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mystery

REVIEW:  Code Runner by Rosie Claverton

REVIEW: Code Runner by Rosie Claverton

 

Dear Rosie Claverton:

I read your debut Amy Lane mystery, and as soon as I was done I went to Netgalley and requested the next installment for review. Life intervened for a couple of weeks, but when I had a spare hour I started reading Code Runner. As I anticipated given my experience with Binary Witness, I had high hopes for this novel and I wasn’t disappointed. Code Runner is a very strong followup to the first book and I am firmly hooked on the Amy and Jason chronicles.

ACode Runner Clavertonmy Lane, computer hacker and agoraphobe, and Jason Carr, ex-con and cleaner/assistant, have settled into a comfortable relationship. Amy’s house and person are well cared for and Jason is enjoying having a proper job. But their new case puts Amy, Jason, and any number of other people close to them in danger, with several characters’ past and present lives colliding.

Unlike the mystery in the first book, this one finds Jason at the heart of the crimes, and even though he is a more or less innocent bystander, his ex-con background makes him an obvious suspect and he winds up back where he hoped never again to be: in prison, meeting old friends and enemies. As a result, the reader spends a lot of time with Jason, and Amy and Jason spend quite a bit of time apart. Jason engages in some behavior that verges on TSTL, although we can understand his motives. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but think that the actions that got him into trouble are *exactly* the kind of thing for which a heroine gets a ton of grief from readers. So I was glad to see that he had to pay the price, however painful it was to watch those consequences unfold.

I don’t want to say too much about the mystery plot because it’s hard to describe without giving away spoilers. I enjoyed it quite a bit, I didn’t guess the full story until almost the end, and I thought the pacing and overall development of the mystery arc was more successful than in the previous novel. The criminals and victims include present and former friends and associates of Jason as well as members of the police force, and we get to know more about Cardiff detectives Bryn and Owain, Jason’s sister Cerys, and Amy’s sister Lizzie.

The relationship between Amy and Jason continues to develop, and in this installment we get hints that each might be feeling more than friendship for the other. Nothing explicit happens, but in spite of that (or perhaps because of it), the few, fleeting moments when they share a sense of something that might happen between them are quite powerful. I hope Claverton doesn’t rush the relationship, because I love the way each is learning more about the other, and the dry, understated humor that often accompanies their observations provides a bit of relief from the ugly stuff. And I get a kick out of the role reversals:

Jason was cleaning the oven. Amy had learned swiftly that if Jason was cleaning the oven, elbow-deep in grease and melted cheese, he was incredibly pissed off. The first time had been the trashy tabloid article where some so-called journalist had scraped together every flimsy piece of “evidence” he could find and concluded that Jason was a dangerous criminal who police had pardoned to bring vigilante justice back to the streets. They’d quoted liberally from a number of anonymous sources—who refused to be named for their safety.

When Owain had apologetically drawn their attention to it, Jason hadn’t said a word. He had just retreated to the kitchen and scoured the oven from top to bottom for two hours. Meanwhile, Amy had launched a DDoS attack, exploiting an old botnet from her blackhat days to flood the tabloid’s antiquated servers with corrupt code. The site had been down for over twenty-four hours, and the creaking old system had never fully recovered. It had been exceedingly satisfying.

At the same time, though, I’m enjoying the possibility of seeing more romance develop over the course of the series.

As in the previous installment, the sense of place is effectively developed; this isn’t a story that could take place anywhere, but rather it is firmly rooted in its context. We travel outside Cardiff to the countryside and to the coast, and the different locations play critical roles in the story. The book is atmospheric without drawing attention to itself. The writing is still a bit rough in patches, but it suits Jason and several other characters’ relatively rough backgrounds and even Amy’s lack of social acumen.

There are no easy fixes for the difficulties the characters face. Amy is still agoraphobic, and although she takes a big step forward, there’s no guarantee she won’t retreat again. Jason’s past continues to shape his present and future despite his efforts to overcome the hurdles it creates. Code Runner provides the next step in the classic path that a good mystery series takes, and my biggest regret when I finished was that I don’t know when the next installment is due. At this point Amy, Jason, Cerys, Bryn, and Owen feel pretty real to me and I want to spend more time with them. Grade: B+

P.S. I don’t usually pay attention to covers, but wow, did you ever win the lottery on yours. I’d buy print copies just to be able to display them.

 

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REVIEW:  Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

REVIEW: Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

MurderontheMountain

When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.
Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.

Review:

Dear Jamie Fessenden,

I really liked your earlier works, but then your books started cranking up more and more angst and I parted ways with them. I was intrigued, however, when I saw that you wrote a mystery, and book buddy from the discussion board I frequent was kind enough to loan this book to me. I decided to review it at DA as well. The blurb describes very well how our main characters meet. Jesse discovers the body of the victim, Kyle and his partner arrive to investigate the murder. Eventually Jesse becomes a helper of sorts and he and Kyle are almost instantly attracted to each other. The book is first and foremost a mystery, romance (or should I say the beginning of romance?) is more of a secondary storyline, but it is visible in the story and I want to talk about it first.

I think that I liked it well enough. I mean the attraction was very fast, true – but I do not necessarily see anything strange about two people finding each other attractive right away and even though I usually prefer slow burn romance, I was more forgiving here because the book is mostly a mystery. I am not sure about “I love you” that fast, but at least they did not decide to move in or get married right away. Kyle is portrayed as a bisexual character which I appreciated very much – and no, the reader does not need to read that he is bisexual between the lines. Kyle clearly identifies as such and actually says the word. Of course his wife is dead, but he is very clear about the fact that he both loved her (as in he was “in love” with her) and always fantasized about men and his wife knew about his fantasies and found them sexy. Kyle never acted on his fantasies though, not till he meets Jesse when five years have passed since his wife’s death. It is also made clear that even if his romance with Jesse will work out, his attraction to women is a part of him.

I was not sure about the fact that the guys say “I love you” knowing each other for only three days, especially when Kyle has never before pursued a relationship with a guy. My interpretation was that both guys felt strongly about each other and felt that it was something worth pursuing, but the possibility that Kyle was in awe of the first guy he met was also raised. In other words, for me it worked as the beginning of a romance, which, may or may not work out.

The story is not heavy on sex – it has two sex scenes, and again because the story is mostly a mystery it worked for me very well. I did wonder about the almost immediate joy of anal sex for the guy who never had anal sex with a guy before in his life, but again, it looks like this is a mandatory addition to almost every m/m book.

I also thought that the mystery was really well crafted – I mean of course we have a civilian interfering in the investigation, but this version of the genre requires an amateur sleuth and at least the issue is addressed, and multiple times at that. Kyle is constantly worried about how much he should satisfy Jesse’s curiosity and, how much he should allow Jesse to get himself in danger and he knows he is being unprofessional. But Kyle also realizes that there is also only so much he can do if Jesse is persistent in getting himself in danger. In addition, Jesse actually manages to be helpful with some of the information he discovered. I can suspend disbelief when the issue is not being ignored and I liked the additional smacking Kyle’s partner delivered. And even at the end, Jesse checks with Kyle before he takes action, and Kyle realizes fast enough that this was too dangerous for Jesse. I liked how the demands of the story were balanced with believability.

And I actually did not guess the motive – *at all*. Of course the suspects were limited, clues were provided, and they all had motive, but I did not guess the real motive and when it was revealed, it was so heartbreakingly sad.

Grade: B-

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