Book Review: Faceless by Dawn Kopman Whidden

FacelessFaceless
Dawn Kopman Whidden
Brighton Publishing, November 2013
ISBN 978-1-62183-140-2
Trade Paperback

As a fan of the mysterious, the creepy, and psychological, twisted thrillers; I have questioned my sanity; but the quest is always short-lived, as I really and truly just want to start reading. When I delightedly ripped open the package containing my (very special, personalized, signed copy) of Faceless and began reading as I stumbled away from the still open mail-box, I was struck by a second, even quirkier query.

I had been stalking my post-man for days, not just because Ms. Whidden spins an alluring, captivating web of mystery, murder and mayhem; but because I knew that I was in for a special reunion, as the very characters I admired and grew fond of in A Child is Torn are the same characters in this tome! But wait. What does that say about me? I am thrilled to see how their lives have changed, what’s new, as if I am checking up on old friends, all the while knowing that, well, something bad is certainly going to happen.

A reader isn’t kept waiting, for indeed there is a gruesome, twisted murder and a delightful cacophony of surly teens that could easily morph into suspects with just a bit of finesse. But, true to form, Ms. Whidden doesn’t dare make the story so simple. Upon closer inspection, we have a respected adult that most certainly could have committed the heinous act, albeit the “why” is not so obvious.

As the townsfolk casually size one and other up, another victim is taken. The act of murder, in and of itself, raises thousands of questions; but when the perpetrator appears to have so much anger and hatred bottled up inside, but behaves normally on the surface, fear and apprehension rise to new terrifying levels. Faceless has all of the quintessential elements needed for a thrilling mystery and while you may think you know who the killer is, I have a feeling that this author will surprise you.

Ms. Whidden masterfully blends the captivating lives of the recurring characters with the turmoil and terror caused by the knowledge of the serial killer among them. These characters that entranced me in A Child is Torn, became beloved in Faceless. So much so, that one day I found myself tearing through chores and errands just so that I could squeeze in some time with my “pals” in Faceless…..until it hit me…..I had finished the book the night before. I had no choice but to immediately order the next chapter of their lives, Stolen. Now, where is that post-man?

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2014.

Book Review: Primal by D.A. Serra

PrimalPrimal
D.A. Serra
D.A. Serra, August 2012
ISBN 978-1-47819-803-1
Trade Paperback

From the author—

With everything at stake – what are you capable of?  What if the worst happens and you’re not a policeman, a soldier, or a spy with weapons training and an iron heart?  What if you’re a schoolteacher – a mom?  In this gritty crime thriller a family vacation takes a vicious turn when a fishing camp is invaded by four armed men.  With nothing except her brains, her will, and the element of surprise on her side, Alison must learn to kill or watch her family die.

By its very definition, a thriller should be just that, a book that gives the reader a thrill while he or she is vicariously living through the protagonist’s crisis, a book that makes the reader feel the intensity of the moment and experience at least a little bit of fear. In that regard, Primal does not disappoint, and the visceral collison of two families with very different moral essences is indeed intense, but there are a few things I didn’t care for.

First, I detest the use of present tense, especially in crime fiction, and the author is apparently not entirely comfortable with it either as there are a number of instances when she slips into past tense for a sentence or two. I really don’t understand why any crime fiction writer thinks using present tense is a good idea but I’m at least very grateful that the author didn’t also use first person.

Also, during the first half or so of the book, the entire part dealing with the events on the island, I felt as though I was reading the activities of a director in the midst of making a movie, complete with the occasional exclamation point to notify the actors that this is a moment of FEAR or EXCITEMENT. I suppose I should have expected this since the author is a former screenwriter and, in fact, this story first saw the light of day as a screenplay.

Another thing that added to the feeling of reading a movie script was the rapidly changing scenes and the sheer coincidences that took place, not to mention the uncanny luck of the protagonist. Add to those the shallow depictions of the hostages other than the family and you’ve got a movie in the making. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the guy who manages to move a quarter mile in a matter of minutes despite a horrendous impediment.

Then comes the second part of the book and this is where I felt Ms. Serra really showed her strength as a writer. Watching Alison’s descent into near-madness and being very unsure whether it really is madness or if she is right to be so afraid and on edge is a tale all in itself. All the media attention is certainly to be expected, as is the  abrupt cessation of that attention when another story grabs the spotlight. It’s also understandable that the police believe she is over-compensating for what she has gone through.

The heart of all this is the painful deterioration of not only Alison’s very existence but also the lives of those who care about her, whether they be her husband and child or other family or friends and co-workers. This part of the story is what forces the reader to keep on till the end because we simply must know—is it real or all imagined? I was confident that I knew the answer to that question early on but how it would be resolved was a different matter entirely and I’m glad I hung around to find out. When all is said and done, though, I think this would make a better movie than a book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

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D.A. SerraABOUT THE AUTHOR

D.A. Serra

Deborah Serra was a screenwriter for twenty years and recognized by the Writer’s Guild for her long term continuous employment. She has written ten TV movies, four feature films, and numerous TV episodes including two years as a staff writer for NBC.  She worked for top producers, directors, and actors.  She has taught writing at the University of California, San Diego, Wofford College and at writers’ conferences nationwide.  Serra has now turned her attention to novels, and she was honored as a recent recipient of the prestigious Hawthornden Literary Fellowship, and as a semi-finalist for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award given by the Faulkner Society in New Orleans, LA.

Deborah’s  Website

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