Tag Archive | mystery

Review: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

to catch a killer -sheryl scarboroughErin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

3 Drink Me Potions

To Catch a Killer left me second-guessing my whodunnit culprit while still making it exciting with real science, albeit lacking a bit in the “scare” factor.

I am always up for a good mystery, and lately I’ve been in a funk craving a good, suspenseful story to gush and pour over. There aren’t many YA novels that I find does justice to a good crime story. It could be ’cause I read and watch many crime fiction and shows.

This novel captures the essence of forensics in a YA context, so watch out for any skeptical scoffing over the fact that young teenagers do better police work and evidence collection than the ACTUAL police. Erin was an interesting protagonist. She wasn’t deterred so easily by adult figures who kept telling her that she should “just get over” her past and forget the emotions in the aftermath of her mother’s violent death. Sometimes these secondary characters, particularly her guardian Rachel and Erin’s two besties Spam and Lysa, really annoyed me. I get they want to protect her, and it adds to the whole main character versus the world kinda trope but it honestly just got on my nerves after a while. Both sides had decent points for why they were doing what they thought was best, but better communication would’ve definitely gone a long way.

The current mystery surrounding the bio teacher, Ms. P’s death was intriguing, especially once it was linked to her mother’s death. I enjoyed the Erin’s thought process and planning as she set about connecting the dots through her evidence. Although it may not be for everyone, I found the strongest point in this story was the cute little quotes taken from her FBI Uncle Victor that was oddly quite accurate. The story does go more into detail about genetics (aka simplified to just DNA) and how to extract it – ahem, my fav scene was when they made a homemade gel electrophoresis for separating the DNA bands (the bio nerd inside of me is rejoicing at seeing an experiment I do in real life pop into a YA novel!) – but I find they add to the story instead of detracts from it. Erin’s character revolves around wanting to solve murders, particularly her mom’s. And good evidence collection and testing are the forefront of determining how a case may go.

What I thought wasn’t so great or as realistic was the romance. Yep, you heard me. The ROMANCE. Journey Michaels was the love interest for Erin and although he seems like a rather nice guy, I don’t feel we get to know him very well in this story. He’s there to help connect the dots with Erin by providing info that they don’t already know, and maybe to make the story more interesting. But ultimately, he didn’t really need to be a part of this book, which says a lot when it comes to one of my FAVOURITE things I find normally essential in a story. I didn’t set any ships for them, not really. And it felt a bit fast for them to fall for each other in a non-platonic way. Sure, emotions are rampant when you feel like you’re in danger, but I suppose their path to romance wasn’t depicted as well as it potentially could’ve been.

Last comment: what’s with the names in this story? Spam, which is short for SAMANTHA, was an oddball name I’ve never come across a story before. And the only way I figured out her real name was Samantha instead of actually Spam was ’cause someone called her by the full name wayyy later in the book. Also, Journey’s not such a hot name either…It was just very interesting.

Overall Recommendation:
To Catch a Killer isn’t some scary book that’ll keep you up at night, but it does sufficiently for the mystery that is the heart of the story. Erin Blake is an easy to follow protagonist with a love of forensics (that actually dives into real forensics), although it sometimes felt like no one else understood why she needed to do this for her mom’s case. Family and friendships are other things that’re portrayed here, but ultimately this is a story about a killer who needs to be brought to justice (by apparently teen CSIs). However, it falls a bit flat in the romance category with Journey, but all in all, the ending wasn’t the most predictable and closes on a happy note that should satisfy most readers.

Review: Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson

Series: New Orleans #5

lost souls -lisa jacksonNew York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson delivers her most harrowing novel yet as a young woman’s determined hunt for a serial killer draws her into a twisted psychopath’s unspeakable crimes.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kristi Bentz is lucky to be alive.

Not many people her age have nearly died twice at the hands of a serial killer, and lived to tell about it. Her dad, New Orleans detective, Rick Bentz, wants Kristi to stay in New Orleans and out of danger.

But if anything, Kristi’s experiences have made her even more fascinated by the mind of the serial killer.

She hasn’t given up her dream of being a true-crime writer–of exploring the darkest recesses of evil–and now she just may get her chance.


3.5 Drink Me Potions

Lost Souls wasn’t quite as freaky as Lisa Jackson’s previous novel in the New Orleans series. This might’ve been due to the whole vampire theme that was going on. I’m not shaming vampires. I frankly still read stories on occasion that feature vampires who are very real in their fantasy world, and I was a lover of many vampire novels in the past. But when it’s set in the real world of New Orleans, people who exsanguinate others for blood just didn’t sound as scary as other serial killer types.

