“Reviewed By Karen
“Something wicked has returned to Elmwood, and it longs to continue the study it began over a century ago. It's looking for volunteers, but few seem worthy of the gift. Isaac Winters might be the one. He's a detective with a damaged past, and something to prove. Here's his chance.
Still haunted by his wife's murder sixteen years earlier, Isaac has thought more and more about turning in his badge. Over the years, he's seen the worst mankind has to offer. Until now.
A strange fire has consumed the life of a young girl. But she won't be the last. There are no witnesses and no evidence except a small stone figurine, a gateway to the past. Accompanied by a partner with questionable experience, Isaac must discover and defeat this faceless villain before it takes from him the greatest reminder of his dead wife.....their daughter.”
“I received this e-book for review from Bewitching Book Tours as part of the author's virtual book tour. I did not receive any compensation for my review, and the views expressed herein are my own.
Isaac Winters is a police officer, whose wife was brutally murdered in their home. Although Isaac was shot, he survived the incident that claimed his wife and their infant daughter was left unscathed.
Sixteen years later, local residents in Elmwood are dying in a mysterious fashion: The bodies are completely incinerated and turned to ash. As the pieces of the strange puzzle come together and Isaac's daughter disappears, he realizes that the past has come back to haunt him.
Brown does a great job in bringing the "creep" factor to the story, which is certainly frightening.
A malevolent evil invades a person's body and takes over them. After the evil has transferred into another host, the previous one dies gruesomely by a fire burning from the inside which I gather is like spontaneous human combustion. This evil is known as Lucius, an illusionist whose "gift" is death.
Back in the day, Lucius held "shows" in an underground chamber of his mansion, to which people flocked for entertainment. Lucius kept people imprisoned in cells and would torture them, and the audience would often participate in these morbid shows. At some point, members of the audience invariably became the ones being tortured and the vicious cycle went around and around. Didn't the townsfolk wonder where all the people were going and what was happening? How is it that Lucius was able to get away with these shows for so long? Did he brainwash the audience into not speaking or revealing what took place?
I found the history of Lucius interesting, although dark. He truly is twisted and sadistic, but I'm not sure if I really grasp an understanding of how Lucius's "spirit" so-to-speak has been able to survive for so many years. The only clue seems to be this small statue that is found at each of the crime scenes. I may have missed it, but I didn't understand how the statue seemed to disappear from each crime scene and then re-appear and new ones only to disappear again. And how is the statue tied to Lucius?
Brown does a nice job building the story, but I felt as though the ending was a little too abrupt. I still have unanswered questions about the story, and I'm left scratching my head wondering at the parts that weren't neatly tied up.
MY RATING: 3 stars! ”
“Reviewed By Karen
Review Copy Provided by PDF form from Bewitching Book Tour
There are some weird things happening in Elmwood. Detective Isaac Winters is assigned to investigate and just when he thinks he knows who the guilty party is, that person goes missing.
When finally found, the manner of death was bizarre, adding more mystery. The tension increases when Isaac’s daughter, Amy, is taken and continues to escalate as Isaac learns more about what is happening. Will Isaac be able to find his daughter in time? Can evil be defeated? This is a story that will keep you turning the pages, wondering what will happen next - and to whom.
The Gift of Illusion: A Thriller is skillfully crafted and grabs on to you and holds your attention right to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book (looking forward to reading it again!).
Richard Brown has been added to my list of authors to follow. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thrillers blended with the paranormal.
“My first taste of this book drew me right in. The opening scenes of a crime in progress committed against our lead character and his family is attention grabbing, no doubt....it's the next chapter that created a bit of confusion for this reader. There's this time jump...not futuristic as in Scifi-ish, but just "X" number of years...that left me feeling disconnected from the story. I wasn't certain who was who anymore and why we were learning about them...it was like the reception I get on my cell in the one building at work, interrupted to the point of extinction.
