read for me. And then, like a conversation with a stranger or a first date, the book took an unfortunate turn. This was, sadly, to be the first of many unfortunate turns. Ultimately, I finished the book as it truly is an easy read - there was almost no imagery or description, you spend most of the time in the main characters' heads or watching them do incredibly stupid things (have these women never heard of a hotel?). Oh, and as is often the case in these domestic thrillers, the characters were all extremely unlikable.

This genre is pretty hit or miss for me (for example, I liked Gone Girl but HATED Girl on the Train), and The Girl Before was no exception - I found it to be kind of terrible. It's apparently being made into a movie, and I think with some plot/character changes, it may be more successful in that format. Stay away from the book unless you just can't get enough of psychological thrillers. 1 star - I did not like it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt