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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series



An Urgent Need to Know


Singer-songwriter Trisha Straithorne had a bad marriage. Now divorced, she hires PI Zach Barnes to do a background check on her new boyfriend, just to be on the safe side, since the relationship is getting serious. What Barnes turns up changes the just-in-case inquiry into an urgent one. Did Trisha’s lover Jack commit mass murder in the past? Jack is so determined to assert his innocence, he himself hires Barnes to prove it and uncover what the police missed. The premise is riveting. I liked Trisha immediately and wanted her to be safe. Jack is portrayed in a way that made me understand both her attraction to him and the crack of doubt that breaks in on it.


The introduction of the mystery plot in the first chapter kept me pushing through a number of scenes and even entire chapters that didn’t pass the lift-out test.* (Details below, in case you want them.)   I felt the author included background he needed about his characters more than the reader did.


Once the pace picks up, however, the story becomes intense and page-turning, a speeding train bearing down on the reader and the characters. Even though I realized quite early on who’d committed the murder, I was in suspense waiting for Barnes and Detective Sheena Maldonado to see the clues and prove who done it. The process of their work is fascinating, and a secondary mystery sneaked up on me, providing a sudden twist at the end.


Liskow handles the third person present tense narration deftly. It can be distancing and sound like stage directions when not done well, and in a few of the slower scenes it had that effect, but overall, it does what present tense is meant to, increasing tension and the sense of immediate unfolding.


Despite the “lift-out-able” material, I found the book well worth reading, and maybe others will find the lift-outs more fun than I did, especially fans of the series who are happy to hang out with Barnes and friends without needing a plot-related reason to do so.


*Lift-outs: If you can lift a scene or a chapter out, and the plot doesn’t unravel, it wasn’t needed.

In Chapter Three, Detective Maldonado endures the tedious conversation of her annoying colleague Garry Stout. Maldonado plays an important role, and so does Stout, but the set-up of their working relationship could have been woven more tightly into the narrative. Chapter Ten is focused on Barnes’ girlfriend Beth, her writing career, and her public appearances as another author’s pen-name persona (she does this for a man who writes romances). Some dialogue provides backstory, but the introduction to Beth and Zach’s friend Svet, who plays a key role later, could have fit into a paragraph in another chapter. Chapter Eleven is devoted to Trisha’s song-writing process in response to a wind chime. In Chapter Thirteen, Maldonado goes out to eat with her girlfriend and they discuss house-buying plans. And finally, in Chapter Thirty-Six, Beth weeds her garden and then gets a story idea so exciting she rushes from the shower without bothering to dress and writes naked for an hour or more. This chapter is the most lift-able of all.


I received a copy of this book and had a character in it named after me for contributing a band name. Reviewing was optional.