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#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreviews MARRED and CLEAVED. GRAFTON COUNTY SERIES by Sue Coletta (@SueColetta1) #RBRT Police procedural in a rural setting told from a writer’s perspective

Hi all:

Today I’m sharing two reviews. As you know I’m a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I had read one of Sue Coletta’s book a few months ago, and when I saw a new book in her other series was due for launch and the author also offered the opportunity to catch up on the first novel of the series, I could not resist. So here I bring you both.

First, a bit about the author:

Author Sue Coletta
Author Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is an award-winning, multi-published author in numerous anthologies and her forensics articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly. In addition to her popular crime resource blog, Sue co-hosts the radio show “Partners In Crime” on Writestream Radio Network every third Tuesday of the month from 1 – 3 p.m. EDT/EST (see details at www.suecoletta.com). She’s also the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science, and founder of #ACrimeChat on Twitter.

She runs a popular crime website and blog, where she shares crime tips, police jargon, the mind of serial killers, and anything and everything in between. If you search her achieves, you’ll find posts from guests that work in law enforcement, forensics, coroner, undercover operatives, firearm experts…crime, crime, and more crime.

For readers, she has the Crime Lover’s Lounge, where subscribers will be the first to know about free giveaways, contests, and have inside access to deleted scenes. As an added bonus, members get to play in the lounge. Your secret code will unlock the virtual door. Inside, like-minded folks discuss their favorite crime novels, solve mindbender and mystery puzzles, and/or relax and chat. Most importantly, everyone has a lot of fun.

Sue lives in northern New Hampshire with her husband, where her house is surrounded by wildlife…bear, moose, deer, even mountain lions have been spotted. Course, Sue would love to snuggle with them, but her husband frowns on the idea.

https://www.amazon.com/Sue-Coletta/e/B015OYK5HO/

And now, the books:

Marred by Sue Coletta
Marred by Sue Coletta

Marred by Sue Coletta

When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marred-Sue-Coletta-ebook/dp/B015OTRZXQ/

https://www.amazon.com/Marred-Sue-Coletta-ebook/dp/B015OTRZXQ/

My review:

I’m reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem, book one in The Mayhem Series (check the review here), and was impressed and intrigued. Now, on the occasion of the launch of the second book in the Grafton County Series, Cleaved (yes, I’m reading and reviewing that too, try and stop me!) I managed to catch up with the author’s first book in that series, that chronicles the lives of Sage and Niko Quintano, a couple who now live in Grafton County, New Hampshire, where they took refuge after something horrific happened to Sage. Niko is the new sheriff and Sage is a successful author of crime novels, although, unfortunately, she ends up playing the part of the victim in real life more than once.

Sage and Niko are trying to recover from their personal tragedy, as Sage lost a baby she was carrying when she was assaulted but they are both keeping things from each other, in an attempt at protecting the other. During the book, they’ll realise they are stronger together and the best way to beat evil is to be honest with each other and to share the truth, however hard it might be to hear.

The novel has strong elements of the police procedural genre. Niko is an accomplished detective, although sometimes hindered by his personal feelings and his inability to see and accept the unacceptable, and as there are not as many crime fighting means in a small town, he gets to share his expertise (his training one of the deputies gives the reader the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop and learn, although it might be a bit too much detail for those with no appetite for the grosser things in the art of detecting) on issues such as blood spatter and how to process a crime scene. Frankie, his fiery and fashion conscious deputy, is a fabulous character who takes no prisoners and tolerates no fools. Sadly, that means she has little opportunity for career advancement, as tact is not her strong suit, but through the novel, we get to understand her better, see her softer side, and she’s great at one-liners and gritty and witty repartees. Although Niko might complain about Frankie’s evident disdain for authority, he enjoys the banter and their relationship is one of the fun and lighter elements in the novel. The crimes are gruesome, bizarre and puzzling, as it appears the killer is trying to send a message but nobody knows what it is or who the intended recipient might be. There are red herrings and confusion, as it becomes clear that these crimes relate to what happened to Sage years back, in Boston, but we don’t know how or why. Lies and withholding of information don’t help and Sage does a fair deal of amateur investigating too.

