Stratagem (Robin Caroll) – Review

~ About the Book ~

A High-Stakes Simulation Adventure Leaves Grayson Thibodeaux the Prime Suspect. . .for Murder

Deep in the gritty underbelly of New Orleans, psychologist Grayson Thibodeaux loses everything when his wife leaves him to climb her company’s corporate ladder. He buries himself in his job of creating mind-bending adventure games for businesses as team-building explorations. When his ex-wife’s company hires Grayson’s to create an elaborate game, he doesn’t see how things can get worse. Until she dies during the course of the game he created…making him the prime suspect for murder.

Genre:  Suspense
Release date: 1 November 2018
Pages: 320
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press

Amazon US // Amazon AU // iBooks // Goodreads // Koorong

~ Excerpt ~

Grayson gently pushed the truck door closed, then headed down the cobblestone path that ran alongside the old house. Even in the waning light, his steps found the stones with no stumbles. He’d grown up in this house, had helped his father place the very cobblestones he now walked on into the sod.
The light by the kitchen door illuminated a man and woman standing on his back porch, their backs to him. The woman had her hands cupped around her face as she pressed against the kitchen window.
Grayson’s muscles flexed. “May I help you?”
The man and woman spun at the same time, both setting their hands on the butts of their respective sidearms.
Recognition came instantly. “Brandon?” Grayson asked.
“Hey.” Brandon Gibbons, Grayson’s old college buddy and currently a detective with the New Orleans Police Department, removed his hand from his sidearm. Grayson had worked with Brandon when he was a consultant for the department.
“You remember my partner, Danielle?” Brandon nodded at the woman beside him.
Black-as-night hair, brown eyes, and a chip on her shoulder bigger than a boulder—yeah, he remembered Danielle Witz all right. “I do. Hello, Danielle.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Thibodeaux.”
Apparently she still hated his guts. It’d been months ago—how could she still carry a grudge for his not calling her sister after their blind date?
“What’re you doing back here?” Grayson asked. It wasn’t like Brandon to creep around backyards.
Danielle leaned against the porch’s support beam. “Where have you been?”
In a split second, Grayson took in their body language and the microexpressions most people didn’t even realize they showed. Brandon’s lips were thinned, and he wouldn’t meet Grayson’s stare. Danielle, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes and held eye contact, dropping her chin as she glared.
“Why?” Grayson stood a little straighter.
“Maybe we should go inside?” Brandon asked, looking quickly at Grayson, then darted his gaze to his partner.
Grayson crossed his arms over his chest as little pinpricks of apprehension pimpled his arms. “Why don’t you tell me why you’re here, peeking in my back windows?”
Brandon met his stare. “I think you’d rather us go inside to talk, Grayson.”

~ Review ~

What a fantastic premise for a novel! Grayson Thibodeaux’s job—analysing game participants’ financial, medical, background, and psychological reports, then creating a game that will expose their weaknesses and strengths—was an interesting one to learn about, quite aside from the little matter of his ex-wife dying during one of his games. This, of course, meant he was in the perfect position to be framed for her murder, and the whole thing was so novel that I had no trouble keeping the pages turning.

Having said that, there were other things that detracted from this story for me. The first was the fact that I worked out fairly early on who the murderer was. I don’t want to say too much and risk tipping other readers off, but there were certain things that stood out to me as a little too obvious. The villain was also perfectly sane until the big reveal, when they suddenly became an evil, cackling psychopath, which was a bit clichéd.

The second thing was that the characterisation was a little weak. Anna Belle was the quintessential narcissistic ex-wife, and Grayson was the poor bewildered and betrayed husband. Further, I had a hard time believing Grayson had been so blind to what Anna Belle was really like. He psychoanalyses people for a living, for goodness’ sake! It just didn’t seem plausible that a highly insightful psychologist such as we’re led to believe Grayson is wouldn’t have picked up on these personality traits when he first met her. And while he talks about his struggle to forgive Anna Belle, he more often came across as a little lovelorn, which made him seem insipid.

Finally, there was a tendency to explain things to the reader, particularly during the interviews conducted by Grayson’s friend, Detective Brandon Gibbons. I realise there is a science to conducting these interviews, but having everything explained and interpreted along the way really interrupted the flow for me. And speaking of interrupting the flow, although I was reading an advance copy of this novel (which often still has a round of editing to go through), there were times when it seemed this story hadn’t been edited at all. Malapropisms, mismatching verb tenses, incorrect verb usage, awkward sentence constructions . . . Hopefully these will have been corrected for the final copy, but they definitely became a distraction for me.

And now that sounds like a whole lot of negativity, but really, if you’re a plot-driven reader there will be plenty to like about this novel. It just fell a little short in other areas, in my opinion.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.

~ About the Author ~

“I love boxing. I love Hallmark movies. I love fishing. I love scrapbooking. Nope, I’ve never fit into the boxes people have wanted to put me in.” ~Robin Caroll is definitely a contradiction, but one that beckons you to get to know her better.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage–two aspects Robin weaves into each of her 30 published novels. 

When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty+ years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home–in the South, where else? 

She serves the writing community as Executive Director/Conference Director for ACFW. 

Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best, and Book of the Year. 

On her faith, Robin says, “I love Jesus and will follow Him wherever He leads me.”

An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals!

Connect with Robin:  Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, New Releases, Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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