A supernatural crime novel, with an engaging main character, that doesn’t live up to its potential.

The Last Dream Before You Die

In Dalzell’s debut supernatural thriller, a seemingly mundane case sends British private detective Jack Bone to the mysterious town of Wolfston, England, where he stumbles into a nest of vampires.

Detective Bone is an aging former cop–turned–private eye who’s hired to find out how a woolen mill in Wolfston has remained profitable. What he finds out stuns him: The mill, owned by Silas Laughton, runs 24 hours, seven days a week—manned by humans by day and by vampires (called the Nosferatu) at night. Laughton warns Bone that the Nosferatu’s existence must remain a secret; Bone can keep his life, he says, in return for not mentioning vampires to his client. During Bone’s next case, he crosses a Russian crime gang while looking into a human-smuggling ring. When his life is threatened by two thugs, Laughton’s vampire daughter, Mina, and her vampire friend Alice come to his rescue. Although it’s never entirely clear why the Nosferatu decide to help Bone, he teams up with them to stop the smuggling operation. Unfortunately, what might have been an engaging tale is undone by story elements that strain credulity. For example, readers may find it hard to fathom that vampires would work as laborers in a woolen mill or that an English town could house so many vampires unnoticed. Also, much of the violence in Dalzell’s novel seems gratuitous; readers can understand the gruesomeness of vampire killings without play-by-plays of ripped limbs and blood-splattered faces. The novel also isn’t very scary, perhaps due to the fact that there’s little mystery behind the creatures; most of the vampires in Wolfston seem to be relatively ordinary small-town folk. That said, Dalzell’s prose is solid, and he shows a particularly good knack for the crime genre. Bone, in particular, is an intriguing protagonist with depth and character. Perhaps in his next novel, the author might leave the vampires out.

A supernatural crime novel, with an engaging main character, that doesn’t live up to its potential.

Pub Date: April 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1458203137

Page Count: 300

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2013

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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