Friday, October 18, 2013

Crystal Illusions by J. E. Taylor

The Basics:

Crystal Illusions by J. E. Taylor
All Night Reads
Book 5 in the Steve Williams series
Mystery/Thriller, Romance
Available now from

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Plot description from

Assistant D.A. Carolyn Hastings has an uncanny knack for putting away criminals. With one of the best prosecution records in recent history, her future as Manhattan’s next District Attorney looks certain. But her sixth sense for winning cases threatens to work against her when she starts seeing a string of murders through the eyes of the killer. 

With suspects piling up as fast as bodies, and the motives of those closest to her questionable, Carolyn doesn’t know who to trust. When the FBI assigns Special Agent Steve Williams to the case, Carolyn discloses her deepest fear - that the man she loves may be the one responsible for the city’s latest crime spree. 

The only thing Steve knows for sure is Carolyn has an inexplicable psychic connection with the killer, and all the victims have one thing in common…a striking resemblance to Carolyn Hastings. 

And he knows it’s only a matter of time before this psychopath knocks on her door. 

What worked for me:

The heart of this book is the serial killer mystery, and it works fairly well. As Carolyn realizes she could be a target, everyone around her takes on sinister overtones. I was flip-flopping back and forth when it came to who I thought was the real killer, trying to figure it out and actually caring about who would turn out to be the bad guy - and that's a mark of a good mystery for me. 

This is where the book both shines and breaks down - *everyone* seems like a potential suspect except for her roommate, Olivia. From boyfriend to artist, to other lawyers and her intern, everyone in her life seems like a potential serial killer. I was on pins and needles every time Carolyn was alone with someone, which made the romance component difficult (see more on this below).

The psychic aspects made this book stand apart from more generic serial killer mysteries. I felt a little behind the curve because I hadn't read any previous novels in the series. Every reveal of Steve Williams' abilities was a... what?... moment for me, but Carolyn's psychic connection to the serial killer is well established in the first chapter, and I liked the way it was used throughout the novel.

What didn't work for me:

I could not accept this book as a romance - and it was presented as both a mystery/thriller *and* a romance when I picked it up. Randy is extremely volatile and it takes very little for him to get fed up with Carolyn. Now, if I scratched my expectations of romance and instead of thinking I was meant to root for their relationship, I just focused on it as part and parcel of the backdrop of the murder mystery - then I'm a much more satisfied reader.

I found it hard to buy the setting for this as Manhatten. It felt very small town to me - particularly when they were viewing video footage of City Hall. Just a weird plot point that stuck for me. I went back after I finished the book to confirm the setting because I couldn't quite believe I was remembering it correctly.

I did find the writing a little flat sometimes - there was something missing to elevate the book from okay to gripping. I think it was a lack of finesse in the dialogue, primarily, that rendered the relationships a little blocky and one-dimensional. Still, it was serviceable and I didn't notice any technical issues that put me off. There was just a disconnect for me that made it hard to get swept up into the Steve Williams world.

Bottom Line:

I cannot recommend this if you're looking for a romance novel with a mystery component. But if you want to read something with a dysfunctional relationship, potential threats at every turn, and a heavy dose of the paranormal via psychic/telepathic/etc.-type powers, then this is your book.

This was an interesting but not compelling book - good as reading material for waiting rooms, standing in lines and commuting to and from work.

I'll be interested to read what other people thought about the writing style of this novel - could you get into it or not?

2.5 stars
For mystery readers who like psychics, someone expecting to be frequently interrupted.

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