Apart from the police procedural aspect, there are also other elements that give the novel a distinct flavour. The strong relationship between the couple and their shared (at least in part) trauma plays a big part in the action and also in the reactions and behaviours of the characters, that at times might stretch reader’s suspension of disbelief but would fit in with somebody trying to survive to a horrible ordeal. This is not the typical novel about the lone detective, who lives only for his work and solving cases but is totally unable to have a meaningful relationship. Thanks to Sage’s memories we share some of the couple’s high and low points. Pet names, real pets and home life (including thoughts about the laundry) ground the characters and their relationship making them more relatable and real, rather than just case-solving automatons. Sage’s otherworldly encounters (she consults a spiritual guide and has a very special experience during the investigation, but I won’t spoil the story) are also outside the norm for a book otherwise very realistic and detailed.

The story is told from the points of view of several characters. Sage’s point of view is narrated in the first person and that makes the reader identify with her more closely. She is also a writer through and through and observes everybody around her, everything that happens and analyses her own thoughts and feelings in detail. Niko and Frankie are also given a narrative, although theirs is in the third person but still manages to make us see their different perspectives, helps us understand their behaviours and thought processes, and provides more information the readers can try and use to put together the jigsaw puzzle.

The book has a great sense of rhythm, and alternates very tense and dark scenes with moments of light relief (Frankie and the other deputies are always at hand with some extemporaneous comment or mishap, Sage and Niko also have their humorous moments and the novel is tongue-in-cheek about possible comparisons, including comments about Castle) and is particularly effective at dropping the readers right into the action and making them share the experiences and emotions of the characters.  The ending manages to be satisfyingly upbeat while also introducing a final disquieting note.

A recommended reading for those who love detailed police procedural novels (and TV series like CSI, Criminal Minds and yes, Castle), with characters who carry a heavy baggage, in a backwoods/small-town setting and with less down-to-earth elements thrown in too. A strong stomach is a necessary requirement. I’d also recommend it to writers keen on the genre as there’s much to be learned from the author.

And:

Cleaved by Sue Coletta
Cleaved by Sue Coletta

Cleaved: Grafton County Series, book 2 by Sue Coletta

Author Sage Quintano writes about crime. Her husband Niko investigates it. Together they make an unstoppable team. But no one counted on a twisted serial killer, who stalks their sleepy community, uproots their happy home, and splits the threads that bonds their family unit.

Darkness swallows the Quintanos whole–ensnared by a ruthless killer out for blood. Why he focused on Sage remains a mystery, but he won’t stop till she dies like the others.

Women impaled by deer antlers, bodies encased in oil drums, nursery rhymes, and the Suicide King. What connects these cryptic clues? For Sage and Niko, the truth may be more terrifying than they ever imagined.

Early readers love CLEAVED…

“The title alone is the stuff of nightmares. Cleaved by Sue Coletta is the latest from the writing magic of this author.

Her characters, storyline, and imagination all meld into the perfect blend of suspense, tension, action, and emotion. Her prose sings more than tells the story. The words are crafted and woven into both subtle and shocking passages.

The intricacies of the plot will keep you guessing, and catching your breath, with each twist and turn. While the nature of the story contains some gruesome aspects, Coletta handles them with aplomb. She makes her point without gratuitous descriptions so common is less skillfully written thrillers.

This is an author rising to new levels in her craft. All of her books are good, this one is exceptional.
She takes you inside the mind of her main recurring character, Sage Quintano. You experience the story as she does. (Minor spoiler alert coming up.) As part of her research for the book, Coletta actually got inside an oil drum. I’ll leave it to your imagination why. But it should give you an indication of the commitment to excellence this author brings to her work.

Read this book. Read all this author’s work. You will not be disappointed. Terrified, scared, suffering elevated blood pressure, yes. Disappointed, no.” ~ posted on Goodreads

“The sequel to Marred, in which you’d think Sage and Niko have been through enough, but no, Sue Coletta pulls out all the stops to take you on an amazing roller coaster ride of a read. Prepare to be chuckling one minute, and then terrified the next. I dare you to read this book without becoming emotionally involved with the characters and their safety.

