Tag Archives: mystery

MURDERED (Click Your Poison) by James Schannep

MURDERED (Click Your Poison) by James Schannep

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Genre: Mystery Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Estimated word count: N/A (Choose your adventure story)

Veteran Author: Yes, Air Force

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: No Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

“James Schannep (1984-) is an American novelist and screenwriter with a dozen competition wins and placements. His first screenplay was optioned in 2011 and the Click Your Poison series was launched September, 2012 with the flagship book INFECTED.

A United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) graduate with a degree in English, Schannep left the service honorably to write full time. He resides with his wife along California’s central coast.”

Description:

“3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question... Could YOU Solve a Murder?

MURDERED is a mystery novel unlike any other — YOU are the main character. Follow clues, interrogate suspects, and piece together the puzzle before the killer gets away! It’s up to you to solve the case in this action-packed, dark and humorous thriller. Each link represents a choice, and the story evolves based on your decisions.

You’re in a dark alley, a lost tourist in Brazil, when you stumble across a woman’s body and a revolver atop a grisly note which reads, “PICK ME UP.” That’s when you realize you’re not alone….

What starts as an exotic vacation ends up as the opportunity of a lifetime when you inadvertently witness a man fleeing the scene of a murder. Work side-by-side with US Diplomatic Security agents (DSS) and Brazilian Police Officers inside the lawless slums of Rio de Janeiro — but choose wisely, no one is who they truly seem to be.

Get MURDERED!

My Two Cents:

I took this expecting a quick read for old-time nostalgia sakes, but got more than I expected. The base story is witty, gritty and sometimes downright funny. This would be entertaining enough as a traditional tale. The gambook effect is mere icing on the cake.

Even though I died only 13% through the story on my first read, (I became an even worse murderer, woops!) I had a blast. That’s what many books promise but this one actually delivers: an adventure. After five endings, five stand alone rides, I’ve only exhausted 10% of the fun.

The only weakness might be how many decision points the reader has available. With over 50, keeping all the puzzle pieces in place gets confusing. Still, that’s a matter of taste and doesn’t significantly detract from the great experience.

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Terror at Mirror Lake by Hank Kellner

Terror at Mirror Lake by Hank Kellner

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Genre: Psychological/Terror Thriller

Rating: **** Four Stars

Estimated word count: 65,000 words

Availability:

Kindle:  YES  NookYES SmashwordsYES Paperback: NO

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Author:

“Hank Kellner is a veteran of the Korean War and a retired associate professor of English currently based in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He is the author of 125 Photos for English Composition Classes (J. Weston Walch, 1978); How to Be a Better Photographer (J. Weston Walch, 1978); Write What You See (Prufrock Press, 2010); and, with co-author Elizabeth Guy, Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing (Prufrock Press, 2013).”

Description:

“Terror lurks in the shadows of Mirror Lake, where secrets of sex, lies, and death are all patiently waiting to surface from its murky depths. The small town of Hamptonville seems the last place you would find illicit sex, drugs, blackmail, and murder. But that’s exactly what Bruce Orum, his girlfriend Cindy Garvey, and two married couples encounter when they meet Luke Downing, a psychopath who takes pleasure by inflicting pain on his victims. At Mirror Lake Downing takes the two married couples prisoner and plans to torture and humiliate them before killing them. But he does not know that Sheriff Jeff Parker and his partner Molly Hutchison are on his trail and determined to stop him. From page one all the way to the breathtaking ending, you will find yourself on pins and needles waiting to see what happens next.

Terror at Mirror Lake is more than just another psychological thriller. In its pages the author describes the causes of Luke Downing’s evil nature, his relationships with others, and the relationships between the two married couples he plans to torment and kill.”

My Two Cents:

Psychological thrillers aren’t usually my thing, but I have to say this was well done. The author has a few fun and thought-provoking twists on the terror genre that, if not completely unique, are still rarely seen. The antagonist isn’t really the crazy killer, he’s more of a plot device to ramp up the tension. The real scourge in this tale are the main characters. Their deep-rooted shame, guilt and paranoia keep making things worse at every turn.

