When the Cold Wind Blows - Branden Holder
Review: The District Trilogy follows the exploits of two men - a retired soldier turned private investigator and a well-intentioned cop trying to make the world a better place. Set right after the conclusion of World War II, corrupt politics have set the states against each other in brutal civil war that leaves the door open for our Cold War rival to find a new home. Amid all the chaos and intrigue of the Demilitarized District of Columbia, everyone, good and bad alike, must fend for themselves. Branden Holder creates a wonderfully detailed world of grit and harrowing crime that leaves you guessing with every page. Plot twists are as plentiful as bullets and be warned: don't get attached to any characters - no one is safe from Holder's merciless pen. The District Trilogy is fast paced and relentless, pulling you along with well-timed cliff hangers and keeping you engaged with beautifully realistic characters. The ending was brief and disappointingly short, devoid of the final action-packed showdown I was hoping for. Holder's strengths certainly lie in expert word selection, gritty and realistic scene description, and fantastically personal character development that truly hooks you on the first page.
Score: 8.3 / 10 - Incredible editing and word choice really make this crime thriller stand out. The characters are real and the plot is a little too believable, although a small number of decisions felt contrived. Overall, any fan of politics or history would love this series. Hell, maybe our own politicians could learn a thing or two from The District Trilogy.
Past and Pending - Chris Knight
Review: Past and Pending is a fun little novella full of a lot of things: humor, snarky narration, and a plot that sometimes feels a little contrived. Since there is a heavy 'whodunit' feel, I won't comment much on the general plot, but it is certainly fast paced and entertaining. I really only had two issues with Past and Pending. For one, I wanted more details. When the characters are by the ocean, I want to know how it sounds, how it smells, not just what the characters see and feel. Those kinds of sensory details were lacking throughout most of the story, and it really took away from the immersion. My second issue stems from the pacing of some of the events. In the beginning, the plot moved nicely with action intermingled with background in a great way. When the action really took off in the middle, I missed the exposition, which is a strange thing to say. The plot and characters were great, so I naturally wanted to know more about them, but I only got a few glimpses into the past here and there. I think Past and Pending could be fantastic with a few tweaks, but I still enjoyed it without a doubt.
Score: 7.2 / 10 - This novella isn't going to change your life, but it will entertain you for a few hours, and that means it has great value. With a thorough round of polishing, Past and Pending could certainly be fantastic.
The Jackal - Shaun Hupp
Review: A bad guy named "The Jackal" killed the main character's wife. Well, there ends the plot synopsis. Nothing else ever happened. Oh, The Jackal wants to kill the main character. If that isn't predictable, I don't know what is. The writing was choppy and incoherent, the plot was virtually nonexistent, and the eBook was riddled with typos. Thankfully, the story was very short, and did have a few interesting paragraphs, but I won't be looking for part 2. Perhaps with some serious editing and story boarding, The Jackal can one day become a decent collection of short fiction.
Score: 3.5 / 10 - For a free eBook, I was mildly entertained. If you're looking for something decent, look elsewhere.