I met Jack Tittle at an Algonkian Writer’s Workshop in Virginia a few years back where he was workshopping his legal mystery novel Ripples After Death while I was working my crime novel Warning Signs, which I hope to have out soon.
For my review of Ripples After death click here.
Saving Alice, unlike his legal mystery Ripples After Death, is a fantasy where the characters find themselves in different past time zones. The setting (in the woods) plays an important role as the characters attempt to navigate their lives together.
Unable to cope with life, two strangers wish they could live in a time when life was simpler. They meet in the past, charged with the responsibility of righting a wrong before they can return to the present. The woman is escaping from an abusive relationship and a scary past. She distrusts all men and feels safer in her present environment. The man feels he cannot trust women because his girlfriend for the last three years just tried to trick him into a proposal of marriage.
Their life experiences make it difficult for them to accomplish anything, but as they get to know each other, they find common ground to push their intentions forward. As they approach the end of their mission, they make a startling discovery, and their lives change.
I found the novel to be relaxing and pleasant. I read most of it by the pool where I was taken into a fairy-tale world which I found comforting and intriguing.
You can view Saving Alice here.
Psychiatry, law and writing. These are three of my favorite subjects to read about. Escaping Psychiatry: Beginnings includes all three. The novella is as much a psychological thriller as it is a legal one.
Mary, the protagonist, is a very relatable and likeable character. In attempts to get away from her career as a psychiatrist and shift to one in writing, Mary is distracted into her role as psychiatrist and finds herself entangled in a court case involving a famous writer accused of murder.
The plot is interesting and the author instills enough suspense to make you want to continue reading. The author, herself a forensic psychiatrist, brings credibility and authenticity to the protagonist.
In this prequel, the author has set the foundation for the remainder in her series:
“Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.”
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Figuring out the puzzle in a mystery is always a lot of fun and has the added perk of exercising the brain.
The Body in the Snow is a modern version of a classic Agatha Christie plotline. Set in Llangurrey, a remote hamlet tucked miles away from the nearest town, is experiencing the worst snowstorm in twenty years. All roads and motorways have been closed.
I was immediately drawn into this cozy whodunit and the domestic dynamics among the characters.
The author begins by introducing the characters, a bit of their background, their family, marital status and so forth in very broad drawn strokes. You get the picture. There’s a Diva, a happy divorcee, a handyman and a host of other unlikeable characters.
Now, in present time, they find themselves neighbors, along with their past histories, secrets and personalities that clash with each other. The characters have such unique characteristics that I had no problem distinguishing them from each other, as is not always the case when there are multiple characters in a story. One of the more endearing interactions was between Bebe, a fading star and Beth, a rooky but spunky detective.
Fischer’s detective Beth is a lot of fun and brings lightness and charm to the novel. No gore or violence was a plus. It was simply a fun, light relaxing read and a pleasant way to exercise the brain muscles.
It isn’t because Hunting Mariah reminded me of my own in progress novel that I really loved this book, although that didn’t hurt. There’s a serial killer’s hunger for school girls whom Spina gives reasons for his macabre behavior as she allows us to get inside his insane mind and his intensifying obsessive need to kill. He will stop at nothing until he satisfies his warped hunger to hunt down Mariah.
The novel contains many plot angles that drive it forward. Of course, there’s why Mariah is being hunted by the serial killer in the first place – a mystery which the author is able to maintain throughout the novel. Why is she kept in isolation in a psychiatric ward and what are her memory blanks about? Why can’t Tony, a man who obviously cares deeply for Mariah but for reasons revealed only much later in the novel, return his love for her? Adding more tension are the secondary characters that inhabit this thriller and Spina has the talent to create suspense around each of them.
Although the author makes clear from the beginning who the killer is I kept wondering, as other characters were introduced and more twists were added, if it could be someone else.
Writing under the name Janice Spina the author is known for writing children’s books – at least over a dozen. Hunting Mariah brings J.E. Spina into the respectful world of fast-paced adult thrillers which will keep you turning the pages.
To finish the novel is one trick, but to end your story is quite another. C. Patrick Schulze.
This was on one of the slides in a webinar I recently listened to.
The class was given by Dr. Barbara Henderson as one of the Penquin Random House Writers Academy Masterclasses in which she discussed aspects of writing a crime novel, including such topics as keeping the plot tight and how to end your novel with a bang.
A good ending must feel right. Finish with a sentence that has impact and leaves your reader thinking. Make the ending satisfying to the reader. Satisfying the reader not just intellectually but emotionally.
If you’re interested in listening to the entire class here it is. It runs about 50 minutes. I picked up some good tips and found it to be an excellent reminder of what crime fiction is about. Many of the tips though can be applied to writing in general.
Just thought I’d pass this along:
Free Webinar on how to write a crime novel presented by The Writers’ Academy at Penguin-Random House. Thursday March 29.
It sounds interesting.
Here’s more info: