The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby @novelcarolyn @dzancbooks

The Conviction of Cora Burns
Carolyn Kirby
Dzanc Books, March 2019
ISBN: 978-1945814846
Trade Paperback

Set in 1880s England, this is a rather horrifying story featuring chronic liars, the murder of a child by a child, of experimentation both mental and physical on unwilling victims, overwork and near starvation…in other words, a story of almost no hope. Sound depressing? Well, yes. But at the same time, it is a study in possible redemption. Is the violence within a convicted killer hereditary, or is it caused by being born in jail and the conditions of life following? Either way, can someone with a history like this change?

That’s what Cora Burns sets out to learn. But first, Cora will need to dig into a past that haunts her as she takes a job in the household of a gentleman-scientist making a study of these very questions. Most of all, Cora will have to discover if she can grow beyond her sordid past.

The book is well-written, well-paced, with excellent dialogue to carry the story along. The grim history of orphanage/workhouse/goal situations seems spot-on. Even the descriptions of pseudo-medical experimentation during those years strikes a chord and is well-researched. But it’s also a sad commentary on the human condition. Be prepared.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: A Child Is Torn by Dawn Kopman Whidden

A Child Is TornA Child is Torn: Innocence Lost
Dawn Kopman Whidden
Brighton Publishing, December 2012
ISBN 978-1-62183-040-5
Trade Paperback

There is only one right way to begin this review, and that is with a huge “Thank You!” shout out to the Psychological Thrillers Group on Goodreads. You guys rock! You refused to let this author fly under my radar for another second and I could not be more grateful.

Always a fan of that which is puzzling, frightening, and quite incomprehensible, A Child is Torn is the perfect tale for me. First, this book is scary. Not the nail-biting, Stephen King/Dean Koontz; how-I-am-ever-going-to-finish-this-book-with-my-eyes-closed, scary; but more the horrifying, Danny Boyd/Bill Bitner; chilling, creeping, this-will-forever-be-in-my-brain, scary. The kind that, as you read, you think; okay, this is frightening…and creepy…and…haunting; but that angst doesn’t end when you close the book. Rather, the terror settles deeply in your bones only to leak out when you least expect. A seemingly innocuous situation suddenly slams you straight into a scene from the book. Once again, obsesses with young Brad; pondering, wondering “what if…”, “how would I handle….” and the ever-present, “why?”

Quickly immersed in Brad’s own personal and perplexing Hell; it occurred to me: maybe Ms. Whidden didn’t write this book at all. I caught myself reading ridiculously fast, at times, because I felt compelled to keep up with the frantic pace of so many words spilling onto page after page; almost as if the author was more of a channel for a story that demanded to be told than the creator of it.

Filled with rich, vibrant (yet authentic) characters; this reader was promptly invested in the plight, the ebb and flow of relationships and the individual and unique opinions about Brad and the tragedy. Solving the mystery became imperative, not just for the sake of a little boy, but in order to alleviate the pain and suffering of all those quirky people that I’d quickly grown fond of.

The mystery is of epic proportions. Smart, educated people are forced to challenge logic, evidence and cold hard facts if, for no other reason, than keeping hope alive. Accepting would mean reevaluating beliefs and understandings developed over a life-time. No more tidy pigeon-holes, good-bye black and white; wrong and right; hello complicated questions spiraling downward, leading only to more queries.

The ending….well, that’s for you to decide. Right now, I need to clear off some space on my Jonathan Kellerman bookshelf to make room for more Dawn Kopman Whidden. I am so looking forward to reading each and every one her books.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2014.