I remember the books clearly; although, I suspect I did a lot of page flipping. It seems to me that half of what I read as a young teen had stuff in it that I just skipped over. But they were my first introduction into suspense—good suspense.
They also always had some sort of supernatural element, and as I grew older, I didn’t like that. What you accept as fictional when you’re younger you realize can be occult-like when you’re older. It just seemed prudent not to risk becoming enamored with anything related to the occult.
But I missed the suspense.
A decade or so later, a friend introduced me to Dee Henderson. Other Christian fiction suspense authors followed. Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble, Lynette Eason.
This week, I was introduced to a suspense author I’ve never read before. Nancy Mehl and her new series and release, Mind Games.
I have to admit… the cover sucked me in. That misty faded typography and my favorite colors… I’m a sucker for a good cover.
But it’s only the wrapping, right? How about the rest of the book?
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The Best Things about the Book, Mind Games
I did have a few quibbles with the book. A few. In fact, through three-quarters of the way through it, I felt it rated a solid four stars. I liked it. A lot. I just couldn’t say that I loved it.
Then she did it. She made me doubt myself. I’d decided who did it almost from the first, but something made me doubt myself so much that I actually switched to someone else. Twice.
The best mysteries and suspense books always have one thing in common—they keep me guessing, even after I’ve probably fingered the right guy. Mind Games totally nailed that.
I actually wanted to throw the book across the room when one explanation of why one of those red herrings wasn’t what it seemed came out. However, it ties in with another problem I had, so I’ll get to that later.
Another excellent element of the book would be the character of Kaely. I often praise characters or plots that have many layers, but in Kaely, I see facets. Just as you think you have her figured out, the light hits another cut and you see more reflections and colors. I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a beautifully broken person before.
It isn’t easy to do, but Nancy Mehl took someone with incredible skill and kept her from becoming too perfect.
Okay, if I’m not careful, I’ll keep coming up with one after the other after the other and we’ll be here all day. And I do have a couple of problems with the book to deal with, too.
So, I’m just going to mention two more things. First, the plot. This was one of those can’t-put-it-down, don’t-bother-me-I’m-reading books. When I was forced to take a nap, I almost cried. I plowed through this thing in just over three hours, but it felt like six… and one. The six is probably caused by that nap thing.
Finally, the very last few lines. Genius. I’ve never seen such a fabulous cliffhanger… that isn’t. The entire story is wrapped up. You know it all. A new case isn’t started. Not at all. But she gives you this shove off the cliff anyway and says, “Can you handle knowing THIS?”
So, what were those problems? The first three to four chapters of the book contain a lot of backstory/info-dumping. She does a good job of pulling back just about the time you want to go, “Do I have to keep reading?” but I couldn’t help but feel like the suspense would have been even stronger if we didn’t have all that back stuff brought up.
For one thing, it weighs down the story… slows momentum. That’s especially problematic when you’re dealing with trying to get that momentum going in the first place.
For another, it lost some of the punch that it would have had if we learned it when we needed it. Still, once you got past that part, the info-dumping stuff disappeared.
Finally, I have read a lot of books dealing with law enforcement and the FBI. However, this book has a lot of acronyms that I kept having to try to remember what they stood for. She didn’t always give you a connected point of reference. I found myself checking and double checking online when I wasn’t sure if I remembered with CIRG or something similar stood for.
Also, occasionally, it got old. I get that UNSUB is unknown subject, but “suspect” or “murderer” would have worked and it would have been nice not to have “words” I had to translate. Especially since for email lists, that also stands for “unsubscribers” so basically, I had to double translate.
For the picky, this isn’t marked as an Advance Readers Copy, so I think it might be a final, and I found a few typos. One was “targer” instead of target. I remember that much. But seriously, it didn’t bother me.
Okay, that quibble? I can’t say what happened without giving away a huge plot twist, but here’s what it’s connected to. In addition to that quibble with a convenient solution to a problem, there’s a theology issue that I can’t ignore.
My problem is that I can’t tell if it is related to the rest of the book’s plot or if Ms. Mehl really does believe something her characters say. It’s not unheard of. It’s actually quite common in today’s Christian culture, but I disagree with it. So, was it a plot device or the author’s personal theology? I suppose the rest of the series will tell. Regardless, the use of it in this particular novel was another stroke of genius!
Despite a couple of problems, I’m giving it an Amazon 5 stars and a Goodreads 4 because I am frustrated that I have to wait for book 2. It’s that good.