Review Briefs: INSPY 2014 Nominees for Suspense

These are all books that I judged for the INSPY awards in the suspense category (go vote for this year's releases!). It was fun to be a part of this and to discuss these books with two other judges whose opinions varied somewhat from mine. Here are my shortened reviews on what I thought...

Poison: A Novel (Bloodline Trilogy, #2)Poison
(Bloodline Trilogy #2)
by Jordyn Redwood
Inspirational Suspense/Thriller
Paperback312 Pages
February 2013 by Kregel


Five years ago, Keelyn Blake's stepfather took her family hostage, raving about Lucent, a being who forced him to commit unspeakable acts. Some of the family made it out alive; the rest did not. Even Lee Watson, the best of SWAT, failed to overcome the man's delusions and end the standoff peacefully.

Now, Lucent is back-- and he's no hallucination. He has kidnapped Keelyn's niece, and although Keelyn is estranged from her half-sister, Raven, she feels compelled to save what little family she has left. But Raven is nowhere to be found, and when others involved in that fateful day start dying under mysterious circumstances, Keelyn wonders if she and Lee-- and their budding relationship-- will surive.

Poison follows Proof in the Bloodline trilogy with another rollercoaster plot that makes it an irresistible adventure for all suspense fiction fans.

My Brief Review

I enjoyed Poison, for the most part. It was an interesting plot with the psychological aspect, specifically with an actual psychologist as a character. The ending was also extremely intense. There was romance, but it didn't take over the story and I liked both of the main characters.

I also had some issues. There were some holes in the plot and a disconnect between the characters' actions and the reasons behind those actions. So the story didn't always make sense to me and didn't feel authentic in how the characters acted.

Content: There is some violence, but otherwise clean.
Source: From the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.

The King (Patrick Bowers Files, #6)The King
(The Patrick Bowers Files #6)
by Steven James
Inspirational Suspense/Thriller
Paperback512 Pages
July 2nd 2013 by Signet Select


FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers has matched wits with some of the most violent serial killers in history—and one of them has never forgiven him....

Patrick Bowers has pursued the nation’s fiercest serial killers—and now one elusive foe is back for revenge.

Settling into a new post at the FBI academy, Patrick and his fiancée, Lien-hua Jiang, are planning their future together with his stepdaughter, Tessa.

But just when his life seems normal, a demon from the past returns to draw him down a dark road he hoped had closed forever. Forced into a desperate hunt to save the two women he loves most, Patrick is in a race against time to stop an international conspiracy from becoming the most widespread act of terrorism in U.S. history.

My Brief Review

The King is suspense at its best. There is a sociopathic villain (there were definitely some parts that turned my stomach) planning on revenge, an FBI investigator and those he holds dear as his target, and some twists and turns in the plot. The King held me on the edge of my seat while also being inspiring. These characters: Patrick, Lien-hua, and Tessa held my heart and made me cheer for them. The characters felt so full to me and authentic. The writing was superb. This is definitely an author who knows how to write suspense while also endearing his readers to his characters. The story does not let you go.

If you enjoy suspense, I would definitely recommend The King. I would also say that even though this is listed as Christian fiction that the inspirational parts weren't strong enough to dissuade those who read general fiction. It was just as good and intense as the John Grisham and Tom Clancy books I've read.

Content: There is some strong violence in this one, but otherwise clean.

Source: From the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.

Dark JusticeDark Justice
by Brandilyn Collins
Inspirational Suspense/Thriller
Paperback352 Pages
October 1st 2013 by B&H Books


If I’d had any idea what those words would mean to me, to my mother and daughter, I’d have fled California without looking back.
While driving a rural road, Hannah Shire and her aging mother, who suffers from dementia, stop to help a man at the scene of a car accident. The man whispers mysterious words in Hannah’s ear. Soon people want to kill Hannah and her mother for what they “know.” Even law enforcement may be involved.

The two women must flee for their lives. But how does Hannah hide her confused mother? Carol just wants to listen to her pop music, wear her favorite purple hat, and go home. And if they turn to Hannah’s twentyseven- year-old daughter, Emily, for help, will she fall into danger as well?