My only complaint is that the two most interesting characters aren’t even introduced until about 60% through the story. You’ve spent most of the tale wallowing in the (whiny) heads of the four main characters, only to meet the most complex and exciting actors just as the action is approaching a climax!

Still, this is a good read. While it starts dark and tragic, there truly is a happy ending. Despite the jacket’s description, there is no gratuitous sex or violence. What little you’ll find is handled surprisingly tastefully and actually relevant to the plot.

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Into Darkness by Richard Fox

Into Darkness by Richard Fox

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Genre: Spy/Military Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Estimated word count: 95,000 words

Availability:

Kindle:  YES  Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

“Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Richard Fox began his decade-long service in the US Army as a Field Artillery and Military Intelligence officer. During that time, he served two fifteen-month tours in Iraq and was awarded the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Drawing upon his personal experiences, Fox infuses authentic details regarding the people, customs, languages, and ever-present threat of death that US Soldiers encountered while serving in the Iraq War.

He lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona, with his incredible wife and two-year-old son, an amazing child bent on anarchy.”

Author’s Facebook page

Description:

“A deadly ambush leaves two Soldiers in al-Qaeda hands. With few leads to follow, a covert arm of the CIA called the Caliban Program charges Captain Eric Ritter to help rescue the missing men. Despite his reservations with the CIA’s “by any means necessary” methods, Ritter accepts the mission.

Once embedded with an infantry company deep inside enemy territory, Ritter must keep his true allegiance hidden from his brother-in-arms, Captain Greg Shelton. Shelton leads the search for his missing Soldiers while maintaining the high moral standards required of every Army officer, standards at odds with Ritter’s mandate. Deceiving his comrade is Ritter’s first step down a dark road paved with good intentions.

The terrorist responsible for the kidnappings, Mukhtar, is Ritter’s old enemy—an enemy Ritter thought was dead. Mukhtar is the local emir for al-Qaeda, and has enough fighters and willing suicide bombers to rule his piece of Iraq with a bloody fist. When Mukhtar learns that Ritter is within striking distance, he vows to settle the vendetta he’s carried against Ritter for years.

War and politics make for strange bedfellows, and Ritter finds an unlikely ally in Abu Ahmet, an Iraqi insurgent. While Abu Ahmet proves useful, Ritter suspects he may have American blood on his hands.

The harder Ritter tries to uphold the honor and integrity of the United States Army, the more he finds himself betraying those who are closest to him—and turning to more and more extreme methods of extracting information to track down the kidnapped Soldiers. Torture, murder, and ugly compromise push Ritter further from his oaths as an officer and into the arms of the Caliban Program.

Written in the brutally honest voice of one who has lived it, Fox’s experiences bring an edge of pathos to the book reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, and The Yellow Birds.”

My Two Cents:

Spy thriller, war story, mystery adventure- all those labels fit this tale, but still don’t do it justice. Perhaps, as a vet myself, I’m somewhat biased and overly impressed by the author’s attention to detail and willingness to tackle tough subjects. Into Darkness pulls no punches and sharply contrasts “Big Army politics” with the field realities of fighting a 21st century insurgency.

This is no jingoistic, “America rocks” story. Due to the complicated nature of each character, I’m still not sure who really was the bad guy. The Al Qaeda warlord or the supposed hero? The author neither glorifies nor laments modern war; he simply shows it how it really goes down. The tongue-in-cheek writing style and the shadowy organization pulling strings behind the scenes prevents the reader from becoming lost in the war though. This also helps keep the story fresh and racing along.

I found the ending a little too dark for my personal tastes. The main character’s personal development arc is also incredibly steep. To the point where you get annoyed with him for becoming an extremist. Of course, isn’t that a hallmark of great writing? These aren’t simple characters; both the “good” and “bad” people truly come alive. It’s very hard to stay emotionally disconnected!

FYI:

Of all the military fiction I’ve ever read, none has captured the realism and immediacy of this book. The writer struck a fine balance between appealing to veterans and lay-folk alike. Details of weapons and tactics are watered down enough so as not to drown people in acronyms, but the meticulous detailing of every minor aspect of day-to-day deployment life gives vets that “he gets it” flavor they crave.

By the way, if you feel you’re missing the back story, check out the author’s short story prequel:

The Caliban Program

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