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review 2018-01-16 03:43
Locked In Silence (Pelican Bay #1) by Sloane Kennedy
Locked in Silence (Pelican Bay, Book 1) - Sloane Kennedy

I really loved this book up until 60%, where I started to feel like the author is trying to inflict as much pain and suffering on the MCs as possible without introducing actual physical torture. Oh, wait, there was that bear! :( Anyway, I would have done just fine with all of that if it wasn't for the finale. Everything, and I mean - e-veh-ry-thing - bent and twisted and in the end righted itself, short of resurrecting dead people. 

And so, while I enjoyed most of the book immensely and even got some perverted satisfaction out of the too-good-to-be-true ending, I can't give it more than 3.5 stars. Which way to go tho, which way to go? 

Ahhh, hell, I did read it well into the night, so - 4 stars in the end.

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review 2017-12-22 20:55
Uninspiring
Locked In - Kerry Wilkinson

This is the first book in a series featuring DS Jessica Daniel. It's an average police thriller with an uninspiring plot. Four bodies are waiting to be discovered and at each location it is noted that all doors are locked so how did the killer enter? What if it was possible to acquire a duplicate key? As I do not want to spoil your enjoyment I will take this train of thought no further. The author does a nice job of introducing Jessica, a career minded detective, who shares a flat with her best friend Caroline. Caroline has a new boyfriend called Randy and wants her flat mate Jessica to make up a foursome with Ryan, Randy's friend. The reason I mention this is on their first meeting Jessica did not really fancy Ryan but jumps into bed with him almost immediately. I thought this a ridiculous premise an articulate and organised DS throwing all caution to the wind for a quick sh*g. As the body count mounts DS Daniel comes under pressure for a quick resolve.

 

The real problem I have with this story is the following. Most readers of crime (including myself) are keen to play amateur detective and try to solve if possible who might be the killer. It is obvious that an author will always try to keep the ID of any killer a mystery until the final pages. The real skill is presenting him in a small part, as an unassuming boring character, and then revealing him as the killer in the final pages, when hopefully the reader will be delightfully surprised and somewhat disappointed that he was unable to discover the truth for himself. In "Locked In", I knew immediately who the killer was as soon as he was introduced. This is the first book in a long running series by Kerry Wilkinson and I suppose we should grant some latitude in the hope that later books in the series improve. I have since read "Nothing but Trouble" and really enjoyed, so it is probably fair to say that Mr Wilkinson is improving his technique as the series progresses. Nevertheless "Locked In" remains a poor read and certainly not one that I will recall with any real enjoyment.

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review 2017-12-05 13:00
Review For: Locked by Clarissa Wild
Locked - Clarissa Wild

 

 Locked by Clarissa Wild is the story of Juliet and Lock.   Juliet is a biologist looking to do research when the helicopter she is on crashes.  When she first wakes up she sees something of a monster she thinks and tries to run.  But ends up passing out again to wake up next time in a cage.  Lock has lived isolated for some time turning into an animal almost.  But when he saves Juliet he knows he is attracted to her and not being around a women in a while he wants to keep her.  There is some miscommunication and some award times.  Juliet kept trying to runaway of course but in the end they started to work their feelings out.  Overall a very exciting read!

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review 2017-11-02 04:34
The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa, translated by Ho-Ling Wong
The Moai Island Puzzle - Ho-Ling Wong,Alice Arisugawa

Alice Arisugawa is the third Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan author I’ve tried. I thought Arisugawa would also be my first female honkaku mystery author, but I didn’t bother to research that and, as it turns out, the author is actually male.

He also wrote a male character named after his pseudonym into The Moai Island Puzzle. I don’t like when authors write themselves into their own books, even if all they and their character have in common is their names, so this was a bit of a red flag for me, but I figured I’d let it pass. I was really hoping this book would be as good as the one that led me to it, Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Or even Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders, which had some issues but was still decent.

The Moai Island Puzzle starts by introducing readers to the members of the Eito University Mystery Club. The club’s only female member, Maria Arima, invites the other members to take a week-long holiday at her uncle’s villa on a tiny island. Only Alice Arisugawa (the narrator) and Jiro Egami are able to join her, but that doesn’t mean they’re alone: ten of Maria’s family members and family friends also take a holiday on the island at around this time every three years or so.

Alice and Egami arrive at the island with every intention of having fun. In particular, they’d like to solve the puzzle that Maria’s grandfather left behind. Before he died, Maria’s grandfather had several wooden moais, statues similar to the ones on Easter Island but much smaller, installed all over the island, each facing in a different direction. These statues are somehow the key to finding a treasure that Maria’s grandfather left behind.

Hideto, Maria's beloved cousin, was supposedly close to solving the puzzle three years ago but drowned before he could locate the treasure. Maria would like to finish what he started. Unfortunately, just as a typhoon is about to reach the island, a couple people are found shot to death inside a locked room. Was it suicide, or murder?

First off, I would like to say that I was frustrated with how determined these characters were to believe that a double suicide was a possibility in this situation. One of the victims was shot in the chest, one of them in the thigh, and there was a blood trail across the entire room. The window was closed, and the door was locked with an overly tight latch. Both victims were shot by a rifle, which was nowhere to be found in the room. Several characters kept theorizing that one of the victims shot the other victim, then themselves, and then somehow threw the rifle out the window and then shut the window. It took ages for someone to finally ask whether the rifle was even outside somewhere - no one had bothered to look. Granted, it was raining and a typhoon was coming, but I doubt a dying person would have been able to throw the rifle very far.

