Why I Like Suspense Novels

I recently read Joan Hall Hovey’s novel Chill Waters and it made me think of what it is about suspense novels that I like.

Why do I enjoy this stressful, sitting on the edge of my seat, my heart pumping with fear activity?  

Ok. Chill Waters, to be fair, is not all suspense. There’s the intriguing plot, and interesting smart female protagonist. There’s romance as well. But there’s a murderer to discover which I find stimulating – like intellectual exercise for my brain. I want to figure out the ending of the novel before I read it. There’s a great satisfaction when that happens.

Also, suspense novels, in particular, deal with a sense of justice. Rationally, I know that good will prevail. That’s the way these novels work. Yet, on a visceral level the concern is not so much that good will prevail but how. And, it is in Chill Waters protagonist’s chilling situation that the thrill took over and I found my heart rate rising casting rationality aside. Joan Hall Hovey has the skill to play on the readers’ emotions with her Hitchcockian imagination.

I have to admit that I had not figured out the true identity of the murderer but that no longer mattered as I’d already taken the thrilling, satisfying ride.

Robyn Harding: The Arrangement

It was a pleasure to read Robyn Harding’s the Arrangement. I was immediately hooked into this novel.

The first half of the novel reads like a romantic novel where poor girl finds her prince charming (put aside the sugar daddy and sugar baby dynamics). What woman wouldn’t want the kind of attention and love which Gabe showered so generously on Nat? Think Pretty Woman.

Through Robyn Harding’s intensive research on sugar babies, (which she describes in her Acknowledgements), we get a good glance into this dark and tightly controlled world.

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving. *

The second half of the novel is a mystery/court case/crime novel.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder. *

I was surprised that one of the categories in the product description was kidnapping thriller, which I did not find pertinent to this novel. Unless I’m missing something.

The ending was satisfactory and somewhat unexpected; it had a comfortable feel to it and the novel moved at a relatively fast pace. It was a rather long book but well worth my time.

* Italic text is from the book description on Amazon.

National Day of Remembrance For Victims Of Honor Crimes

I am a bit late in posting this remembrance day for victims of honor crimes but we should remember everyday that honor killings are part of our domestic violence landscape. The post’s link will take you to the individual cases. 

The Human Lens

The 14th July is now the National Day of Remembrance for victims of honor based abuse. This date has been chosen as it marks the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, who was born in Bradford and murdered in Warrington, UK in 2003 by her parents in an honor based killing.

Set up by national charity Karma Nirvana, in memory of Shafilea Ahmed, it is now the annual #DayofMemory where #WeRemember those who have lost their lives to so-called #HonourKillings.

To support the day, Hertfordshire’s Domestic Abuse Partnership is calling on everyone to look out for signs of such abuse. In addition, Karma Nirvana also calls for raising voices through the social media to raise awareness of these issues with the official hashtags #WeRemember and #DayofMemory.

In memory of the innocent girls and women who lost their lives to the barbaric custom of honor related crimes, here’s a summary recap of The…

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Bau: Can We Go For A Long Walk Now?

My Human Mom tells me that there are a lot of steps she still needs to do before she’s ready to publish her new novel.

Here are some things which I secretly know about it:

It’s a Domestic Crime Novel (Apparently that’s her favorite type of crime novel along with Domestic Noir novels).

She tells me because there is a Femme Fatale in her novel it might also be categorized as Domestic Noir.

She’s likely going to launch it in May (That’s a long time in doggy days). That’s if all goes well!

The title is The Set Up.

Here’s a tentative blurb for it:

Homeless sixteen-year-old Maya has found the perfect summer job – getting a cottage ready to serve as a half-way house to delinquent girls. A summer job where she won’t have to wonder where she’s going to sleep for a while. Being by the lake in nature will give her time to grieve the death of her mother. Best of all, she’s met Charlie, the boy who lives in the cottage next door who gives her the attention she craves and the promise of a bright future if she sticks with him. But Charlie has a very dark side and Maya becomes involved in a murderous scheme. What will happen to Maya now that she is being blamed for the murder by the police? Who can possibly help her?

I love to listen to my Human Mom read her manuscript out loud, but honestly, I’m disappointed because I’m not even in it!

In the meantime, you might want to have a look at my Human Mom’s other books on her author page. (Every time you click on one of her books I get a treat).

