Review: Fatal Puzzle (Zons Crime #1)

Book Title: Fatal Puzzle (Zons Crime #1)

Book Author: Catherine Shepherd

Book Rating: ☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: “1495: In the peaceful medieval city of Zons, on the banks of the Rhine, a young woman is found hanging from a parapet, assaulted and mutilated. A month later, another maiden falls prey. Bastian Mühlenberg, head of the City Guard, is determined to decipher the murderer’s gruesome code, unaware that he and the woman he loves are in the killer’s sights. With the help of an old psychic, a priest, and the stars above, Mühlenberg must solve the “fatal puzzle” before it’s too late.

Present day: Journalist Emily Richter is thrilled when she’s assigned a series of articles about the historic Zons killings. However, right before her stories are to be published, a young woman’s body is found hanging from a city tower—grossly maimed and wearing a linen gown, like her medieval predecessors. Detective Oliver Bergmann leads the investigation, tapping the knowledge of the attractive young journalist. Working together—and using Mühlenberg’s old notes—they race to stay one step ahead of the copycat killer.”

I’m not one to read a lot of mystery or crime novels, but the synopsis of this book sounded quite promising and this title is available this month for free from Amazon’s Kindle First program, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  However, I find myself closing this book feeling quite disappointed.

This is one of the few books that I have read that I felt would have honestly been better if it had been a bit simpler.  If the author had stuck to a plot about a journalism student investigating some gruesome murders that took place 500 years ago, only to have a similar killing take place in the present day, I feel this book would have been a lot better.  The puzzle aspect of the story was a nice touch, but when the insinuation of paranormal activity was added to the mix, my interest quickly began to wane.  And I’m not sure if this is merely a case of poor translation (this novel was originally written in German), but the writing left a lot to be desired as well.  Honestly, there wasn’t much of substance in the way of dialogue and many of the plot strings were too far fetched for me to even be slightly believable.  I mean, what woman in her right mind would invite a complete stranger into her apartment for a cup of tea in the middle of night?  And readers are to believe a man was appointed to the police department simply because he had the insight to capture a violent crime on video with his cell phone?  A group of people ice skating nearby don’t notice a dead body dangling from a tower?  A guy falls “head over heels” for a girl after interviewing her about her research on some grisly murders (not exactly what I call romantic…)?

I am often weary of reading books taking place within two different periods of time, but this is one where it could have worked really well if the story were put together a little better.  This is the first part of a series (I read that the author is working on the fifth installment), although I am not sure if I will be continuing with this saga.

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