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review 2016-06-16 13:23
A female protagonist with a secret life, a few issues and a pretty special serial killer
Wings of Mayhem (The Mayhem Series Book 1) - Sue Coletta

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to the author, Sue Coletta, who provided me with a free copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

I hadn’t read any books by the author before but the description of this novel, the first in a new series, caught my attention. I read thrillers often and it’s sometimes difficult to come across a book that finds a new angle on the subject or has something to offer to make it worthwhile for the avid reader of the genre. In this particular book, the main protagonist of the novel, Shawnee Daniels, is pretty special. She is a forensic computer analyst working for the police by day, but she has a double life and is a cat burglar by night. But although we learn that she used to be a fully-fledged cat  burglar at some point, she’s now a Robin Hood-like figure, stealing from baddies (mostly rich people who’ve committed fraud or come into their money by other devious means) to give to good causes. (Later in the novel somebody tells her that turns her into a vigilante, although she does not use violence and is a complete novice to things like firearms. I understand their argument but I’m not fully convinced.) In one of her nocturnal excursions, she picks ups valuables (gold, diamonds, a puzzle box and other trinkets) from a fraudster’s house. Rather than leaving with her booty she can’t help herself, and making good the well-known adage, her curiosity gets her into a whole lot of trouble. She discovers the hidden lair of the latest serial killer, ‘the Creator’. The description of what this murderer does to his victims (very twisted and extreme) made me think of one of the other reviewers in the team who used to teach Anatomy. Indeed this is not for readers who like tame mysteries, as there is explicit violence and a great deal of detail.

The story is told mostly from Shawnee’s point of view, in the first person, although towards the end we have some chapters from one of the detective’s point of view, Levaughn Samuels, a very attractive cop and Shawnee’s love interest. Indeed the novel is not only a hardboiled psychological thriller, but it has elements of romance (with some sex and all, not the most explicit I’ve ever read but not squeaky-clean either), with a somewhat idealised Leavaughn (he’s not only attractive, but loves Shawnee despite not knowing her very well, and accepts her, no matter how much she lies or the things she hides for him, and he’s OK with her shady life too. And yes, he’s there to protect her, even when she resists his best efforts).

Shawnee is a fascinating character. I hope we’ll get to learn more about her in future books, because although we get some snippets of information (we know her parents died and she was brought up in foster homes where bad things happened, and we learn that she later became a cat burglar and is very good at it. She’s also great with computers), but a lot remains unexplained. She appears strong and savvy, but she’s emotionally frail, has low self-esteem and she alternates between being self-confident to the point of boastfulness, and presenting as insecure at other times. She makes terrible decisions, and at times I wanted to shake her for being so selfish and egotistical, only interested in her survival.  Because of her insistence in dealing personally with everything and not confessing to her double life to protect herself, other people suffer, and are put at great risk, even her loved ones. Her self-control goes to pieces when the serial killer kills one of her cats, and she becomes totally undone when the Creator attacks her best friend (who is a bit of a comedy character, by turns the voice of her conscience but at others completely reckless). Even then, she has a talent for making her troubles worse by talking too much and being rush.

The serial killer, Jack Delsin, is also fascinating, although we only get to know him indirectly, through his actions that at times are also very puzzling. In many ways, Jack and Shawnee are mirror images and parallel characters. Jack has his reasons (I won’t share any major spoilers but when you read the book you’ll see what I mean) for what he does, he is an ‘artist ‘and takes pride in his work (and this is reflected in the comments by some of the policemen and the FBI agent), he also has a hidden life, and loves dogs (Shawnee has her cats). He also enjoys the game of cat and mouse and the challenge(or cat and dog) and is very skilled at tracking people and reading and understanding them. The connection between the two becomes clearer towards the end and it goes some way to explaining Shawnee’s attitude and her comments at the end of the novel (sorry, I can’t say more).

I enjoyed the story, the match of the main characters’ wits ensures plenty of surprises, twists and turns, and there isn’t a moment’s boredom as the pace is relentless. I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy thrillers with a fair share of explicit detail and violence, characters who’ll keep them on their toes, and an element of romance. You’ll be scared and worried, it will make you think, and it even has its comedic moments (two bad decisions don’t make a good one, and taking your friends with you is perhaps not advisable if you’re a cat burglar).  I wasn’t always convinced by the character’s changes and inconsistencies, and I felt that the element of romance and the role Levaughn ends up playing undermined the strength of the main character (I liked the ending but…). The series has plenty of room to explore the main characters’ psyche and there are unresolved issues and mysteries that will make us come back for more. I have the feeling that it will go from strength to strength.

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review 2012-04-22 00:00
Cat Burglar Black - Richard Sala K's parents died when she was young. The orphanage she was raised in doubled as a training ground for pickpockets, and K was a top student until the place burned to the ground. Now, she's been sent to the private school her aunt owns, only to find that it too doubles as a training ground for thieves. She and the other three girls at the school have been recruited to rob three paintings from eccentric and wealthy owners, because each holds a clue to a larger puzzle.

