Sunday, October 2, 2016

Review: Loose Ends

Loose Ends

by Terri Reid
Book 1 of Mary O'Reilly Paranormal Mystery

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Side note:  The Mary O'Reilly series was my first encounter with self-published books/authors before I realized it was such a big thing.  I was just looking for a nice paranormal mystery to read and this one happened to pop up.  And thus, even without really realizing it was due to being self-pubbed, I made mention of the unedited feel of this particular book.

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read.
This review has been edited slightly for re-posting purposes.
Dying is what changed Mary O’Reilly’s life.  Well, actually, coming back from the dead and having the ability to communicate with ghosts is really what did it.

Now, a private investigator in rural Freeport, Illinois, Mary’s trying to learn how to incorporate her experience as a Chicago cop and new-found talent into a real job.  Her challenge is to solve the mysteries, get real evidence (a ghost’s word just doesn’t hold up in court), and be sure the folks in town, especially the handsome new police chief, doesn’t think she’s nuts.

Twenty-four years ago, a young woman drowned in the swimming pool of a newly elected State Senator.  It was ruled an accident.  But now, as the Senator prepares to move on to higher positions, the ghost of the woman is appearing to the Senator’s wife.

Mary is hired to discover the truth behind the death.  She unearths a connection between the murder and the disappearance of five little girls whose cases, twenty-four years later, are still all unsolved.  As she digs further, she becomes the next target for the serial killers’ quest to tie up all his loose ends.

I feel like I had just opened up this book on my tablet and started reading it.  Before I realized what was happening, I was 50% finished and still wanting to continue reading.  In that instant, despite the "newbie writer" feel that I get from the way this book was written, I knew that this would be a winner.

I love a good mystery and I'm a sucker for ghostly mysteries.  So the summary of the story line really hooked me in and I became curious.  It also helped that this is one of those self-published cheap buys going for the "this won't even put a dent in my savings account" price.  So it wasn't like I had much to lose just buying it and reading it out of curiosity.  (AND I had needed something to recover from my failed Twilight reading attempt.)

Aside from the mystery and paranormal/supernatural aspects of this book, I think what I found I liked as well were the characters.  Mary O'Reilly, being an ex-Chicago top police officer turned private investigator was already a great back story to go with for a strong female protagonist.  And from day one of this delightful mystery, this young woman kicked butt (not literally).  Despite there being a tall and handsome Police Chief introduced as a good "Knight in Shining Armor" to help her out, a lot of times, Mary managed pretty well on her own; none of that damsel in distress stuff.  Mary O'Reilly was created to be a strong female lead and the author delivers.

I had stated earlier that this book gave me that same feeling that amateur writers often give me.  Let me rephrase this description:

I used to lurk the forums of and regularly a couple years back.  These are both places for amateur writers (some not so amateur) who didn't have the means of publishing, but just wanted to share their ideas with the online community.  I used to be one of those before I realized that I'm just NOT a good writer despite having so many ideas for some possible good story lines and characters.  A lot of the work uploaded onto these two sites are typically like "impulse" stories.  Aspiring writers come up with some good ideas, write their short story or stories, and then upload for all to see.  And so what I'm saying is, a good percentage of stories seen on these websites are typically the raw, first draft version--there has been no editing outside of catching a few punctuation and grammatical errors here and there.  Sometimes this particular story has only ever been read by the author alone before being uploaded.

Basically, there has been no professional edit or read-through to make these stories marketable, or even properly formatted for the public.  That is, unless the writer spends the requisite amount of time required to do his or her own edits.

So the writing style is usually straight forward, to the point with little description, no drawn out narrations, and sometimes random scenes that you wonder about.  They aren't in the best format ever, and a lot of paragraphs maybe could have been lengthened for more detail, or combined so that the form doesn't look so choppy.  Maybe a lot of scenes could have been left out because the either don't make sense or do nothing to progress the main conflict.  The rest of the story is sometimes based a lot on dialogue as well, more so than narration (a lot of "he said" and then "she said" and then "she said again" repetition in conversations).

This is how I felt about Loose Ends when I started reading it.  The flow of scenes was a little awkward wherein when a scene changed, I didn't realize it.  Sometimes it took me a bit of thinking to realize who was talking.  For instance, when we introduce Mary O'Reilly, one moment she's in her kitchen pondering about the headless soldier haunting her, the very next paragraph she's in bed hitting the snooze button on her alarm.  There had been no signs of scene transition, and I had gotten a slight case of confusion, wondering if she'd dreamed the whole headless soldier thing.

However, the chapters were short, the details were to-the-point, and there was no unnecessary prattling in narration.  And as the book continued on, I found that it didn't matter how the format was put together; short chapters were nice, random scene changes transitioned better within each chapter, and our main character was really growing on me.  By mid-book, all I cared about was the story, the characters and how everything would turn out in the end.  Granted, as most mysteries usually go, you pretty much figure out who the culprit is by then as well and you're really just trying to get to the end to see how our heroes finally figure out the truth; also, in the case of Mary O'Reilly, we also get a chance to see how she manages to find REAL evidence to put our criminal away.  As the summary goes, "a ghost's word just doesn't hold up in court" or something like that.

The process of which Mary goes through her investigation, utilizing her ghostly sources as well as the living sources and tying everything together was rather refreshing.  And it was good that she was able to move through all of her investigation like a pro (she's an ex cop after all).  Unfortunately, there are points where we head a little too far into standard Mary Sue territory and Mary O'Reilly seems too perfect to be true... and then she either blunders something or shows those defining character flaws and we are back on track.

Paranormal genres are already quite hard to handle because they don't sit very well on the reality scale.  A reader's suspension of disbelief is truly tested on these types of stories, and if done properly, you've got yourself an excellent telling; done wrong and that impression is forever lost because the reader won't be able to get passed that first "supernatural" occurrence enough to buy into the rest of the story line.

So Loose Ends, in this aspect, does a great job drawing the reader into both the ghostly aspect as well as the mystery.

To conclude, the character of Mary O'Reilly was also quite witty and there were two specific scenes in the entire book where I actually laughed out loud.  Frankly, Terri Reid pretty much won me over with her female lead actually deducing that walking into her basement alone knowing that someone is out to kill her wouldn't be a good idea because she'd "seen the movies."  I have always made fun of horror movie girls for walking right into the killer when she really should have gotten reinforcements or ran away.  So when Mary decided to call the Police Chief rather than out-stubborn her own common sense with her ex-cop strong woman pride, I gave a little cheer.  I'm not saying that the girl isn't allowed to be the strong woman ex-cop, but I'm saying that at the very least, she wasn't stupid about her situation, which wins more points than trying to be independent and strong (not that I'm above creating that stubborn independence in some of my own female leads).

As short as it was (with some of the shortest chapters I've ever read) this book hooked me from beginning until the end.  And well, now I'm off to find the rest of the Mary O'Reilly mysteries.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads in March 2012.

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