Pressed on all sides, Hannah must keep all three generations of women in her family alive. Only then does she learn the threat is not just to her loved ones, but the entire country . . .

My Brief Review

Dark Justice drove me a little insane. Between Hannah's mother with her dementia, not knowing who Hannah could trust and her not trusting anyone, and trying to figure things out, it was just a crazy ride! It was well written and inspirational. I didn't completely connect with the characters, but I still cheered them on. Really, just a good suspenseful and crazy roller-coaster of a story. 

Content: There is some violence, but otherwise clean.
Source: From the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.

Dead Lawyers Tell No TalesDead Lawyers Tell No Tales
by Randy Singer
Inspirational Suspense/Thriller
Paperback431 Pages
May 1st 2013 by Tyndale House Publishers


Landon Reed is an ex-quarterback convicted of organizing a points-shaving scheme. During his time in prison, he found forgiveness and faith and earned his law degree. Now he longs for an opportunity to prove his loyalty and worth. "Be careful what you ask for."

Harry McNaughton is one of the founding partners of McNaughton & Clay--and the only lawyer willing to take a chance employing an ex-con-turned-lawyer. Though Landon initially questions Harry's ethics and methods, it's clear the crusty old lawyer has one of the most brilliant legal minds Landon has ever encountered.

The two dive into preparing a defense for one of the highest-profile murder trials Virginia Beach has seen in decades when Harry is gunned down in what appears to be a random mugging. Then two more lawyers are killed when the firm's private jet crashes. Authorities suspect someone has a vendetta against McNaughton & Clay, leaving Landon and the remaining partner as the final targets.

As Landon struggles to keep the firm together, he can't help but wonder, is the plot related to a shady case from McNaughton & Clay's past, or to the murder trial he's neck-deep in now? And will he survive long enough to find out?

My Brief Review

I joked around with my husband (who is an attorney) about this one. I told him he would probably really like it and he asked me if I was trying to tell him something. Lol! Definitely not. I love that guy!! :)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales. It was a lengthy and larger book and I was worried it would take some time to read, but there ended up being no reason for me to worry. The writing was smooth, the characters likable, and the plot kept moving, which resulted in me flying through this book. It was plenty suspenseful and I loved that there were a few twists that I actually didn't figure out until the end when they were unveiled. It is so rare that I don't figure things out and I loved that the author was able to do this.

This is definitely one I would recommend to suspense readers, including those who enjoy reading Tom Clancy or John Grisham. 

Content: Some violence, but otherwise clean.
Source: From the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1)Rules of Murder
(Drew Farthering Mystery #1)
by Julianna Deering
Inspirational Suspense
Paperback, 336 Pages
August 2013 by Bethany House Publishers


Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game.

My Brief Review

I loved Rules of Murder! It's a story I could re-read and it had that Agatha Christie feel to it because of the historical setting and the way the story flowed. I love Hercule Poirot, so this was my type of book! The author did such a fabulous job with the historical setting and the dialogue sounding authentic. It really helped me feel immersed in the story and in that time period. 

I also loved the blooming young romance. I loved how the inspiration was weaved into the story. I loved the message that Madeline gives Drew (as he is a little lost when he found out what he did about his past) that God knows who he is. I loved how the suspense built up and how I felt I knew what was going on only to be slightly wrong. I loved the mad dash at the end and how everything tied up. I felt like there was a good balance between the suspense, romance, and inspiration with nothing taking over the story too much.

I'll be reading the other two books in the series too and I'm really looking forward to it! I'd definitely recommend Rules of Murder to those who enjoy suspense, romance, or just a good book. It was on the lighter side of the other suspense novels here, but still plenty suspenseful.

Content: There is some violence, but otherwise clean.
Source: From the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.

In case your curiosity is peaked, we decided upon The King to win the INSPY award and it was very deserving. You should definitely check out the other winners here.

What do you think? Will you be picking any of these up or have you read any of them?

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