I suppose you could argue that they all clung to the “it was a double suicide or murder-suicide” theory so hard because they didn’t want to believe they were on the island with a murderer, but so many of the facts just didn’t fit. And I just shook my head at the characters’ behavior. Even past the point they should’ve started keeping a better eye on each other, they were busy getting drunk or spending time on their own. That was one of the book’s weaknesses: too many characters had no alibi.

You’d think that should have helped muddy the waters, but it was combined with the fact that there were also few clear motives. All I had to do was think about a likely motive that Arisugawa (the author) was very carefully not bringing up, and I basically figured out the identity of the murderer. I had hoped that I was wrong and that the motive I suspected was actually a red herring. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

I wasn’t able to figure out how the murders were committed on my own, but part of the problem was that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters, I had trouble caring about their family/relationship drama, and their conversations bored me. The final revelations didn’t change my mind about any of that.

The second part of the moai puzzle made sense to me, but the stuff the characters had to do to get to that part seemed like a stretch. And I didn’t buy that Egami was able to figure out everything about the murders the way he did, all on his own. His explanation for the locked room portion of the mystery, in particular, angered me more than shocked me. Without including spoilers, all I can say is that I had trouble believing the character would have done something like that, especially considering the way their relationships had been described.

All in all, this wasn’t worth the effort it took to read it. Very disappointing.

Additional Comments:

I noticed a few editing errors in the first 50 or so pages - sloppy verb tenses, and an instance of “peak” instead of “peek.”

The thing that bugged me the most, though, was the book’s very first illustration, a map of the island. I had thought it was the same map the characters had received, but they kept referencing marks on the map that indicated the locations of the moais, and the book’s illustration had no such marks. I still don’t know whether this was an error or whether it was deliberate on the author’s part. In the end, the marks wouldn’t have helped any (they were included later, albeit separate from the map), but the fact that they weren’t there made it feel like the author was keeping basic information from readers, and it was annoying.

Oh, and unrelated to all of that: I’m pretty sure that a normal, living snake wouldn’t feel sticky to the touch.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-10-22 03:27
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada, translation by Ross and Shika Mackenzie
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders - Ross MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Shika MacKenzie

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders starts off with a “last will and testament” written by Heikichi Umezawa in 1936. In this document, he detailed his belief that he is possessed and how he came to the realization that killing six of his daughters and nieces would solve his problems. Using their zodiac signs as a guide, he’d take one body part from each young woman and construct Azoth, the perfect woman.

The story then fast forwards to about 40 years later. Kazumi, a mystery fan, is describing the facts of the Tokyo Zodiac Murders to his friend Kiyoshi, an astrologer and occasional detective. The six young women were, in fact, killed and mutilated in the manner described in Heikichi’s will, but Heikichi couldn’t possibly have done it: he’d been dead for several days prior to the murders. In addition to Heikichi’s murder and the Azoth murders, one of Heikichi’s other stepdaughters was also killed. No one is sure whether that murder was related to the others or not.

After Kiyoshi takes on a client with a distant but potentially embarrassing connection to the case, Kiyoshi and Kazumi end up with a one-week deadline to solve a mystery that no one else has managed to solve in 40 years. Diagrams included throughout the text invite readers to solve the mystery along with them.

If you like trying to solve mysteries before a book’s fictional detective does, you really need to give this a try. It’s an excellent puzzle, and the author even interjects a couple times in order to let readers know when enough information has been included to allow them to solve the mystery. Of course, he interjects late enough that readers have more information than they need, muddying the water a bit, but that’s part of the fun.

The first part, with Heikichi’s will, was particularly strong. Heikichi casually describing why he needed to kill his daughters and nieces was incredibly creepy. I promise, though, that that’s as creepy as the book gets. Although the description of how the murders were actually accomplished was horrifying, the book’s overall tone didn’t have much of a feeling of creepiness, horror, or even urgency to it. Yes, Kiyoshi only had a week to solve the mystery, but the only things at stake, really, were his ego and reputation. Most of the people directly affected by the Tokyo Zodiac Murders were long dead.

There were a few times when I started to lose interest as the book became a little too “two guys talking about the facts of the case,” but for the most part those facts were really interesting. I had all kinds of theories about who might have killed Heikichi and how, how Kazue, Heikichi’s eldest stepdaughter, was involved, and who had killed the other women. None of my theories fit all of the facts of the case, and all my theories were torpedoed after Shimada included one particular document.

Kazumi, who was basically Kiyoshi’s Watson, had some ideas of his own that sounded promising, but I was fairly certain that he’d miss the key detail that would bring everything together. By the time Kiyoshi finally announced that he’d solved the murders, both Kazumi and I were thoroughly lost. It got to the point where I felt like Shimada was practically shoving the finished puzzle under my nose and I still couldn’t solve it. It was frustrating and fun at the same time. If it hadn’t been for work and sleep, I’d probably have read the last part of the book, where everything was finally revealed, all in one go. I can confidently say that I’d never have figured everything out on my own. There were aspects that stretched my suspension of disbelief, but, even so, the solution was really good.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable mystery that kept me guessing until the final revelation. It was very deliberately structured like a puzzle that readers were invited to solve along with Kiyoshi and Kazumi, but, despite the author’s two interjections, it still didn’t feel quite as detached as a couple similar mysteries I can think of. Kiyoshi and Kazumi had some life to them and didn’t just feel like pieces on the author’s gameboard. I particularly enjoyed their conversation about Sherlock Holmes and well-known mystery authors, and Kazumi's enjoyment of various locations in Japan made me wish I could visit them myself.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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