Perfectly paced, perfectly passionate, perfectly perplexing. If you buy one book today make it Cleaved!” ~ posted on Goodreads

“Follow Sage as she unravels this mystery from page one. You may not want to put it down. I sure never did, but seems I do most of my reading at work! I give this book 5 stars for sure! Sue Coletta has done it again. After Marred and Wings of Mayhem, I never thought it could get better, but she did it again.” posted on Goodreads

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Cleaved-Grafton-County-book-2-ebook/dp/B06XS3HTGS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cleaved-Grafton-County-book-2-ebook/dp/B06XS3HTGS/

 

My review:

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I have just finished reading Sue Coletta’s Marred and I wanted to see what happened next. Reading the two books back-to-back allowed me to think a bit more about the genre, the characters, and the style.

Here we have again the married couple of Niko Quintano, now sheriff in Alexandria, Grafton County, New Hampshire, and his wife, crime novelist Sage. They moved trying to leave behind a tragedy but it seems it followed them, and in Marred there was more heartache and family loses for the Quintanos. Now, the couple has a child, their two kids (their beloved dogs, Rugger and Colt, which I didn’t mention in my last review although they play an important role), and they are enjoying life. The book doesn’t allow us to relax though, quite the opposite, as it opens with a terrifying scene, narrated in the first person from Sage’s perspective. She is locked up somewhere, small, dark and cold, floating in water, and can’t recall how she got there. And we, the readers, share in her anguish and fear and are thrown in at the deep end from the beginning. The book then goes back and we get to know how Sage ended up there. Her plight is linked to a new bizarre wave of murders that befall the county but there are several interrelated plots and all of them touch the different characters personally. What should have been a happy time for Sage and Niko turns into another nightmare and nobody is safe.

The story is told from several of the characters’ points of view, as was the case with Marred. Sage, the writer, narrates her story in the first person and is good at observing events, but especially at talking about feelings and analysing the impact their horrific experiences might have on all of them (including her 13 months’ old baby son, Noah, and their two dogs). Her husband Niko and Frankie, the deputy sheriff with attitude, wit and a fashionable sense of dress, also have their own stories, but these are told in the third-person.

I talked about genre in the previous review but I have to come back to it. Whilst the book works as police-procedural, due to the details about murder scenes and also to the lectures on the subject (the deputies in training come handy as a justification and a stand-in for the readers, and this time even Frankie gets to explain some aspects of forensic science), there is a lot of content that relates to family relationships and also to the effects of crime and trauma on the survivors, that put me in mind of what these days is called domestic-noir (although in standard cases, the guilty party tends to be part of the family. Not so here…). Although this aspect is more evident in the fragments narrated by Sage, Frankie also gets confronted with her own relationship and how it can be a source of conflict with one’s profession and moral stance (she’s still one of my favourite characters but she behaves in a more reckless manner that I had ever imagined she would and shows less concern for the law than I expected), and Niko also struggles to try to maintain his professional demeanour when faced with attacks on his beloved family.

There are several story strands and a variety of crimes, and readers will be kept on their toes trying to decide how they related to each other (if they do), how many criminals there are and what their motives are. Although the sheriff notes the difficulties and the limitations of law enforcement in the area as it is not a high-crime place, I couldn’t help but think of series like Murder, She Wrote or Midsomer Murders where a seemingly sleepy town is attacked by an epidemic of crime, courtesy of it being the setting of a series. Also, like in most stories where both members of a couple investigate crimes (professionally or not), at some point, one or both of them end up becoming victims, and this has been Sage’s lot from the beginning, perhaps more so in this book, as she has even more to lose now. This novel might cross over several genres but it does live up to the expectations of the readers and it will keep them turning pages.

The characters keep stumbling on the same stone over and over. If in the previous book they got into serious trouble for not completely trusting each other and lying (with the best of intentions at heart), they still do it here (perhaps not to the same extent) and there is a price to be paid for it. I felt like I do sometimes when watching a horror movie when you see the characters keep getting themselves into trouble, and you want to shout at them: ‘Don’t do that! Don’t be stupid!’ but they don’t listen. The murders are as gruesome as in the previous book and varied; we get a better glimpse at Frankie’s life and some of her connections, but there is more of the personal point of view and dramatic side of the story, at least in my opinion. The book has humorous scenes and the witty dialogue that’s one of the author’s trademarks, but it is also scary and tense, and even more terrifying if you’re an author yourself. (Beware of book signings is all I’ll say.)

