Book Date for the Circumspect

Looking for something not too exciting or too fast? Want a mild distraction, not something that will leave you wanting more? You only want this weekend at most. You don’t want any risk of any strings being attached. You aren’t looking for something serious or intense. Then we have the perfect fix for your nothing special weekend.

Book Cover Murder at an Exhibition

Let’s start at the very beginning, Murder at an Exhibition. This certainly could be better. The word choice of “an Exhibition” seems to automatically downplay the book. It reduces the stature of the setting. It’s just an ordinary, run of the mill, nothing special about it exhibition. Instead of this is “the Exhibition” that can and does lead to murder, it is that special and dramatic. However, this title does not imbue your feelings with any hype up, which is probably a blessing in disguise.

This weird downplay of the book continues  with giving readers the meat of the story before the story. How? By sharing the murder discovery excerpt the page before Chapter 1. However, this meaty morsel is not the beginning of a memorable adventure, but is more a spoiler of the plot highlight. Worse, this highlight is a long way in coming, thus the author is almost gaslighting the reader. Seriously, it took 25% of the book before the murder from the spoiler actually happens and the pre-Chapter 1 excerpt makes the reading of the event in the book anti-climatic. 

Even without this spoiler the book is not an edge of your seat page turner. It was almost easier to put it down than to pick it back up. It is readable, but not captivating. The characters are likable, but not extraordinary. The plot is reliable and sound. It tells a sturdy and interesting story. Yet, there is also a lot of unnecessary extra story telling that makes it seem like you are reading part of a series instead of a stand alone. 

This is a technically competent piece. It checks all the boxes for how to write a good book. Too bad those checks are all about structure without the meat and bones to fill out into something substantial. Instead, this is more of a day in the life of book than a true murder mystery. Don’t get me wrong, the mystery is intriguing and does keep you wondering or making your mind and changing your mind. But it is more that the mystery is the ingredient or path that connects the characters and their lives than being the spotlight of the book.

This book is a good option for having something to carry with you to read, when you have a few minutes, that you will not mind having to put down again and again as you get on with your day or weekend. And in this type of reading is probably where it will find its best fit. Can you curl up with it for your Friday night/weekend read? Certainly, but do not expect it to be your best book date ever by a long shot. It perfectly, reminds me of an Amber Sparks tweet I saw about an average guy…

I met this book…

** The book cover is via

** The tweet screenshot is via Google Search Images.

DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC of this book. This is my honest review of the work.

Jack? There’s No Jack Here

I am all for seeing things from a different perspective and or point of view. Sometimes when you see something from a different point of view it helps you understand things better and improves the way you look at and see things moving forward. Thus, I enjoy this approach in novels. And this is the approach that Thea Sutton took in her novel The Women Of Blackmouth Street. Sutton has taken one of the most famous murder mysteries and created an interesting twist.

While the plot sticks fairly close to the historic tale, there is absolutely no mention of Jack. All the horror takes place around Dury Lane, a different East End slum. Over crowded with the poor, lost, desperate outsiders of society. London probably had more than her fair share of poor trying to eek out some form of survival, having lost their belief in even eking out a living during the late 19th century. 

The streets are just as hazardous for prostitutes. Their murders are just as brutally savage and there is even a double event one night. There are letters to the press, though different from that other story. 

The letters provide us one difference, they are also sent directly to the heroine of the story. Maybe heroine is not the right word for her. Lead character might be more apt, and it is her role that takes this telling from mere horror and mystery to a psychological thriller. This psychological approach is one of the unique twists and the other is the feminist approach.

This feminism is not political or ideological in whole, it is more adding feminine qualities to all main aspects of the story. Take the leading character, Georgia, while she is certainly strong-willed, courageous, and determined, she also shows compassion, weakness, and empathy.

Another interesting facet is the inclusion of living historical persons of the time. The James siblings, William, Henry, and Alice all make some appearance in the story. Alice’s role is the more predominant one. Her role while very much minor is also major support that contributes significantly to the overall development and challenges in the novel.

*I received an advance review copy for free. No compensation for review.

Hey, Mack!

Have you ever picked up a novel, started reading, and felt like you walked through a door into another time, for no other reason than the style of writing? I had that experience this past weekend. I am trying with gusto to wipe out my stack of works that I have been asked to read and review. The work that was next in the line up was Message In A Bullet by Owen Thomas. As you might surmise it is a mystery, but what you would not surmise is that the author’s style is so retro that it is fresh!

Cover Art via Goodreads

The first pages seem like a cheap attempt at noir glam, but that is just the bait. Within a few pages it’s reading like one of those dime store novels in all the best ways. It’s gritty, raw, and monochromatic, but still clever enough to keep you turning pages wondering if you are keeping up with the clues. Everyone is damaged goods still trying to abide by their own versions of virtue.

This is the debut story for the main character’s series. In good dime store fashion he is a self-persecuting, redemption denying, relentless gumshoe from some of the toughest city streets and dirtiest halls of justice that America has to offer and none of it is softened by Thomas. Mack is just the kinda guy you would imagine having the nerve to work the streets of Chicago and just the guy that you would want on your side if you are in a bind. Additionally, now as a widower and “retired” detective he doesn’t have much to lose, but lots to gain, including his sanity.

The piece is a great weekend escape or Friday night date, one-night stand. With no next morning regrets. The chapters flip past just like the play list of the local band at the American Legion Hall. The story is constantly moving forward with just enough memory lane detours to not make it a marathon run in sprint mode. So pour that glass of merlot, turn off the phone, and spend the night with Mack and his motley crew of ghosts and cohorts.

*Copy Received For Review.