All Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

Spy School
Gibbs, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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
Genres:
The Gods of Guilt
Connelly, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

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

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.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

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

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.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

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

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
Review:

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.
Genres:
And Then There Were None
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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
Review:

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
Review:

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
Review:

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.
Genres:
The Girl Before
Delaney, J.P.
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

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
The Thief Lord
Funke, Cornelia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord", the most famous thief in all of Venice is a young boy who goes by the name of The Thief Lord. He has recruited a large band of misfits to aid him in these crimes -- including runaway orphan brothers Prosper and Bo, who are being pursued by a detective hired by their aunt and uncle. The story had a great pace and was fun and engaging. The setting was described vividly and could be considered a character of its own.
The only flaw I saw was in the ending, which seemed out of place and didn't flow right with the rest of the story. But, the book was still great. I'd highly recommend it to readers of all ages.
Review Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Traces of Guilt
Henderson, Dee
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Small town crime is the plot of the novel. Cold cases are reexamined by Evie Blackwell State Police Detective to launch a new state task force. The novel kept my interest to the end because I wanted to know if and how she solved the cases. It seemed unlikely that all these cases would have occurred in a rural town setting and many of them overlapping, but perhaps I am naïve about such things. . It was interesting to follow the thoughts of police work and the background that goes into solving cases. The characters were enjoyable, particularly the Thane brothers. I enjoyed these men of integrity, their caring hearts, and the family they belong to. Evie is tenacious in her thoughts and work. I enjoyed some visiting characters from other Dee Henderson novels that I had read previously. I wouldn't say there is a lot of action suspense, but rather character development more along the lines of regular fiction. There were some touch topics that affected the characters deeply. I would recommend it if you like character driven stories.

Reviewer's Name: Angie
The Trespasser
French, Tana
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the early hours of the morning, a man places a phone call to the local police station reporting that a woman has fallen down and hit her head in her living room. He asks for an ambulance to be sent but hangs up before the officer receiving the call can ask any more questions. When the first responders arrive at the scene, they find a young woman lying against the fireplace, dead. Junior Detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are assigned to the case, but as they dig into the facts they start to suspect that there’s more to it than a simple domestic dispute. Try as they might, though, every new lead seems to dry up when they look into it. And it isn’t just the case that’s causing problems; everything seems to be going wrong in Conway’s life. She’s being relentlessly hazed by the other detectives on the squad; her relationship with her friends is deteriorating between the long hours and her own depression; and no matter how high their clearance rate is, neither she nor Steve are having any decent cases thrown their way. Conway is tough as nails and dedicated to her job, but the animosity of the rest of the squad and the constant scut work are starting to make her doubt her career path. This case seems like their best chance to get back on track and finally win some respect -- provided they can prove that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

This is the most recent entry in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series. If you're not familiar with the series, I'll say that, while each book can be read as a stand-alone without issue, there are some recurring characters that make it rewarding to read them in order. The lead in this book, Antoinette Conway, was first introduced in the preceding book, The Secret Place, and her partner, Steve, started out as a minor character in Broken Harbor. All of French’s books are excellent character portraits, so it’s rewarding to get to see the same individuals first from an outside perspective and then from within their own head, but you won’t miss anything plot-wise by skipping them. The Trespasser centers around the idea of fantasy: the stories we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better, the stories we tell to other people to make them act the way we want them to, and the devastating effects it can have when those fantasies finally collapse. That applies as much to the detectives as it does to the victim, and so we get a nice mix of personal drama with our protagonists and the more straightforward investigation of the murder. I loved Conway as a character in The Secret Place, so I enjoyed getting to see things from her own perspective in this book. What I like about French’s books is that they have more going on than just the ‘whodunnit’. The mystery is always interesting to me, but what really shines is her portrayal of the characters and the setting: Dublin really comes alive for you in her books, and the characters feel like they could walk off the page.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
113 Minutes
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I was very curious to try one of James Patterson's Bookshots. He called them a pulse pounding thriller from beginning to end. I will say it lived up to the billing! I was immediately into the story and kept wondering what was going to happen next. 113 Minutes started off with a teenage boy dying from an overdose from crystal meth. Then there is a bank robbery, a heist of over a million dollars at a country club, and then a shootout with the Feds! Whew!!! I really enjoyed this one and can't wait to read more Bookshots!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
The Amateurs
Shepard, Sara
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Seneca's life revolves around solving cold cases and unsolved murders. As soon as she found the Case Not Closed website online, she becomes obsessed to the point where she stops paying attention in classes and risks expulsion from her university. But when the sister of Helena Kelly, a murder victim who disappeared mysteriously in a sleepy Connecticut town, reaches out through through the website, Seneca knows all bets are off. Along with some friends from the site, she finds herself in Connecticut for spring break trying to solve the mystery of Helena Kelly's disappearance.