That being said, this novel was still weird in its own way. I love that there’s always different clues and red herrings that get pointed in our way to make it harder to easily predict the killer. The POV coming from the killer didn’t make it much easier to help narrow down the pool of suspects. I enjoyed the thought Jackson put into crafting the plot, but at times, it was just a bit slow and long to read. I felt the killer had more “screen” time than most other crime novels do, although I’m not necessarily complaining about that. I’m mostly satisfied with how it turned out and who the culprit was.

What I felt lagged a bit was the reconnection between Kristi and Jay. I liked that there was already a spark there, but it didn’t feel like it rekindled naturally. I also don’t love Kristi. Since the last novel, I already figured that she wasn’t one to listen to anyone, let alone her own survival instincts until it was too late and she’s just screaming for help and praying that someone would intervene in time. There’s no sense of safety and precaution in this girl! You’d think after at least 2 attempts on her life from SERIAL KILLERS, she’d at least be more careful when tracking down another. It’s like she doesn’t experience PTSD or learn anything from not one, but TWO, horrible dealings with killers. And I hated that she was able to persuade Jay to let her do things her way (aka not going to the police when they had some evidence of sorts ’cause she was afraid of what her daddy would do *eye rolls*) or by plainly lying by omission to Jay so he wouldn’t know what harebrained plan she had hatched up and wanted to try – without thinking the consequences through of course.

All in all, Lost Souls wasn’t bad as I’m not adverse to the whole vampirism trope that was happening here, but the personal relationships and the main character could annoy some people.

Review: Absolute Fear by Lisa Jackson

Series: New Orleans #4

absolute fear -lisa jacksonEvery Serial Killer…

A serial killer is stalking the streets of New Orleans. The victims are killed in a ritual fashion, a series of numbers tattooed into their bodies. There are no clues, no connections except one: a crumbling old asylum that was once the scene of unspeakable madness–and is now the calling card of a new kind of fear.

Is Searching For…

Eve Renner knows Our Lady of Virtues Hospital well. As the daughter of one of its doctors, she spent her childhood exploring its secrets chambers, hidden rooms, and forbidden passageways. Now, somewhere in the decaying asylum lies the key to a betrayal from the past whose echoes are being felt with a vengeance–a crime beyond imagining that seems to lead to Eve herself.

The Perfect Victim…

As each new body is found and forgotten, memories surface, and Eve must race to put together a deadly puzzle, one terrifying piece at a time. A killer is watching, planning, luring her back to the ruins of Our Lady and the shocking truths hidden there. For the sins of the past must be revealed, and the price paid–in blood…

4 Drink Me Potions

This was my first Lisa Jackson mystery (I know, why pop into the 4th book of a series? I don’t have an answer for you), and I was fascinated with the killer. Not in some creepy obsessive way. The killer was obviously deranged in more ways than one with a God complex. For some reasons, those kinds of killers always seemed so much scarier, maybe ’cause it’s not implausible that someone in real life could think like that.

Anyway, the premise of the killings and the romance itself were intriguing. Tattooed numbers on the victims with seemingly random numbers. A very scary setting at an abandoned insane asylum complete with all those old inhumane machines they used to use, like electroshock therapy. The protagonist Eve had even initially thought she saw her ex-fiance Cole point a gun at her and shoot her. So the romance already is at odds. But somehow, everything wound itself together in all the right ways.

Amidst what I thought were the two main characters, there’s also Detectives Montoya and Bentz, who are apparently very central to this series (like I said, I came in late). Laughingly, I even suspected one of these detectives planting evidence on Cole before I figured out they were protagonists too.

This was a good mystery that kept me on my toes as every time I thought I had a culprit in mind, some other weird clue or discovery made me second guess myself. As it turns out, it wasn’t as simple or predictable as I thought the answer would be. The whole mystery made sense, which is no small feat when writing a plausible motive behind such atrocious acts, and the weird clues and tattoos were resolved in a way that made me go “ohhhh, why didn’t I think of that?”. I believe Lisa Jackson has just made a fan of me.

There were a few things that I didn’t love as much, such as the explicit nature of the killer. Whenever we see their POV, it’s like they’re always lusting after Eve. Ridiculously lusting after her. Is there ever a time when he wasn’t? I’m not sure if all of that was necessary, but oh well. Additionally, the romance just felt lacking in some ways. The way Eve started trusting Cole again, even though I always knew he was being wrongly accused, just didn’t feel quite enough. It’s a huge toll on a relationship to accuse the other capable of murder. Other than these few tidbits that just bothered me, Absolute Fear was a good introduction to Jackson’s mysteries. I look forward to reading some more by her in the future.