All Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

Truly Devious
Johnson, Maureen
3 stars = Pretty Good

Stevie Bell loves all things crime, true or otherwise. She loves to dive into the fictional encounters of the likes of Hercule Poroit and Sherlock Holmes almost as much as she loves to solve cold cases. So when she gets the opportunity to study at Ellingham Academy, site of one of the most famous unsolved murder/kidnapping cases of all time, she jumps at the chance. She doesn't get too far into her murder investigation, however, when a fellow student is found dead in the same tunnel as a murdered girl from before.

For the most part, this is just a straight-up mystery with a quirky setting and side characters, but it really works. The book goes back and forth from the events of the 1939 Ellingham murders to present day, and I found myself equally interested in both stories. Our main character, Stevie, is extremely likable, and gives us some smart, biting commentary about her life and her classmates along with a lot of interesting tidbits about past crimes and mystery authors. Stevie's classmates all have distinct personalities and are quite the diverse cast of characters. Students at Ellingham are selected for having some sort of ability or interest, and her roommates are an artist, an inventor, a coder, a writer and a YouTube star which makes for some fun interactions and conversation in the group. There's a bit of a meh romance, but it didn't detract from the rest of the book and it will be interesting to see where that heads in the sequel.

The main appeal here is the dual mysteries. Both were a lot of fun to read, and I was dead wrong about the identity of the present day killer which is always fun. Really, the only downside for me was the ending. It ends on a massive cliffhanger, and I actually wish a few things were a bit more tied up. I found it to be jarring and a bit off-putting. That said, I'll probably check out the sequel.

If you are looking for a really solid mystery featuring clever and engaging characters, then this is for you! You can put Truly Devious on hold now - thanks to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for the electronic review copy. If it weren't for that ending it'd be a 4 star read for me, but...3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Paper Towns
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The novel “Paper Towns” by John Green is an amazing journey that takes a boy named Quentin to places he never thought he’d be. It starts off with a girl named Margo sneaking into his room to then convince him to sneak out with her. They have an amazing night full of adrenaline. Margo made Quentin step out of his comfort zone and see a whole new world. But the next morning when Quentin wakes up, Margo is gone. She goes missing for weeks, and no one knows why. Quentin then starts finding clues left by Margo which starts his adventure to find the mysterious Margo. I enjoyed this book because something interesting happened every chapter and I couldn’t put the book down. This book is also about people in high school, so I can relate to it. This book is a drama/mystery novel which makes it very intriguing. This book was not very predictable, it tends to leave you in edge. I’d recommend it to someone who like to read high school stories. I also watched the movie before reading this and still loved the book!
Reviewer grade 10

Reviewer's Name: Reaghan D.
The Widow
Barton, Fiona
4 stars = Really Good

This book is dark, and it addresses most of the situations of what is happening in the present. However it gives the reader another view besides the victims, but everybody that is affected by the circumstances. It is really good, I could not put it down.

Reviewer's Name: Lourdes C.
Dekker, Ted
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Thr3e by Ted Dekker (great title after reading the book) is one of the greatest murder mystery novels out there. The book begins with the main protagonist, or so it seems, Kevin Parson. He receives a phone call from a psychopath in Killer named Slater saying that he has three minutes to confess his sin to the world or else his car will blow up. This is just one of the many events that take Kevin, Samantha, his greatest friend, and Jennifer, an FBI agent, through a world of mystery and motives. The twists and turns are the main attraction of this novel, as the reader won't expect what comes next. Character backstories also play a gigantic role in this novel, and all of them are well crafted to fit the plot. Anyways, I would recommend it to anyone willing to take the time to read a book.

Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
I Hunt Killers
Lyga, Barry
4 stars = Really Good

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is the son of the world's most notorious serial killer. After his father was captured, Jazz has just been trying to live like a usual 17 year old. But when a new killer appears who seems to be trying to mimic his father, Jazz knows that it's only a matter of time before people start to believe he's the new killer. So he decides to join the police in tracking down the murderer, not only to convince the town he isn't like his father, but himself. I Hunt Killers has a good mystery, with plenty of twists, and is difficult to predict. However, it isn't the mystery that makes the story addicting; it's Jazz. While some of the minor characters suffer from a lack of proper development, Jazz's interesting (and disturbed) mind makes this book difficult to put down. He is a morally gray character, incredibly messed up, but sympathetic. His fears of being a sociopath are not without reason. In the hands of a different writer, his struggles could be seen as heavy handed or melodramatic. But here, he is written as completely believable. The mystery is a good one, but it's the protagonist (the likes of which you rarely see in a young adult story) that makes this book really good.

Reviewer's Name: Kate D.
Brown, Dan
4 stars = Really Good

In this, the fourth installment of the Robert Langdon series, Dan Brown has continued to successfully marry science to art, albeit with the same tropes and trappings that occur in the book’s predecessors. With Inferno, we get the same race across Europe explored in Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, with the ambiguity of the antagonist’s motives that fueled The Lost Symbol . All throughout this adventure, the now-standard “female who is an expert in her field” accompanies Langdon as he tries to unravel the mystery and save the world. Langdon continues to be part Indiana Jones and part James Bond, that’s for sure.

Utilizing the standard “temporary amnesia” plot device, Brown refines his style while also increasing the stakes. While previous books in the series had potential impacts on the local and national levels, Inferno takes the antagonist’s plan to a global scale. With the main character as talented with memory as Robert Langdon is, taking away his recent memories was a good way to have him re-learn the situation at the same time the audience does. This also allows for some entertaining twists and turns as characters’ motives are revealed, often taking the plot in a quick 180° turn.

While much of the historical plot of Inferno focuses on the titular work by Dante, the scientific side of the story is incredibly relevant. Previous Brown books like Angels & Demons or The Lost Symbol certainly had some interesting scientific intertwining, but Inferno examines one of the most pressing issues within the scientific community right now. This issue, much like global climate change, has no easy answer, and Brown’s solution through the book’s antagonist is certainly a terrifying answer, even if it is probably the most humane way to go about implementing it.

The best book in the Robert Langdon series to date, I give Inferno 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Ghostly Echoes
Ritter, William
4 stars = Really Good

Ghostly Echoes is the third book in the Jackaby series. It covers the death of the resident ghost of 926 Augur Lane, Jenny Cavanaugh. She was murdered ten years ago, and her fiancé (a scientist involved with some suspicious
people) disappeared. She has hired Abigail and Jackaby to investigate her death. But when a similar crime happens, they realize Jenny's case is connected.
Because of the fact that this not only deals with the murder of a liked character, but also includes peeks into Jackaby's past and how he became the seer, this is the darkest book in the Jackaby series. But it also has plenty of humor, mainly in the bantor between Jackaby and Abigail. They feel like The Doctor and their companion from Doctor Who, if they had to take up the role of Holmes and Watson for a day. This also tackles a whole new part of the world building. This always had folklore involved, but now it includes mythology.
As good as this was, there were some problems. I feel like this book series needs more details; I can't see the character's faces all that well. Also, it is implied that Jackaby has feelings for Jenny, which I think needed much more foreshadowing. I only got close friend vibes from them in the first two books. And the side characters still needed some development; they were important parts in the book, but they didn't make much of an impact on me.
Overall, I think this was the best book in the series thus far, and sets up the events for the fourth (and final) book well.

Reviewer's Name: Kate D.
Hiaasen, Carl
4 stars = Really Good

Flush, written by Carl Hiaasen was about a boy, named Noah. Noah has a father who is in jail for sinking a boat called the Coral Queen. His father has been put in jail before, and never regrets what he has done because he believes that he is responsible for his actions, and it is worth it for what he has done. Noah is used to his father doing crazy stuff like this, because when Noah's father sees something that upsets him, he will do whatever he can to stop it, especially with people hurting and damaging wildlife. The reason he got recently put in jail is because he claimed that he saw the boat putting all of their sewage into the ocean water. Even though his dad does lots of crazy and unpredictable things, Noah thinks his dad would never lie to him about what he saw. He starts to investigate and tries to prove that the Coral Queen did in fact put sewage into the ocean. This book did surprise me in some ways, and the book got more and more interesting as it went on.

Reviewer grade:

Reviewer's Name: Riley C.
The Girl on the Train
Hawkins, Paula
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I haven't always been a big fan of mystery, but this book changed that. The Girl on the Train is about a woman with some difficult events in her past who becomes a crucial part in solving a missing person case. This book resembles a psychological thriller, which keeps the level of suspense high. It shows multiple people's perspectives, which makes following the mystery so much more intriguing. I absolutely recommend this book, whether you like mystery or not. Chances are you won't be able to put it down.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen
4 stars = Really Good

One of Us is Lying is like The Breakfast Club, as it it involves a bunch of "teen movie stereotypes", during an interesting detention. These include Bronwyn, the "brain", Nate, the "criminal", Addy, the "beauty", Cooper, the "athlete", and Simon, the "outcast". However, the similarities end there, as one of them, Simon, dies from a suspicious allergy attack during the detention. Simon was the creator of the gossip app known as "About That," which shared other students' secrets and gossip. He had been planning to post about the other four before his death, making them all suspects in his murder. Or is it all a frameup? The reader has to decide whether one of the incredibly likable four leads is a lying murderer, or if they're all victims.

This book was very addictive. McManus' writing was detailed, and she was able to distinguish the four's voices as their own. No one sounded or felt the same, and each of their narratives were equally enthralling. Each lead character is a deconstruction of the stereotype they're based off of, and in a way, this is a deconstruction of the mystery genre in general; unlike most, it's more character driven than plot driven.

