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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#CJSReads REVIEW: A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis @mulhollandbooks @katialief

A Map of the Dark
by Karen Ellis

Thank you so much to Mulholland Books for these copies in return for our honest opinions.  Sam, Jess and I were intrigued with this book - I mean, just look at the cover!  We had some mixed feelings about this one though - scroll down and see what our first group review of the year entailed!

Publisher:  Mulholland Books

Published:  January 2, 2018
290 Pages

Genres:  Thriller, Mystery, Fiction, Crime
The Searchers Series (Book 1)

Goodreads Synopsis:

A girl, missing
A woman, searching
A killer, planning...

FBI Agent Elsa Myers finds missing people.
She knows how it feels to be lost...

Though her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, Elsa cannot refuse a call for help. A teenage girl has gone missing from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads hides the fact that she did not go willingly.

With each passing hour, as the hunt for Ruby deepens into a search for a man who may have been killing for years, the case starts to get underneath Elsa's skin. Everything she has buried - her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother's death - threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.

In order to save the missing girl, she may have to lose herself...and return to the darkness she's been hiding from for years.

My Review:

The first in a new series, we get introduced to Elsa Myers.  FBI Agent who is put on a child abduction case all while dealing with her dying father which is trudging up memories of her traumatic childhood.  As each day passes without finding this young girl, her memories start to infiltrate her mind more and old habits of coping come to the surface again.

I'll be honest, I had a little bit of a hard time getting through the first third of the book.  I wanted to put it down several times and contemplated DNF-ing.  Why?  Because it was a little confusing. The prologue gave you a sense of a girl not quite right in her mind but you're not sure why.  Ok, I get it.  Then we get into the case and the introduction to Elsa.  The problem is with the past and present chapters with Elsa.  There was some confusion in one chapter where she just calls her mom, Mom, but in others where she calls her Deb... it took me a minute to realize they were one in the same.  Also, at a certain point, her past seemed to be more prominent than the real case at hand - the abductions.  Then randomly thrown in there, we would get glimpses of the mind of the girl from the prologue, who I assumed was one of the abductees.  It just didn't flow well for me.  There were also a couple of inconsistencies that glared at me but that's just me being super picky.

So, why did I continue?  Because I DID get drawn into the case.  I needed to know where the girls were and if and how they were going to get saved.  Karen Ellis drew me into Elsa's character but I did find myself mulling through the past chapters antsy to get to the present day.  By the last third of the book, I was hooked and powering through the pages.  I was engaged and empathetic to Elsa, even her past!  And while I did see the twist coming a mile away, the author did it well and by the end, I DID feel satisfied.  If only I didn't trudge through the beginning, I would be raving about this book.  The author is clearly talented and maybe it took all that trudging to truly appreciate the end... who knows?  Maybe it's just me and those little inconsistencies just rattled me a bit.

At the end of the day, I'm glad that I did finish the book and felt satisfied by the end.  I will definitely pick up some more of the author's work in the future (as this is a pseudonym, I'll be looking for some of her work under Katia Lief as well) - and I would honestly like to see where Elsa goes from here.


Jessica's Review:

Not going to lie, this cover is what drew me to this book. I saw that it was a police procedural and a mystery thriller, so that was all I needed to know before diving in! A MAP OF THE DARK by Karen Ellis as an eerie atmosphere about it and I really enjoyed that, plus it's book one of a new crime series!

"A girl, missing. A woman, searching. A killer, planning" 

Elsa Myers is an FBI Agent that specializes in finding missing people. Her being assigned to a case of a child abduction couldn't come at more inconvenient time. Her father is sick in the hospital and battling for his life. However, she cannot refuse the call to help find a teenage girl that has disappeared - the first few hours are the most critical. Trying to track down a killer and save Ruby will prove to be difficult for her, because she may have to come face-to-face with her dark past that she has tried so hard to repress. 

I will say that I struggled with the first portion of this book. It was slower and some parts felt all over the place, but I was drawn in by the case. The case of finding Ruby was so intriguing and is what kept me reading! The second portion of the book really started to pick up the pace and pulled me in even more. Ellis created a great female lead - she's a strong character but she has her flaws that make her feel more human. I really enjoyed the ending and felt that everything tied together nicely for the conclusion. 

Overall, if you want to start a new crime series, then A MAP OF THE DARK would be a good one to pick up! If you don't mind a slower build at the beginning, then you'll enjoy this one - just know that it does begin to pick up towards the end. I definitely want to see more of Elsa Myers, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more. 

I give this 3.5/5 stars!

Sam's Review:

Marketed for fans of Karin Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen (two of my favourite authors), I was incredibly excited to read A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis. Unfortunately, with the comparison to these thriller powerhouse authors, I was expecting graphic suspense and “on the edge of your seat” pacing.  This novel had neither of these things.

The novel, the first in a new series, introduces us to FBI Agent Elsa Myers- a woman who specializes in child abduction cases and has a past full of demons.  When a young woman is abducted, Elsa must balance her work life and personal life to find the missing girl while dealing with her own battles. 

This book had a few moments where I felt like I couldn’t put it down.  I did like Elsa at the beginning and I did enjoy the different workings of the police case.  However, more often than not, I felt like parts were dragging.  This novel was so incredibly slow.  I struggled throughout the whole thing.

I also felt a little bit confused in regards to the narrative style.  Elsa goes back and forth between the present and memories of the past.  These happen without any warning and I found I struggled to keep up.  It took me right out the moment.  I also really did not like the amount of personal life that was introduced.  Most of the novel was Elsa grieving her father’s cancer and her lost childhood.     There really wasn’t investigating involved.   I found myself feeling this one was a bit mismarketed.  It really didn’t feel like a mystery thriller or a police procedural; instead, it felt more like contemporary family drama with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Overall, if you are looking for a new police procedural to bury your nose in this January, I think this one will disappoint you.  However, if you are interested in the inner workings of family, then this one may appeal.  Personally, it missed the mark.

2/5 stars. 

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