Cat Burglar Black was written for a YA audience, and it shows most in how quickly the story is told. In roughly 120 pages, we have backstory, setup, three major robberies, plus the climax of the plot. It's a little rushed, and it would have been improved by expanding some of it, especially the robberies themselves. That said, I liked the characters, the art, the plot itself, and the way the action was handled. It's a fun read, and it has an open ending that might lead to future volumes.
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review 2012-01-24 00:00
Cat Burglar in Training
Cat Burglar in Training - Shelley Munro Cat Burglar in Training - Shelley Munro I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Cat Burglar in Training is the story of Lady Evelyn Fawkner (Eve) who has recently returned to her home in England and her ancestral estate of Oakthorpe, where her father, the Viscount, lives with his housekeeper and gardener. She fled England six years ago when she became pregnant as the result of a date rape and does not know who drugged her and fathered her daughter. At 24 or thereabouts, having stayed away from men ever since, she has been called home to take over her father's 'business' of stealing jewels from the illustrious folk that are in her social circles. Daddy has been hitting the gambling tables and is in much debt to a businessman who is suspected of illegal activities. The book is part cute, part romance, part funny, part suspense and part mess, the latter because there is just so much going on! There's Seth, Eve's gay friend for whom she covers and whom she accompanies to social events since he hasn't come out to his parents. There's Richard Beauchamp, the slimy businessman to whom Eve's father owes a cool half mil. Plus interest. He's a skirt chaser, married to a long-suffering wife, and sics his goons to scare Eve when they threaten her daughter. There's a copy cat burglar who hits the houses Eve has her eye on before she can finalize her plans. There's Kahu Williams, the Kiwi cop with the lovely accent who makes Eve swoon and who develops quite a romantic interest in her, while trying to solve the burglaries, a murder and the disappearance of his brother. His accent is mentioned numerous times. There's the terrible trio, as the author calls them - Eve's father, his housekeeper Hannah and his gardner Ben, all of whom provide much comedic relief during the story. The author tells the story with much tongue in cheek from Eve's perspective in the first person. On her first official burglary outing, she witnesses a murder and finds a picture of a little girl who looks just like her daughter. The police are in the dark as to why the poor woman was shot, just as much as they don't know who stole the jewels she had in her bedroom. It's considered a robbery gone wrong. Eve begins her own investigation into the identity of her rapist, on top of training to be a successful burglar, scoping out her next hits and keeping Kahu at arm's length and nearly burning up from the UST between them. More shots are fired and people die - one woman at a ball, another while Eve is in Edinburgh as Richard's hostess, and then one more when Eve finally figures out who the father of her daughter really is and plans to confront him. The identity of the murderer actually makes sense though I truly didn't figure it out until the person pulled the trigger and my mouth dropped open. Eventually, as the smoke clears, all is well that ends well. The writing itself is clean but the story is jumpy. The characters are not well developed and some do things that seem out of character. Kahu tells Eve in one scene that he doesn't give second chances to liars (meaning Eve) and breaks off the budding relationship, yet a week later he pursues her again. I guess it's supposed to feel like he just can't get her out of his mind and that is the reason he does the opposite of what he told her. Richard is a slimeball but then in the midst of all these strange happenings changes his tune and stops trying to get into Eve's pants. When a story is told from the first person perspective, it's tricky to provide good character development and this story doesn't succeed in that. I also was confused a few times when a car was referred to as a saloon. That is a very British term and will not make sense to American readers. I guess it means the body of the car, the passenger compartment but every time I read saloon I thought of a bar filled with cowboys. Not the impression this author wanted to give me, I'm sure. Overall, it's an okay read. Eve's father and housemates are mostly funny and the dialogue between them and Eve feels realistic. He's a bit of a curmudgeon and horrified to realize that Eve is romantically interested in a cop (gasp!) but then convinces her to use her relationship with Kahu to benefit them. And she agrees? What kept me invested in the story was my desire to find out two things - who fathered Eve's daughter through the date rape and who's killing all these women. Both questions were answered.
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review 2010-11-30 00:00
Cat Burglar Black - Richard Sala Summary: Orphan K. was raised in an orphanage where all the children were taught to become pickpockets. When she is sent to a girls' boarding school by a long-lost aunt, K. vows to give up burglary, until the school turns out to be run by an international organization of thieves. With her fellow students, K. participates in three heists to bring together a series of paintings that will give a clue to the location of a secret treasure. But with her friends disappearing and the plot thickening, K. finds all is still not what it seems.

Plot: Undertones of child abuse make for a dark read.

Characters: The evil-doers are evil enough, but K. and her fellow students are bland. Sure, they're great at scaling rooftops and avoiding alarms, but they have no personalities to speak of. Worse, when one of them disappears, the others accept it entirely too easily. Even though K. has her questions, she too just kind of says, "Huh," and goes on with her life.

Dialogue/Writing: Readable enough. I wish the characters had spoken in more distinct voices.

Pacing: This book is very short and moves at a rapid clip.

Art: The full-color line-drawings are a little bit gothic and a lot of fun.

Ending: The ending leaves plenty of loose ends for a sequel while still managing to wrap up too neatly.

What more did I want?: A much stronger heroine.
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