Now don't fret dear readers, that wasn't the end of my journey...have I ever given up before on a book I've started? Nope....so I plowed ahead, hoping for the best with a small sliver of fear of the worst stuck in my back pocket. What did I get? In the end, a story that fell somewhere in between the two extremes and you know what, that's A-okay. Issac Winters (our main character) proved to be a good father, an upstanding detective who would get the job done no matter what, and a good friend to those who needed one. All this was accomplished despite his past...a past that refuses to let him be; such is the case when dealing with unwanted emotions or situations and the death of a loved one is traumatic enough let alone the aftermath. The path is full of pitfalls for this character and shadowy at best as far as the final outcome of his actions, but you can count on it to be interesting. I like the fact that the author built him as a thinker as well as a doer; it played well in many a scene.
The (for most of the book) unnamed terror is horrifying to say the least. If you harbor a fear of fire, you may want to read this one in good company because the victims tend to meet their end in the belly of that particular beast. The trail of carnage continues to grow as the story progresses until the big reveal in the final fourth of the book....and what a reveal it is. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'll avoid any details but be prepared for a ghastly finish. That's not the only part to watch for though. As we learn about the town's history, we are exposed (hmm...interesting choice of words there that popped into my head considering the events I'm dancing around right now) to the macabre performances of a master illusionist...or psycho, take your pick. No, seriously...the "shows" that he'd put on usually involved mass bouts of nudity, torture and finally death....think Interview with a Vampire (the movie) where they basically end up with a group feeding on stage while the audience doesn't quite know what to think. O-O Suffice it to say this person wasn't exactly making friends in all the right places but he was making money at an astonishing rate (go figure, right?)allowing him to continue improving his show....the details of which are somewhat morbid but very intriguing, certainly a well thought out back story (which reminds me, I don't want to be in this author's head...~whistles~).
The supporting characters all have their roles to play even if only for a short time. I do have to wonder though about one particular guy that is given a rather pivotal role towards books end, but we barely get to know him throughout the text. He seems very minor, almost an accessory but then POOF...big finish. Gotta say it left me wishing for more on that person's history even though the story didn't center on them...but it did well in showing how you never really know who will impact (there I go with the word choice again) your life.
Regarding the storyline, I have to say it...I saw many threads of a particular movie starring Denzel Washington throughout the story, but the twist at the end moves it away from that scenario just enough to allow it to be a close comparison but NOT a replica. Speaking of that twist, the mastermind behind the evil happenings was certainly the product of a vivid imagination. He was quite life like and while his reasoning was out there (to say the least) you could still see where he was coming from (just can't say I'd agree with him....nope, definitely not) and why everything fascinated him so. The human spirit is a funny thing; ever so fragile on the outside, but on the inside, a force to contend with. The limits of it are not specific to the human race, but rather the person and just what pushes our buttons too far varies much like our personalities. An interesting concept to explore....just not quite THIS way... O_O
A few random points to make, and I promise I'll draw this performance to a close. There are a few instances of foul language, but nothing too extreme or long playing. There is one particular choice in descriptive terms that could offend some readers around page 85...it just seemed like an ill fit when considering the rest of the text but if you gloss over it, the rest of your journey should leave you unscathed. One thing that did irk me just a bit...not enough to stop reading mind you but enough to mention....the way things were described in general, or rather not. Numerous times in the story there are elements of the current surroundings being described...the detail to which it reaches comes across almost like a schematic. For example, there's a scene that takes place in a theater and the entire room is described from the number of steps before the stage to how many boards the pews were made of. To me, it seemed unnecessary to lay things out quite so exact. It wasn't like it affected the events about to take place, or played a role in the plot later on...it simply was a case of good intentions (sharing everything with the reader) getting the better of the situation and running away with the show.
On a lighter note, there were several areas where the authors turn of phrase worked remarkably well and it left me dog earring a page here and a page there. One particularly stunning point I'd like to make note of occurred on page 184...its a vivid description of a delapidated mansion belonging to...well, someone to note. Suffice it to say if it was on the market today, I doubt many of you would jump at the chance to move there. This is an instance where the author let his limited words speak for him thus allowing the readers imagination to take flight and create those shadowy scenes in their mind's eye...definitely a plus.
