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Hey again, blogworld! Time for another review from your ever-studious and fiendishly literary Bookie Monster!

Crime thriller Vendetta kicks off Lisa Harris’ new series, the Nikki Boyd Files. While dealing with long-buried pain from failing to find her sister Sarah, abducted ten years prior, Special Agent Nikki Boyd stumbles into an eerily similar case. As she works to rescue young Bridget before it’s too late, she uncovers a trail of clues that suggest a far more insidious criminal has returned to link her past and present.

The plot is snappy and fast-paced. It doesn’t drag, but keeps on lobbing another sharp curve at you scene by scene. It did a good job of introducing a number of characters and making you think “oh, this one’s GOT to be the killer!” but nope, guess again. 🙂

The actual writing was a bit soft for my taste. It might be a genre difference, because I’m used to tightly honed Western prose. Right now I’m hard at work on a manuscript of my own, and I’m stuck in Hyper Editor Mode, but some places in this book read awkwardly to me. Characters shift their gazes, clench chair arms with their fingers, nod, and nudge one another with a shoulder over and over again. The repetition got really… repetitious. (Not that I’ve never been known to repeat myself. One of my first drafts saw the hero pushing his hat back and putting his hands in his pockets in every other paragraph.)

A great many passive voice sentences appear that could so easily have been turned into active voice. “The view from the road WAS stunning, which meant traffic WAS heavy with tourists enjoying an afternoon drive. . . . Along the road WERE overlooks, trailheads, picnic areas, and paved hikes.” Why couldn’t it be “Heavy traffic clogged the road as tourists gawked out at stunning mountain views. Overlooks, trailheads, picnic areas, and paved hiking spots dotted the roadside.” Why settle for a vague, wimpy word like “looked” when you could use “peered, squinted, blinked, gaped”, etc? Luscious verbs lurk just out of sight, as fascinating as the mysterious serial abductor we keep guessing at, but never used.

On a similar technical level, I found the writing too heavy on the telling. Again and again, we get told things we already know or can guess. Things like this got annoying:

“(Character Who Shall Not Be Named Because Spoilers) lay half a dozen feet into the bush, motionless. Nikki felt a wave of nausea sweep over her as she bent down beside him. Blood ran down the side of his head. Eyes stared up at her. She felt for his pulse. Nothing.

He was dead.”

… No kidding, Sherlock.

Another issue I had is that throughout the plot, Nikki is shown struggling with a particular problem from her past that is implied to be linked to her sister’s abductor. But when the “big reveal” comes, it turns out to be linked to a completely and inexplicably random, unrelated problem that was never set up anywhere in the plot. It really yanked me out of the story.

However, Nikki’s main personal journey ended up unresolved at the conclusion, which makes me wonder if her missing sister will still turn up alive in another book. Cool beans.

Overall, it made an okay read for a convenient rainy afternoon, but there were many elements I found aggravating.