Sunday, June 21, 2015

Janice Cantore: Drawing Fire

By Kelly Bridgewater

Back Cover Copy:

One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart.

With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby’s best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she’s anxious to talk to him about a cold case that’s personal to her—one Luke is interested in as well.

As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents’ lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

My Review:

I have become a fan of Janice Cantore’s police procedural romantic suspense when I read Accused, the first book in her Pacific Coast Justice Series. I love how Janice Cantore uses her knowledge from working on the police force to create a realistic look into all the drama and struggles that occur for the men and women who serve our local communities. Drawing Fire gives readers a ride along for the hunt to bring justice to a cold case.

True to a romantic suspense, the story needs to start with an inciting incident and try to solve that mystery, which propels the story forward. The conflict starts in the first chapter, allowing Abby Hart and Luke Murphy’s world to collide as Abby is called to a home of a dead elder lady. The officers call this a case of the serial killer they nickname granny murder. Most romantic suspense stories wrap themselves in trying to solve the initial problem, but Cantore solves this murder pretty quickly and does not return, leaving the one suspect to take the fall for the murder without question.

The incident that drives Abby and Luke is the cold case of the Triple Seven murders. Abby is blinded by drive to seek justice and revenge for her parents’ death. Similarly, Luke is determined to hunt for a young runaway named Nadine who ran away from home because she is pregnant. As much as the inciting incident being solved so quickly bothered me, Cantore allows Nadine to get beaten up, but there is no mention of what happens to her pregnancy. Along the same lines, the first sixty percent of the story is back-story and catching the reader up on all the research that Luke and Abby have personally done on the Triple Seven Murders. It was slow going. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen, but it didn’t. Once Luke went on a run and got shot at, the story started to take off and moved like a suspense book, but it was about sixty-five percent in.

Cantore created Luke and Abby to be practically equal foils. While Luke is a private investigator, Abby Hart is a homicide investigator. Both of them have lost significant people in their early life. Both of them have had mentors who helped them settle in their final career choices. Cantore does a good job at showing the readers how Abby and Luke think, but I feel disconnected between how Abby and Luke actually feel. Cantore tells us how they feel, not show the readers. One of the favorite aspects of the book was the laid back romance. Abby is engaged to someone else, but she wonders about Luke. Luke can’t stop thinking about Abby. It was nice to see the guy falling for Abby, which breaks tradition because most books have the girl falling in love first. Even with the difficulties of the plot, I still like the characters of Abby and Luke.

Writing is what can make or break a story.  As for the dialogue, Cantore does allow words to flow naturally and reflect the attitude of Abby and Luke. The story world of Long Beach, California, is not described that well. It appears to be an afterthought for Cantore, not an important element to tie the reader to the story. Lastly, I never doubted Cantore’s expertise into the police world. Abby and the other officers treaded through this world naturally. I enjoyed this peek into the world of police work.

Drawing Fire has no questionable content that conservative readers of any age would question. The last thirty percent of the book would bring a great story to the romantic suspense genre. I just wished Cantore would weave in all the back-story while working hard to solve the cold case of her parents’ death while having complications to the serial killer and finding Nadine. Abby and Luke were never in any harm until the last third of the book. It was an original idea with using Abby as the victim and the investigator on the sly, but the story is not predictable. I had no idea who the actual bad guy was until Cantore revealed it at the last minute. If you can sludge through the first part of the book, the last part is more of Cantore’s style, which is evident in her other books. I truly enjoyed her first five books, but this one is not her usual writing style.

Overall, Janice Cantore’s Drawing Fire uses her vast knowledge in police work to bring three mysteries to the table with wounded characters on the path for justice but tells the story of leaving justice and revenge to God.

This review first appeared on The Christian Manifesto where I am an Assistant Editor and a Featured Reviewer.

Janice Cantore’s Writing Bio:

Janice Cantore
Taken from Cantore's Amazon Author's Page
A retired Long Beach California police officer of 22 years (16 in uniform and 6 as a non-career officer), Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, patrol, administration, juvenile investigations and training. During the course of her career in uniform Janice found that faith was indispensable to every aspect of the job and published articles on faith at work, one for a quarterly newspaper called "Cop and Christ", and another for the monthly magazine "Today's Christian Woman".