In the end, though I wasn't blown away, I was entertained even if it was tinged with morbidness and sometimes that's all you're looking for. There's nothing wrong with a scary story now and then, right? Just make sure it's not a dark and stormy night at home alone when you go for THIS one. Reading recommendation for me would go to older teens and adult readers due to some of the content mentioned (don't want to scare the impressionable little kiddos). ”
“I started reading this book then literally could not put it down. The characters were drawn well and with outstanding emotional depth. The story was thrilling from start to finish. The action was intense – the inexplicable deaths, mysterious. At first, there were a few rather disconcerting changes in POV, but, honestly, I got so caught up in the characters and the story, that I became almost totally oblivious to any flaws after just a few pages. The author has an exceptionally engaging way of conveying his thoughts through the characters that I found quite compelling and exhilarating.
There were plenty of twists and curve balls throughout. I was kept guessing the entire ride. This supernatural thriller is an impressive debut that explores a wide range of human emotions and gives an up-close and personal view of evil that will haunt your dreams. Lucius has surely forsaken any chance of redemption – if anyone holds the title “evil incarnate” it would have to be him. Isaac Winters, the lead detective, is unwavering in his determination to follow the investigation, to see behind the illusion, and to protect those for whom he feels responsible. He is a man driven to unveil the truth at any cost and to accept nothing less than success.
This book was provided to me by the author in return for my honest review.
Reviewed by Laurie-J
Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews
“RECEIVED FROM: Bewitching Book Tours For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Isaac Winters is a single father and veteran police detective in the city of Elmwood. At the top of his game, even Isaac can't explain why citizens of his city are dying from mysterious fires that originate inside their bodies and leave little else damaged besides the victim. When he learns his killer was dead before the spree began and is now focusing on Isaac and his loved ones Isaac must learn how to battle the dead. But will he discover the impossible before it's too late?
I had initially intended to give this book a lower rating, however as the book progressed it did get a lot better. The bigger writing issues started to smooth out and there's no denying Brown has a talent for vivid descriptions, therefore I decided to give it a three stars.
I had a lot of trouble getting into this book, while I found the idea interesting it was basically a case of a good book ruined by poor editing. There is more to writing a good book than having a good idea then stringing words together. And while from the sections of verse included in the novel you can easily see the writer excels at poetry, each type of writing is an entirely different ball game where you need to learn the rules of the game before jumping in. For example, a playwright or script writer wouldn't add long passages of description to the middle of their text. What would it be used for there? It's not like the actor is going to tell viewers that the hall was long and dark. While these directions might be given it won't be in the same manner as a scene in a novel. Many novelists don't know the first thing about journalism and should I mention the term inverted pyramid they wouldn't think I was talking about writing. While the term writer describes many types of people who put together words to create something, each section of writing has its own terminology and rules which need to be learned before transitioning.
Had Brown paired with a good editor, they could have guided him through the rules of writing novels and I think the result would have been a book readers couldn't put down. It's clear from his work he has a talent for stringing together words, but it's also clear he didn't learn the rules of the game. The book is definitely copy edited - meaning free from typos, misspelled words and grammar mistakes, but its got major issues outside of that.
The largest issue of this novel is a complete lack of understanding of how point of view works. In the first two chapters I've seen four different types of point of view used. You just don't do that in novels, you pick one style and stick with it. The book opens with the rarely used second person - meaning speaking directly to the reader with words like you. This is followed by a mix of distant narrative style third person and a normal close third person with a lot of head hopping. One small section is written in first person before going back to the mix of third person again.
The book would have worked best in a close third person narrative, understanding that even though it's being told from outside of the character's head you can still only look through the eyes of one character at a time. It does allow you to switch from character to character, but not all on the same page. for the most part it's usually paired with one character per scene, though some authors can use two or even three for longer scenes successfully. The reason they can do so successfully is that even though they have gone from character to character it's not flipping back and forth from sentence to sentence, more each character conveys a different part of the scene. Often times they will include "I" thoughts by marking the thought with italicized fonts.
Using this point of view would have considerably helped with the crass jarring language used in some of the descriptions. If we're viewing the scene through Isaac's eyes and a building is described as piss yellow it's better received because that is just a part of Isaac's personality. The character is abrasive and not the type to fit in comfortably at a society ball.
