Dead Like Me by Kelly Miller

Narrator: Angel Clark

Publisher: Kelly Miller (2017)

Length: 7 hours 34 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Detective Kate Springer Mystery

Author’s Page

Set in Tampa, Florida, Homicide Detective Kate Springer has just returned to the job. She and her partner catch the next murder case, a teen-aged girl, Kimberly Callahan, who shares an unexpected connection with Kate. As they dig into the murder, several suspects catch their eye. However, Kate is distracted by one in particular and that distraction may be her downfall.

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book. It was mostly Kate Springer who held my interest. I believe she will be a great main character for the series. She’s got this dark past that haunts her a bit even though she is well into her 30s. Throughout the book, she’s seeing the department psychologist off and on and that’s where we learn the most about her past. I also like that Kate knows she has certain behaviors for deflecting people which keep her from having close friendships and meaningful romances.

This book does deal with child sexual abuse. While none of it is revealed in detail, the author does a good job of focusing on how that abuse affects not only the child but the adult that child turns into. The story also brings non-sexual abuse and just plain neglect into the story as well.

Some aspects of the book were a bit formulaic. For instance, the killer was easy to identify. In fact, from the moment they strolled onto the page, I was pretty sure. Also, I didn’t ever really worry about whether or not Kate would live through this investigation, since we all know this is Book 1 in a series.

I really liked Kate’s work partner, fellow Detective Patrick Jessup. The two have a good rapport going with their jokes and random fact bets. I also liked the crime scene tech and her knowledge of etymology; for instance, she knows where the phrase ‘humble pie’ comes from.

There were a handful of things that felt a little rushed or slanted in a certain way for convenience. When Kate is doing her sessions with the psychologist, she’s asked to discuss her triggers and Kate doesn’t know what that means. Yet I was pretty sure that Kate had spent some time working with a psychologist or two in the past and also reading up on her own, so I don’t know why she wouldn’t know this basic term. I felt that was put there to give the psychologist the chance to explain it to the reader, not to Kate. Also, there is a fat, bullying cop who Kate is always trading insults with, though Kate’s insults are nearly always about his weight (which I felt was immature). My biggest complaint is that Kate’s past and her connections to the case remain unknown to the homicide department at the end of the story. I didn’t think this was realistic at all.

With that said, this book still gripped my attention. I really wanted to see how things would unfold, even though I had already guessed the killer. Kate is a fascinating character in many ways. She has issues but her focus on her work keeps her centered. The trusting relationship between her and Patrick, who is a happily married man with kids, leads me to wonder if things might get complicated for Kate in the future. Kate is slow to discover who the killer is, or rather, accept what her subconscious is already pretty sure about. I felt this was realistic and I enjoyed the cat and mouse game as Kate finds evidence to support the case. I look forward to Book 2 and seeing where Kate goes from here now that she can lay part of her past to rest.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Angel Clark was a great Kate Springer. I really liked her voice for Kate, especially the more emotional scenes. Clark also went the extra mile and included special effects to mimic speaker phone, PA system, and cell phone calls. Sometimes I did find a few of her voices for minor characters to be a little cartoony, but that is my only little complaint. 

What I Liked: A tough case involving a teen; Kate’s difficult past; her rapport with Patrick; the random facts stuck into the story; the cat and mouse wind up to catching the killer; how the killer is finally brought to justice.

What I Disliked: Sometimes Kate’s insults are a bit immature; it’s unlikely that her past would remain a secret from the department after this case; sometimes the narration was a little cartoony.

What Others Think:

Illiterarty

Relentless by Nancy J. Alexander

AlexanderRelentlessNarrator: Nancy J. Alexander

Publisher: NJA Productions (2014)

Length: 16 hours

Series: Book 1 Elisabeth Reinhardt

Author’s Page

Gina Reynolds is a successful doctor specializing in babies suffering from chronic illness or deformities. She has a cat, good friends, an exercise routine, and a deep, traumatic history. Even as she begins to unfold these long-suppressed memories, her childhood tormentor Jake continues to hunt for her. Dr. Elisabeth Reinhardt, Gina’s psychologist, is determined to help her, even if it is by unconventional means.

There were several things I liked about this book. First, Gina has a full, functional life, even as she deals with these traumatic memories. She has to find a way to fit them into her life even as she continues on with her life. I liked that she did several things that are healthy ways of dealing with such memories. She sees a professional, talks with trusted friends, and takes self-defense lessons (which are more than simply learning how to punch someone, such as including smart places to park, staying in crowds, etc.).

The book switches points of view often, which I liked. I was especially intrigued by Elisabeth. She starts off with a simple role of being Gina’s psychologist but as the story unfolds, we learn that Elisabeth has an interesting past and also is part of something bigger. I don’t want to give too much away, but I was pleased how her story arc grew throughout this tale.

There were lots and lots of info dumps in this book. I do wish it was edited a bit better. The info dumps were sometimes interesting but often I was left wondering if all of the info would play into the plot. While these added to the depth of characters, it was also a tedious way to impart that info to the reader.

Jake and his little gang worked well as our bad guys. When Jake was a kid, he was a handful and rather dangerous to smaller kids. Hence, he had been booted from home to home. As a teen, he had Reggie to torment, but eventually she escaped from him, disappearing. As an adult, Jake obsesses over her, the one that got away. He never gives up hunting for her, always asking after her with her family, checking her old haunts. As the body count builds, the FBI and local law enforcement pull at every little string they come across.

