Saturday, December 18, 2021

Conceptus by Brian Herskowitz

ConceptusConceptus by Brian Herskowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A riveting police procedural with complex characters and a compelling storyline.

When Detective Laura Drummond was 14 years old, she was attacked by a man in a mask, raped, stabbed six times, and left for dead as she walked home from her first high school dance. Afterward, she was kept in a coma in the hospital for almost a year. Still, Laura eventually awoke, going on to finish school, join the Marines, becoming a successful homicide detective for the Columbus Police Department. However, her adult successes did not erase the impact her tragic childhood had on her.

Laura kept her past a closely-held secret, avoiding commitment and shared confidences with any and all, preferring casual one-night hookups in her private life; her best and only friend, Detective Tom Browning, her on-the-job partner.

But her latest case looks horrifically similar to what happened to her all those years ago. Only this time, the victim is not so lucky to survive. Laura can’t help wondering if HE is back.

Conceptus, the new mystery by Brian Herskowitz, introduces readers to Detective Laura Drummond, a homicide investigator with a tragic past. The horrific murder of a young co-ed has the detective’s long-suppressed past rearing up to stare her right in her face and make her question what really happened when she was a young, naïve 14-year-old. The author creates a complex, multilayered figure in Drummond (or “Law” as she often called), and as the story unfolds, we see how she became the person she is today. Supporting characters, in particular work partner Detective Tom Browning and potential love interest Sharon, round out the exciting story and smooth out some of Laura’s rough edges.

This complex female character is a damaged loner. She has kept herself from getting too involved with anyone up to this point in her life. Her best friend is her partner at work. She’s been keeping her past buried and living a very solitary existence since leaving her childhood home. There is casual sex in the story, but a wonderful love story is also developing. Laura’s reactions to Sharon and Sharon’s reactions to becoming involved with a homicide detective made for a fascinating subplot.

Reading what happened to Laura is not for the faint of heart; it is brutal. It kicks off a riveting plot that involves rape, abuse, bad parents, adoption, the Catholic Church, and kept me reading far into the night; it was that compelling a tale. As the police investigation proceeds, the plot twists and turns and takes the reader places they won’t see coming. I even appreciate that the setting is in Columbus, Ohio, and not L.A., Chicago, or New York City.

For me, Conceptus felt like a great beginning for a new mystery series, though there is no mention of a subsequent book. This may be very wishful thinking, but I hope to read more about Laura, Sharon, and Tom Browning. I recommend Conceptus to mystery readers looking for a harrowing and complex murder mystery story, those who enjoy a grittier police procedural, or LGBTQ+ main characters.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Old Boys by Mark Gillespie

The Old BoysThe Old Boys by Mark Gillespie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The past is about to catch up to The Lads, but whose past is it?

As the 25th reunion of Strathmore Academy’s Class of 1995 approaches, three estranged friends are thrust together under terrifying circumstances. In their youth, these men had been fast friends, a gang of three, bullies that had terrorized their classmates unmercifully. After school, they’d gone their separate ways: reinvented themselves, faded from the scene. But apparently, someone remembers “The Lads.”

After a traumatic experience as a drug dealer, Jay Green had cleaned up his act. He was now a successful businessman celebrating a recent promotion with a loving fiancée and anticipating the arrival of their first baby. Davie Muir, married with children, moved from Glasgow to London after surviving a horrific lorry accident that killed numerous people and left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair for life. However, Iain Lewis, the third member of The Lads, got left behind. As his two best-mates-forever dropped him and moved on, Iain remained mired in resentment, struggling to adapt to adult life.

But on the eve of the reunion weekend, an event none of The Lads planned to attend, forces outside their control put these men unexpectedly back together for the first time since leaving school. They find themselves trapped in an isolated cabin in the snowy Scottish Highlands, with only a cryptic note claiming one of the three is a killer who must confess before the sun goes down or they all will die.

The Old Boys quickly proved to be an exciting, unputdownable psychological thriller. What first seems to be about three schoolmates reconnecting in adulthood soon unfolds to reveal their unsavory pasts and becomes a twisty-turny revenge story. I was utterly taken in. The abductions were slick and each cleverly different from the others. The men’s discussions and revelations as they came back together after being apart for so long felt emotionally difficult and realistic. Their continuous struggle to make sense of their circumstances, figure out who was behind it all and find a way out made for a true page-turner.

I recommend THE BOYS for readers who enjoy psychological thrillers, tales where the past not only meets the future but collides with it, and stories of revenge and retribution.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy through Hidden Gems Books.

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