A good editor could have also helped to guide Brown's research and how it was included in the novel. It's clear he did some research as evidenced in info dumps about forensics testing which aren't really needed in the scene where they're used and actually slow down the pacing of the novel. However it's also clear that he didn't do enough research to accurately portray a police detective. This is shown where the character makes assumptions without evidence then shares those with a witness being interviewed, pockets evidence from a crime scene as a souvenir, and repeatedly puts his bare hands all over a crime scene before they've been investigated by the forensics team I guess you'd say. What I'm trying to say is he's touching things before he guys who dust for prints and take photos get there. The character is supposed to have around two decades of crime scene experience and be the best in the department at his job, if this were the case none of those behaviors would occur. While I think many of the behaviors such as punching the car window to break it and get in were designed to make Isaac look cool, all they managed to do was to make the scene and character less believable. For one, a car window broke from being punched would have never passed safety testing or made it to be sold or owned by a customer. Secondly, the character is supposed to be an experienced cop and he just destroyed evidence.
The book is written to an adult reader and those readers want believability so scenes should focus less on trying to make the character into Bruce Willis action hero and more on creating a realistic scene.
The point of view issues smooth out as you move further into the book almost as if Brown began to learn his craft more the further he went into the novel. It does pick up in pacing and about the last quarter of the novel it becomes a book that's hard to walk away from.
Before I go further into this review I'll warn readers that this is not a book for a reader who's faint of heart or with a weak stomach. As the reader finally begins to learn about Lucius the villain and the things he's done there are scenes so graphic and gruesome I had to set the book down long enough for my stomach to stop churning because I really thought I might be sick. Beyond macabre descriptions of carving bodies the author even crosses into scenes of necrophilia. Brown has created a villain so depraved that it literally churns the stomach. Obviously if a scene in a book has the ability to make me start gagging the writer has a definite talent for writing vivid descriptions.
While I found many of the plot points extremely interesting, I also felt they were under-explained. For example, I never understood how the killer came back from death or how he killed his victim. Yes I get that they burned up, but how? I didn't understand how Lucius was an illusionist because he seemed to me more like you're above average psychotic mass murderer. I didn't understand how Virginia would connect the dots between a long dead psycho and recent killing. I also found it hard to believe the cops would instantly buy into her story. It was also never really clear on what the Gift was. I mean I got the impression that the Gift was death but that doesn't seem like much of a gift to me. I loved the idea behind these plot points. The scenes where he starts bringing Lucius to the forefront and building this heinous villain for us are some of my favorites, however Brown fails to answer the how and why as well as some of the what for his readers. Especially considering this is a stand alone title readers really needed the answers to these questions to feel fulfilled when finishing the book.
As far as the characters went while Isaac was fairly fleshed out many of the other characters remained fairly one dimensional. While I would have liked to see the characters get more body to them, especially Lucius, Isaac himself needed a bit more work to be a believable character. I might have been able to work with this if Isaac was just some guy pulled into a murder investigation because it somehow targeted or revolved around him, but because of all the obvious police mistakes Isaac makes in this novel it makes him completely unbelievable as a veteran detective. If Lucius had been a modern day criminal he would have been acquitted on a technicality because of how police handled the evidence. Isaac was the most unbelievable cop I've ever read. I can easily picture the character as a man, but he doesn't come across as a cop.
Overall I can't really recommend or not recommend this book. It has potential and if you're prepared to deal with the books flaws you might enjoy it. However many readers will have difficulty wading through the flaws to the intriguing story within.”
“Once up on a time, there was an odd man who was an Illusionist. Not a Magician, that’s a whole other thing. An Illusionist does more than slight of hand, he is the slight of hand. Lucius tortured people in his basement to see how they died and then he burned the bodies. It appears that Lucius may have returned.
Isaac Walker lost his wife sixteen years ago and has raised his daughter alone. Done a good job, too. But now, someone is trying to kill Isaac and Amy and many others as well. It all began when Lori Ackerman burns to death in here room. Followed by her mother in a motel room and her father in a truck.
Obviously, something has gone wrong and Isaac knows it’s up to him to sort it all out and make it go away. That’s where things get a bit more odd, whatever is torching people wants Isaac – alive. The why would be a spoiler and we certainly won’t do that but I do recommend your picking up this short story and keeping the lights on while you read it.