There is a cat and mouse game that starts early in the book and continues throughout the story. I got the cat and mouse part for young Reggie (AKA Gina) as she hides from her tormenters. I also got the cat and mouse game for much later in the story when it’s clear that Jake has a lead on Reggie. However, there was this long patch in the story where Gina’s certainty that Jake was still hunting her seemed unwarranted. For instance, she hasn’t had any indication for years that he’s even still interested in her in any way. Gina has this very elaborate way of communicating with a childhood mentor of sorts but she has severed all ties otherwise with her childhood self. Jake and crew are not masterminds, so I felt this near-espionage communication was a bit overdone. With that said, the second half of the book really shows the cat and mouse game to full effect and that’s when I became glad that Gina had done her best to be ready for Jake.

Sometimes things are repeated more than once, and once again, I think this book could have used one last round of editing to polish it. There’s a great story in here, full of suspense and drama, but those elements are diluted by the info dumps and the repetition. Still, I was impressed with the depth of character analysis we have here, showing the deeper motivations behind each of the main characters. While the ending does get a little off target, it eventually pulls back together and I found the over all end satisfying.

I received a free copy of this book from the author via iRead Book Tours.

Narration: Nancy J. Alexander narrated her own book. She was OK. She does have a limited range of characters, and this book did have a larger character list than the range of her character voices. However, all the main characters were distinct and she did use regional accents to carry off even more characters. Unfortunately, her voice for her main bad guy, Jake, often sounds cartoonish and this made it a little hard to see him as a true threat. There were a few spots that had minor mouth noises (she sounded like she needed a water break), but over all the production was pretty good.

What I Liked: Cat & mouse game; healthy ways to deal with trauma; Gina has a full life with more than her traumatic memories going on; Jake and his gang are a threat to more than Reggie/Gina; the point of view changes often; how the book ended.

What I Disliked: Lots and lots of info dumps and I don’t think we needed all that info; lots of repetition as well; Gina’s certainty that Jake will come for her felt forced for a chunk of the book; narration could have been better.

Twisted by Michaelbrent Collings

CollingsTwistedWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Scott Thomas

Publisher: Michaelbrent Collings (2015)

Length: 8 hours 44 minutes

Author’s Page

The Douglas family just recently had their second child. Money is tight, really tight. And now it looks like there is a malevolent force haunting them. It wants their torment and their blood. The Douglas family may not survive this darkness.

Blake and Alyssa are trying very hard to make a happy family. Their son, Mal, is perhaps 8 years old. Baby Ruthie was just born and already she has a severe medical condition that has both parents deeply worried. But there are centipedes to exterminate. Yep. A swarm  of centipedes popped out from the crawl space beneath Mal’s bed. Ugh! Why did it have to be centipedes? I am an insect lover… but that warm fuzzy feeling I have for bees, butterflies, beetles, and even tarantulas does not extend to centipedes. So right away, I am a little freaked out, which is what any good horror tale should be doing.

Blake has ghosts of his own that are raised from the past because of all the stresses he is under… and perhaps that malevolent force has something to do with it too. He came from an abusive household and while he has never done anything harsh to his family members, he constantly worries that he is a bad parent or husband. This aspect of Blake made him very human to me and easy to connect with. The guy hasn’t put his past to rest and this recent bought of crap he has to deal with brings it all to the forefront. Just where the evil ghost who is haunting them wants it.

Alyssa is the quiet, subtle hero of the tale holding the family together even as she feels beaten up and torn (literally from the recent birthing). She reassures Blake often that he is a decent human being and tries very hard to hold her own emotions in check to keep the kids reassured.

We also get to see a good chunk of the book through Mal’s eyes. He does a good job of being a kid but also observing all the stress signals his parents are giving off. He tries very hard to be a good brother to Ruthie. I found that some of the scariest scenes were seen through his eyes because he’s just a kid and shouldn’t have to deal with ravenous centipedes or malevolent ghosts.

The plot had some nice twists and turns. There’s some turn of the century photos of dead kids, a few journal entries from a case file on a serial killer, a bike messenger with an interesting paranormal ability, and plenty more. The ending caught me off guard. Even though I was hoping this story wouldn’t have a happy ending (a statement that probably makes me look a little deranged), I wasn’t prepared for how it did end. Yet, once it was laid out before me and all the connections drawn out, I felt that it all made sense and that was really the only way this tale could end. Additionally, Collings provides a personal note at the end about his missionary work and domestic abuse that was a very nice touch. I will never look at ‘I Love Mom’ tattoos the same way again.

I received this audiobook from the narrator (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Scott Thomas has a remarkably creepy voice! And he put it to very good use in this book. He had nice voices for the Douglas family, and passable female voices. Then he had a deeply disturbing voice for the malevolent ghost. There were also times in the narration where something tense and spooky was going down and his voice would reflect that.

What I Liked: Excellent narration; connected with the characters; deeper issues; creepy centipedes; some unexpected twists; a harsh but logical ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I was both creeped out and satisfied by this book.

What Others Think:

Horror Novel Reviews

Horror After Dark

Tuppence Magazine

Audio Book Reviewer

Paul Read or Dead