With retirement Janice began to write longer pieces and several novels were born. Janice is excited and honored to now be a part of the Tyndale Publishing House family. Accused, the first installment in her new suspense offering, The Pacific Coast Justice Series, was released February 1, 2012 and kicked off a brand new chapter in her writing career. In addition to suspense and action, her books feature strong female leads. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep you engrossed and leave you inspired.

Where to connect with Janice:
Where to purchase Drawing Fire:
Your local Favorite bookstore

What aspect of police procedurals draw you into the story?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Interview and Giveaway: Heather Day Gilbert, Trial by Twelve

I've been a fan of Heather Day Gilbert since I read her debut novel, God's Daughter. Not only is she an amazing author, she's also an encourager to new writers. She was one of the first people to push me toward taking my writing more seriously. I'm honored to interview her about her latest release, Trial by Twelve. Heather is also giving away an ebook copy of her latest novel. Check for details at the end of the interview!

Trial by Twelve is the second in your Murder in the Mountains series. How is writing this one different than writing Miranda Warning?

Great question! Going into this one, I knew I wanted it to be shorter, so I could get more books out per year in this series. So Trial by Twelve was around 52,000 words, whereas Miranda Warning was around 82,000. I prefer the shorter length!

Since this is a series, the tricky thing was matching up timelines and making sure all the details remained consistent from one book to the next, such as ages of the characters. I also had the task of re-introducing repeat characters, which meant I had to make their backstories/connections clear for those who had never read book one, without boring readers who were already familiar with them. To do this, I sent out early reader copies specifically targeting those who hadn't read Miranda Warning yet. I was grateful most seemed to pick up on the relationships easily and follow right along with the characters, having just "met" them.

Do you put a lot of yourself into your characters? Is there any one you identify with more than others?

Ha...funny you should ask that. I think most people who read the A Murder in the Mountains mysteries and know me or my husband realize that yes...I draw a lot from our relationship (my husband happens to be a lawyer, like Thomas Spencer). And of all the characters I've written, Tess Spencer is probably the most like me, personality-wise. But she has a really messed up childhood (mine was great), she tends to plunge into dangerous situations (not like me so much), and there are several other key differences I use with her to keep her distinct and separate from me in my mind.
But yes, we both enjoy coffee, video games, and our in-law bonds, among other things. :)

Your novels are very character driven. How does that make them different from other mysteries?

I think my novels seem like cozy mysteries in many ways--they are set in a small town, with an amateur sleuth, and no graphic sex/violence or cursing, and we get to know townspeople, family, and friends over time. However, they're like traditional mysteries, as well (think Hercule Poirot or Rebecca) in that the psyche of the killer is key to figuring out the villain. So people's personalities/character traits are very important to each storyline and that's why I call my mysteries "psychological" mysteries.
I had one reviewer compare my mysteries to a cross between author Lorena McCourtney's cozies and Karen Kingsbury's family-driven series. I think that's probably accurate, because I couldn't divorce the characters in this book from their family situations. Having Tess Spencer be a married main character who lives next to her in-laws was an important part of the dynamic of this series because it made it deeper and more believable.

You've done very well with indie publishing and have even written a book about it. What's the most important thing you've learned about the indie world?

I guess my best advice would be to try everything you can afford to try. You will learn what works and what doesn't work for you, and each book you publish will be better for it. Also, don't be afraid to ask people to read your book (from reviewers to advertising). You believed in that book enough to write, edit, and publish it, so stand behind it and make sure it doesn't become invisible in the sea of books on Amazon. Finally, plug in to indie groups online or follow/contact indie authors. It's their business to stay up-to-date, if they're taking it seriously.

What's coming up next for you?

Hmm! I tend to fluctuate in my day-to-day writing plans and I have no less than five series swirling in my head now. But suffice it to say I will continue to add books to my A Murder in the Mountains series (hopefully one more this year), and book 2 in my Vikings of the New World Saga, Forest Child, is also on the agenda for next year. Aside from remains to be seen! I have both Viking historical readers and contemporary mystery readers I want to try and keep "feeding" both groups as much as possible.

Thanks for letting me visit!

You can find Heather online here:
Twitter: @heatherdgilbert

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment to enter. Be sure to include your email. One winner will receive an ebook copy of Trial by Twelve.