Toni Pike: Desolation Bluff

I recently came across a post on Derek Murphy’s website titled Best Self-Publishing Companies for Indie Authors (that aren’t scams).

You can go to his website to read the entire post (which I found interesting and informative). Since this is a post about Toni Pike’s novel Desolation Bluff I want to draw your attention to a section of Derek Murphy’s post that I find fits perfectly with Toni Pike’s novel.

When you put your book cover, your hook, tagline or teaser in front of the right readership, they understand it’s the kind of book they enjoy reading. The benefits are obvious. They click on the cover and read the blurb. Sounds good. They check out the reviews. If they trust the positive ones, they’ll consider buying it and check the price.

Cover

 Blurb

Reviews

 Price

COVER AND BLURB

Blind romance author Oliver Cameron uses the pen name of Fidel Amore and thinks he has the perfect life at his country estate near Desolation Bluff. After a honeymoon in Paris, his wife Vanessa continues her work as his assistant. His friend Ray is the business manager who lives in the gatehouse and also acts as the public face of Fidel Amore, doing all those book-signing trips that Oliver never wanted to attend. Helen Dunkley is the housekeeper devoted to him since childhood – but she detests the two newcomers.

Complications set in when Ray, working on his old car, accidentally backs into Oliver. His injuries appear minor but the next day he suddenly regains his sight. Oliver wants Ray and Vanessa to be the first to hear his good news, but when he finds them he uncovers a shocking betrayal.
A game of cat and mouse begins – and with the arrival of a mysterious stranger, it turns deadly.

A short suspense novel that will keep you guessing right to the very end.

REVIEWS

More than 30 reviews on Goodreads . Most of them 5 Stars. Here are some of them:

Fast moving and suspenseful from start to finish (Peter Springer)

Packed with Suspense and Action (Sally Cramer)

Quickly engaging and a page flipper (Terri Schrandt)

From the first paragraph, I could sense something ominous in the atmosphere, which stayed all through the background (Sherry H.)

This book was a thoroughly enjoyable read with interesting characters and great plot twist to keep me hooked all the way through to a most satisfying ending!  (D.G. Kaye)

PRICE

$2.99 Canadian which is pretty inexpensive for three and a half hours of enjoyable entertainment.

As for the content, I was not disappointed. The cover, blurb and reviews delivered. It was a fun ride where justice is rendered by a shrewd blind man who accidently regains his sight and discovers that his wife is engaged in a love affair with his assistant. A story of betrayal between good and bad. Definitely a page turner.

Noir Fiction’s “little black dress”.

Carrie Rubin: The Bone Hunger

I received a copy of The Bone Hunger as part of Carrie Rubin’s recent give-away. Thank you, Carrie.

Imagine going for a walk in the park with your young son, his mother and a yellow lab and you come upon a leg. Not just any leg but a chewed-up leg that you recognize as one you helped place an orthopedic implant into.  

Such is how The Bone Hunger begins and once again, Benjamin Oris is the protagonist of Carrie Rubin’s second medical mystery thriller. Oris first appeared in The Bone Curse.

Rubin, herself a physician who has turned novelist, brings credibility to the detailed medical aspects of the novel from the tense, focused staff during surgery; the oversized egos of power hungry surgeons; the conflict for recognition; the pressures that lead to drug addiction and a front seat view of orthopedic surgery.

Benjamin Oris is a second-year resident orthopedics surgeon filled with career ambitions but this finding of one of his patient’s legs places a hamper on his drive to win the Conley Research Grant.  When another severed leg is found in another park and then another, it is obvious to the orthopedic team that they are looking at a serial killer. Could this killer be one of their own? There are many suspects in this terrifying whodunit novel, each with credible motives.

Besides the medical viewpoints of the novel there is also a personal and dramatic side to Dr. Oris. Oris is a likeable character with integrity and modesty. Here we see the tenderness and concern that Oris has for his son but also for his mother who is in a coma, his father who has recently lost his partner and his relationship with his companion Laurette, a public health student from Haiti who adds a touch of paranormal to the novel.  

Carrie Rubin seamlessly juggles many characters in this novel (from the hospital staff, to Oris’ personal relationships and family). The unique plot is both action oriented and character driven. The conflict is high in tension while the writing style is fast paced.

The story is mainly told in the third person but Rubin uses the first person as she lets us get into the head of the killer and his eerie obsession for flesh and blood.  