My main complaint is that some of these students seem overly capable in a way. Not just the four, but the supporting character's talents are beyond most high schoolers. It may have made more sense if the setting was in college. However, this is something I see a lot of in YA fiction today, so it doesn't overly bother me, and it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book.

I recommend this if you like mysteries and character driven stories where every character, both leading and supporting, are developed, fleshed out characters.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Kate D.
The Lost Symbol
Brown, Dan
3 stars = Pretty Good

After Dan Brown’s previous entries in the Robert Langdon series had covered the Illuminati and the Catholic Church, respectively, his next target in The Lost Symbol was the Masons. Unfortunately, as both National Treasure (2004) and its sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007), were released before this book came out, the setting and concept seemed derivative in The Lost Symbol. Especially with the focus on the Masons’ “treasure” for the better part of the book, I was half expecting the chase to be on a larger scale than just hopping from one Washington D.C. monument to the next as the puzzle unfolds.

In a bit of a combination of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol combines the exciting twists of uncovering the secrets of a Masonic pyramid with the pseudoscience of Noetics. Of course, the plot could have omitted everything about Noetics, and it would have stood just fine on its own, so I question why it was even needed at all, except for some familial drama and a series of wordplays near the end of the book. In my mind, the puzzle-solving element brought over from The Da Vinci Code was much stronger than the “science” brought over from Angels & Demons.

As for the book’s antagonist, I initially felt he was merely formulaic to the other enemies from previous Robert Langdon books. After all, when you have a self-motivated Illuminati Agent in Angels & Demons and an albino religious zealot in The Da Vinci Code when you have a tattooed Masonic muscleman as the antagonist in The Lost Symbol, you start to see the similarities. At least this time the antagonist had a great twist near the end. However, like some of the other “twists” in this book, if you were paying close enough attention, you would have figured it out before its reveal.

A procedural combination of the previous two books in the Robert Langdon series, I give The Lost Symbol 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Glynn, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The first time I was introduced to Alan Glynn’s writing was through the
film, Limitless (2011), which itself was based off his first novel, The Dark
Fields. While I enjoyed the film for its visuals, what really struck me as
interesting was the storytelling and characters Glynn created. Now fifteen
years after his first standalone novel, Paradime continues to show Glynn’s
talent in creating engaging plots and characters. Since I really enjoyed this
book, I will do my best to review it without spoiling it for anyone.

At its most simple level, Paradime is a modernized retelling of Mark
Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, or at least half of it anyway. Told from
the perspective of an out-of-work and out-of-luck cook, Danny Lynch, the
pacing of each of the three acts is steady and intense. Even if some of
Danny’s vocabulary seems a little advanced at times, he is the perfect
“everyman” to convey his peculiar circumstances to the reader. Those
familiar with Limitless will probably see many parallels between the two
stories, with the main exception being how the story ends for Danny.

Glynn’s writing style is very natural and easy to read in this modern
thriller. Each chapter left me wanting to read more and I found myself having
difficulty stopping because the pull of the plot was so intense. I also
appreciated the ability of Glynn to tie things up in an almost unexpectedly
expected way so that no detail in this book was left unused. While this may
have been the first time I’ve read anything by Alan Glynn, I am now
certainly a fan and will have to go back and pick up his other books to read.

A fast-paced and thrilling read, I give Paradime 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Rook
O'Malley, Daniel
4 stars = Really Good

One of the nice things about listening to audiobooks from my library (via the
Overdrive app), is that I can pick up a book and listen to it without really
knowing what it’s about other than a title and a cover. In this way, I
often have no preconceived notions about the book other than first
impressions. At this point, all I’m giving up to “read” the book is the
time it takes me to listen to it, and I have plenty of that driving to and
from work every day.

Since I had no idea what this book was really about, I was surprised at how
humorous it was. If I were to combine a few, better-known series together,
I’d say this is X-Men mixed with James Bond, with just a dash of Jason
Bourne all blended together in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. An odd
combination, I know. But somehow, it works here. The humor is markedly
British, but the characters and their powers are supernatural, to say the
least. Since this was merely the first in a developing series, I can’t wait
to get to book #2: Stiletto.

All this being said, there were a few structural choices to this book that I
often found confusing, which may just be part of listening to it in audiobook
form instead of reading it. First off, the decision to have the main
character afflicted with amnesia was an interesting way to essentially give
the audience what the character already would have known but had conveniently
forgotten. Secondly, because the letters from her former self were used as
backstory, these “flashbacks” were often confusing because it was easy to
lose track of which Mfwany Thomas (glad I had the audiobook for the
pronunciation of this name) was “speaking” at the moment.

An interesting premise with plenty of potential in future iterations, I give
The Rook 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
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