Once again, the ending is satisfying (as a psychiatrist I’ll keep my peace rather than discuss the details) but has a hook and leaves readers with an eerie feeling. I wasn’t sure I was totally clear in my mind as to how the different strands fitted in, especially with so many things being hidden and not fully knowing who knew what.  I wouldn’t have minded one of those scenes à la Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, where the detective gives an explanation and everything is tied up with a nice ribbon. Although, perhaps it just shows that the rhythm of the novel is quite fast and if you blink, you’ve missed it.

Another novel by Sue Coletta with an irresistible story that requires a strong stomach but will be of interest to readers who like to dig into the character’s psyche and are after more than just a well-plotted book. Oh, and readers must like dogs too. Especially scary for writers.

Thanks to Rosie for organising the group and for discovering the best books and writers, thanks to the author, and of course thanks to you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! 

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#RBRT Bookreview Wings of Mayhem (The Mayhem Series Book 1)by Sue Coletta (@SueColetta1) A female protagonist with a secret life, a few issues and a pretty special serial killer #TuesdayBookBlog

Wings of Mayhem. Book 1 in the Mayhem Series by Sue Coletta
Wings of Mayhem. Book 1 in the Mayhem Series by Sue Coletta

Today I share a review (as I told you I carry on reading) for Rosie’s Book Review Team. First I share the description, and I guess you’ll see why I thought I had to read this book.

Wings of Mayhem (The Mayhem Series Book 1)by Sue Coletta

Description

Shawnee Daniels — cybercrimes specialist by day, cat burglar by night — ignites the hellfire fury of a serial killer when she unknowingly steals his trophy box.

A SERIAL KILLER STALKS THE STREETS…

Cat burglar Shawnee Daniels always believed her “fearlessness rules” mantra would keep her on top and out of jail. When she hacks a confiscated hard drive at the Revere P.D., she focuses on a white-collar criminal accused of embezzlement. To teach him a lesson and recoup the funds she breaks into his massive contemporary in Bear Clave Estates. Jack has even more secrets, deadly secrets, secrets worth killing over.

A CAT BURGLAR PICKS THE WRONG HOUSE TO ROB…

Shawnee thinks she made it out clean until a deadly package arrives at her door soon after. He’s found her. As a glowing eagle taunts her Skype screen, Jack tells her she stole his precious trophy box — and he wants it back!

THEIR LIVES COLLIDE…

When her “helpful” best friend convinces her to date charismatic Detective Levaughn Samuels, her two worlds threaten to implode. Ordinarily Shawnee keeps a firm line between her professions, but dating Levaughn might help her get this psycho off her tail.

AND NOW, NO ONE IS SAFE…

In this lightning-fast-paced psychological thriller of secrets and lies, Shawnee juggles being stalked by a serial killer, dating the lead detective on the case, and tap dancing around her librarian best friend.

If she doesn’t find the trophy box, the killer’s coming for her. If she doesn’t expose her secrets and lies, more will die. And if she does, she could lose her freedom and everyone she holds dear.

If you’re a fan of Lisa Jackson, Rachel Abbott, Karin Slaughter thrillers, crime fiction with an edge, or psychological thrillers, mystery, and suspense, then Wings of Mayhem is for you.

Praise for Sue Coletta’s novels…

“The heart-stopping descriptions are so jarringly real that there are several scenes I will never forget.” ~ Eliza Cross, Award Winning Author

“Sue Coletta isn’t going to spare you the gory details or an honest look behind the crime scene tape. She’s a well versed author in all things crime who indelicately dumps you into the middle of a life which has been disrupted, disturbed, and marred by the evil acts of a solitary man.” ~ Beaux Cooper, Author and Amazon Reviewer

“Sue Coletta’s writing style is bold. It’s riveting. Her words carry the impact of pistol shots. Her dialogue would make Raymond Chandler proud. Her story touches your heart, then threatens to rip it out.” ~ Caleb Pirtle III, Award Winning Author of over 60 novels.

And now my review:

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. 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 doing 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 up 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), 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 (or cat and dog) and the challenge 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 character’s 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.

Links:

http://amzn.to/1Q7NxY7

http://amzn.to/1Q7ObFf

 Thanks to Rosie Amber for the opportunity to belong to her fantastic team, thanks to Sue Coletta for her book, and thank to all of you for reading. Don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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