I recently read a book that was billed as "Twin Peaks" meets "Gossip Girl" and it sucked. I figured this one might fill that now existent hole in my life. While it was a bit more "Gossip Girl" than "Twin Peaks", the book was exactly what I wanted it to be: brainless but entertaining with a good mystery. It dragged a little in the middle, but otherwise, the pacing was pretty fast especially as the clues start to come together. The dialog is breezy and light, the mystery and background of the characters is, for the most part, pretty dark and the cast is diverse but underdeveloped. Shepard totally fooled me with the killer - I thought I knew who it was, but I had no idea.

If a slightly soapy murder mystery sounds like it could be your thing, look no further. I enjoyed this one - 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
We Know It Was You
Thrash, Maggie
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Popular school mascot Brittany Montague jumps off a bridge in her mascot costume. The only two members of the private school's "Mystery Club" are determined to find out why.

This book took me forever to read, mostly because it was kind of awful. I picked it up because I love a good murder mystery and this was billed as Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars. While I'm not super familiar with either property, I figured that this meant it would be a dark and weird murder mystery with a touch of scandal and gossip, which, YES PLEASE. I was also pretty drawn in by that AMAZING cover. Kudos to whoever designed that. But the book itself was not so great. I've actually got so many reasons that I didn't like it that I'm going to present them in an enumerated list:

1. The "mystery" such that it is, is actually solved in the first 100 pages, and the book was seriously uninteresting after that.
2. BOTH main characters were freaking terrible, small, boring people.
3. Aside from the MCs, there were five "bad" characters in the book, four of which were people of color (three are Asians - does the author have something against Asians?). There's also a weird sort of anti-Semitic statement. So.
4. Adults are presented as being totally worthless. Something to this effect is actually said multiple times.
5. There is a weird unresolved child porn sex-ring subplot that will seemingly go somewhere in the next book? Somehow this is a series?
6. Our lovely main girl character refers to other lady characters as sluts, because, as mentioned earlier, she is freaking terrible. There is other fun sexist messaging as well. At one point, a coach basically calls women crazy because they get periods. Awesome.
7. Oh yeah, and there is rape. Because of course there is. Our main characters know about it, but do they do anything? No! Because they are terrible. The whole thing is basically shrugged off.

Sigh. This was clearly meant to be satire or a parody or funny or something, but whatever the author was doing, it was not working. Not for me, anyway. 1 star - I did NOT like it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Journey's End
Hawkins, Rachel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After her parents split, Georgia girl Nolie Stanhope finds herself spending her summer in a mysterious town called "Journey's End" in Scotland while her father investigates a mysterious fog (known as The Boundary) that's plagued the local village folk for centuries. Nolie is pretty excited - in addition to some sweet international travel, she's an avid ghost enthusiast, and feels like the summer might be promising in that department. And she is pretty immediately proven right! When Nolie and her new Scottish friend Bel see a weird dude walking down the beach, they think they've seen a ghost. Have they? And why is the Boundary suddenly moving closer to shore?

This was a pretty great MG ghost story. The setting is wonderful - Scotland sort of lends itself to mystery, and Hawkins imbues the village of Journey's End with a ton of charm, personality, and a touch of creepiness. Both of the lead characters, Bel and Nolie, were pretty well fleshed out with distinctive and likable personalities. Their friendship, while quickly formed, was believable and would be a great example for young girls. There's a bit of bullying and some exposition about the effects of divorce, so some important relatable issues are addressed. The Boundary itself is a fantastic and appropriately creepy mystery centerpiece. Really, my only complaint is that there was a ton of build-up to a mystery/ghost story that was pretty quickly and too easily resolved. But I'm a tough customer when it comes to middle grade reads, and overall, this one was pretty great so I'll go with the 4 star rating. I'll definitely be booktalking this one with sixth graders in the fall.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Writing on the Wall
Lichtman, Wendy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For my review I read Writing on the Wall byWendy Lichtman. It is about a young girl and how she uses math in life. There is a little mystery though. There was a fire in one of the class rooms and someone thinks it was Arson. Instead of telling anyone they write it in an obvious place in code. I really liked how creative the author got with this book.

Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Stormbreaker
Horowitz, Anthony
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was suspenseful and amazing, it had several unexpected twists like when the main character finds out about his uncle’s job. This book is about a teenager whose uncle died unexpectedly. This book is a must read but it is a longer series. I recommend this book for a more experienced reader. Those readers will find it action packed and reading it is a worthy use of their time.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Thomas C.

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