An interesting read about orthopedic surgery but also a compelling thriller.

Carrie Rubin is also the author of an entertaining cozy mystery The Cruise Ship Lost My Daughter under the name Morgan Mayer. You can read my Amazon review here.

Margot Kinberg: A Matter of Motive

Two things which kept me this week from spending time on a current novel I am trying to write were President Joe Biden’s inauguration and Margot Kinberg’s latest novel and the first in her new Patricia Stanley series, A Matter of Murder.

A man is dead in his car, slumped over the steering wheel. But who killed him? Ron Clemens is the last person you’d think would be murdered. His wife and son love him. His employees respect him. His business is doing well. His clients seek him out. But someone wanted him dead. The Clemens case is a golden opportunity for newly minted police detective Patricia Stanley to prove herself. It’s her first murder investigation, and she wants to do well. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, she has plenty to learn about handling a murder. And nearly everyone involved in this one is hiding something. Patricia faces her own challenges, too, as the investigation brings back the murder of an old love.

Margot Kinberg (also the author of the Joel William series) is very knowledgeable when it comes to crime fiction and, in particular, Agatha Christie. Go to her select month box in her crime-fictional website and click on any date. You are bound to find something on Christie.

In The Creative Brain (a very interesting documentary which I recently watched on Netflix written and produce by Dr David Eagleman based on the book: “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes The World” by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman.) there is a section by the Pulitzer Prize winner and much regarded novelist Michael Chabon: “I’m going to allow my knowledge of my predecessors and their work to inform and help shape what I’m doing not because I’m trying to copy them but because I know my unique experience is going to help me intervene to help produce a work that is not like its antecedents in some way.” 

It A Matter of Murder Margot Kinberg uses motive as the driving force of her novel. Taking what she’s learnt from studying Christie, Margot Kinberg’s novel is a unique whodunit.

The main character, Patricia Stanley, a gay woman who is trying to juggle the difficulties which being a cop poses on her relationship along with her investigation in her first murder case, is a delightful character full of good intentions and many missteps. Besides being a whodunit, this is also a novel about how police go about investigating a murder. This investigation kept me reading way into the night. I was not only curious about finding who the murderer was but was also interested in the process of the investigation itself.

I have a feeling that we will hear more of Patricia Stanley and her side kick Luke Enders. I for one, hope so. This is a fun read with an interesting cast of characters.

Janet Gogerty: At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream

janet-gogerty At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream

 

Toby Channing, a young psychologist, is on a mission. His girlfriend Anna has gone missing. The problem is that he was the last person to see her alive and so her family (along with others) suspect him of murdering her. Did he or didn’t he?

In an attempt to find her, he uses his camping van and poses as a private investigator specializing in missing persons. As he tours around the many different areas he has gone with Anna, a slew of different characters approach him with their own cases of missing persons (one being even a robot). As Toby solves these cases his search for Anna intensifies.

Janet Gogerty  takes us into Toby’s head – his fears, his loneliness, his unpleasant relationship with Anna’s parents – especially her father who wants nothing to do with Toby as he suspects him of murdering his daughter, his relationship with his parents (rather warm) and his pregnant sister. The novel is a mixture of domestic gambol and a complex solving of finding Anna, the love of his life. It is a mystery full of suspense, romance and a study of ordinary people desiring to live a more satisfying life.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a private detective, Janet Gogerty’s Toby Channing the Camper Van Detective, through his various cases, illustrates that the job is not all about solving murder cases. In fact, not all missing cases, as is pointed out in this novel, are about crime. But Anna’s case is.

 

Comparables: Where Does Your Book Fit In?

Not too long ago dgkayewriter  posted on her noteworthy blog a link to the app (I Write Like) which, when you paste a paragraph of your writing, the app compares you to famous writers by analyzing your word choice and writing style.

That amusing exercise got me thinking of comparables. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction, self-publishing or going the tradition route, comparables (comps) help the reader and book seller know where your book fits in. Knowing your comps will help you know where your niche is in the marketplace.

Where would your book be placed in a book store or library and within that category whose books would you compare yours to?

Michael Dellert, an award winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years posted an interesting article on comparables.

What makes YOUR book stand out?

Publishers and agents generally want to see “comparables”: other fiction books on the market today that have an audience comparable to yours, that have themes, settings, and characters comparable to yours, that have a market niche comparable to yours, and then they want to know what sets your book apart from those.

