Crime · Fiction · Mystery/Thriller · Suspense

Malevolent (Shaye Archer #1) by Jana DeLeon

My rating: 3/5 stars

In Malevolent, Jana DeLeon has managed something most thrillers would be hard-pressed to equal – held my attention and even surprised me at the end.  I downloaded this book for free from BookBub (low price and free eBooks emailed to you every day – SCORE!!!) and the summary grabbed my attention immediately.  Usually, I download the book and they wait in limbo on my Kindle app until I have no other choice but to read them (I have a thing about reading on my phone – I just can’t do it!) but I felt the need to start this one right away.

New Orleans nurse Emma Fredericks has contracted the help of Shaye Archer, private investigator, to help her track down a stalker, who she believes to be her abusive husband, David Grange.  So what? you say.  Surely that is the fodder of many a procedural crime novel.  Wrong!  The catch: Emma killed her husband in self-defense months ago.  And yet she has seen him – in her house!  The stalker delights in leaving her little momentos of her marriage that she is sure she threw away long ago and will stop at nothing to get at Emma.  No one is safe.  Shaye knows that a dead man can’t possibly be tormenting Emma, but as she gets deeper into the investigation, the facts become stranger and she finds herself with more questions than answers as the list of possible suspects diminishes.

Emma feels her world grow increasingly smaller as the stalker tracks her no matter where she tries to run.  Unable to sleep and almost out of time, Emma wonders who could know so much about her short marriage and feel so strongly about David’s death that they’d resort to psychological torture and brutal murders.  Who was David Grange?  What caused the complete turnaround in his personality after he got back from army deployment?

Not only is Emma’s story chillingly engaging, Shaye Archer has a meaty background as well.  Found on the street nine years earlier (at age 15) bleeding, abused, and broken, Shaye has no memory of her past beyond wild nightmares that may possibly hold the key to her former life as a prisoner of someone who is still out there…somewhere.   She was adopted by millionaire’s daughter-turned-social-worker Corrine Archer after her release from the hospital and has only now claimed her independence by moving out of her ‘mother’s’ house and setting up shop as an investigator.  Her business allows her to work toward unravelling the mysteries in the lives of others and it may possibly inspire her to get some answers for herself.

Malevolent is more of a guilty pleasure than a foray into true literature.  The economical writing style offers up a quick read, but lacks atmosphere and feels like a draft rather than a finished product.  I would have loved to see this novel expanded a bit and rewritten in parts so that the reader isn’t smacked in the face with everything the character does, thinks, or means.  Familiar with the old writing rule “Show, Don’t Tell?”  This book definitely smacks of the latter.  There is virtually no character development and little in the way of effective literary description.  The chill factor, though, is commendable (a killer who whistles “Three Blind Mice” and scoops out the eyeballs of their victims? Shiver.  I’ll be hearing that in my dreams.)

This is a story-driven novel, pure and simple, but it certainly accomplished its mission.  Shaye’s story alone may be enough to keep me reading through the rest of the books in the series!

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