Editor Rachelle Gardner in a post titled Know Your Competition adresses the question of comps:

Search for possible competitive or comparable books using a variety of means; don’t limit yourself to one particular search term or one method. Go deeper than the titles to make sure you’re not missing anything. Search on various websites besides Amazon. If you’re writing a Christian book, use Christianbook.com.

And in another article on comps Rachel Gardener offers this advice:

Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books.

Keep this line in mind:
“People who enjoy the following books are likely to enjoy my book.”

You can use that line in a proposal, then follow it with the comparable books, and for each one, a brief explanation of why your book would appeal to those same readers. This approach frees you from trying to decipher what an agent is looking for, and instead, use those comps to identify your audience.

It’s tricky finding comparables. For example, in my crime novel Warning Signs the protagonist finds herself in a relationship with a serial killer. The detective investigating the serial killer’s crimes has a romance going with a suspect. Taking those two important elements of the novel do I compare my novel with those which have serial killers in them or do I compare it to stories about romance? Warning Signs also deals with mental illness so should I compare the novel with other novels dealing with mental illness? Or do I compare it to a noir novel?

Here are some comps I found for Warning Signs. People who enjoyed these books are likely to enjoy Warning Signs.

The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardner (What would you do if the man of your dreams hides the soul of a killer?).

The Last Victim by Karen Robards ( Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes).

A Good Marriage by Stephen King (a wife who discovers that her husband is a serial killer). Incidentally, when I took the I Write like Who the result was Stephen King.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thomson (a pitch-black glimpse into the mind of the American Serial Killer).

The Lies He Told Me by Sylvie Greyson (a police detective falls in love with his main suspect).

The Fix by Sharon Leder (Living with a Heroin Addicted Parent).

 

Warning Signs is now available in paperback as well as e-book.

TWO RISING STARS

Judy Penz Sheluk and Kristina Stanley have both been featured in my series How I Got Published when they were both starting out – before they established themselves as the respectful mystery writers they have become.

Both are Canadian. Judy Penz Sheluk writing about a small town community outside of Toronto and Kristina Stanley writing about the mountain resorts of British Columbia.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, Inc. and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She lives in a small town northwest of Toronto, Ontario. Read more here.

Skeletons in the Attic

 

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house  she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

 

 

Skeleton’s in the Attic is the first of Judy’s series but not her first mystery.

I found myself immediately drawn into Skeleton’s in the Attic not only because of the suspense but because of the wonderfully quirky characters inhabiting this novel. The author does a fantastic job managing her characters and making them all come alive with their own distinct personalities and secrets, adding layers to the novel’s core suspense.

As Callie moves into her father’s house and gets to know her eccentric neigbours, clues to her mother’s disappearance begin to emerge. The problem is that the more clues appear the more nothing is what it appears to be and Callie can’t quite trust those providing these clues.

Although warned that the truth can break your heart, Callie can’t stop her relentless quest to discover the truth behind her mother’s disappearance. I particularly enjoyed the protagonist’s search for a mother who abandoned her when she was six and in trying to put together the pieces of her mother’s past she dips into memories of her own childhood.

Skeleton’s in the Attic is a cozy, enjoyable read.

 

Kristina is the author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series.

Her books have garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated her first novel for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated her second novel for the Debut Dagger. She is published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. click here for more.

Avalanche

 

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

 

 

 

In her third installment of The Stone Mountain Mystery Series, Kristina Stanley begins the novel with her signature nail-biting tension. She immediately plunges the reader into the middle of an avalanche and we find out very quickly that “…Roy’s headlamp burst to life, eerily illuminating his surrounding snow coffin.”

Lovely sentence.

Kristina Stanley maintains tension and suspense throughout the novel, whether it has to do with the protagonist’s decision to take an appealing job offer that might tear apart her newly married relationship with Ben, or, this being a mystery, on solving a murder.

I’ve had Avalanche on my Kindle since last June. When the weather started to turn cold and snow covered the ground I pulled up the novel. Avalanche is perfect to take on a ski holiday or to sit by a fireplace, sipping hot cocoa or tea and getting lost in the tangles of relationships.

In the category of Women’s Sleuth Mysteries, Avalanche was an Amazon Hot New Release.

I’ve now read all three of the Stone Mountain Mysteries and this is my favourite.