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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 5, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
FBI forensic anthropologist Christine Prusik is a hot mess. She's broken off an affair with her boss, pops xanax like jelly beans, and faces off against hostile colleagues as she's leading her first murder investigation. On the positive side, she has a good solid team and she meets a nice sheriff from the area in Indiana where a serial killer has been murdering young girls and putting carved stones in their throats as a calling card. This is particularly unsettling to Prusik as she has a complicated history with just such stones, a history which unfolds as the book goes along.

I liked some things about this book and didn't like others. I thought the whole New Guinea thing was more elaborate than necessary for a MacGuffin, and I _really_ didn't like the paranormal explanations that come toward the end of the book -- Ouch! that takes off a star right there, to my thinking! Also, when we reach the requisite confrontation between Prusik and the killer, several cliches have conspired so that she doesn't have her gun or her phone. Eye roll! Another problem -- too often the action takes place "off screen", as it were; the author should try to be more in the moment, particularly for climactic scenes. Finally, Prusik's relationship with her boss is a big part of the story, but after the resolution of the case, there is no closure on this score. Is he surprised? Does anybody who gave her a hard time apologize?

So why four stars? The author shows a talent for writing suspense awfully well, and the characters are decidedly interesting, though I wish there'd been more emphasis on character development than absurd plot twists. I don't like Christine much, but she's a great character. I think the book shows promise, and I look forward to reading the next work by this author.
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VINE VOICEon November 15, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I know fiction sometimes requires a suspension of disbelief, but this one was too much for me. A lead investigator who pops Xanax like candy, makes reckless choices in her personal and professional life, and who ends up in the sticky situation near the end that no reasonable agent with knowledge of this specific case would ever be dumb enough to set herself up for. Mind you, these are all my concerns BEFORE the wonky paranormal twist that might have been interesting if it weren't so far-fetched. (I can't describe it without giving major plot spoilers.) It would have been more helpful if this book was marketed in such a way to draw in people who buy into paranormal explanations and to let people like me know that this isn't a typical or remotely realistic forensic crime novel so we can skip it.
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VINE VOICEon October 28, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A serial killer is at work in the Midwest. The bodies of young women are being discovered, eviscerated with strange stone carvings embedded in their throats. Drawn into the investigation are Sheriff Joe McFaron, a genuine good guy who believes the secret to making the system work is working honestly within the system. On the other hand is FBI forensic Anthropologist Christine Prusik, a brillant scientist and competent investigator. Pressured by her boss and former lover and bullied by the old boys network at the FBI, Christine is willing to risk everything to secure justice. Add in a troubled young man with horrifying visions and a backstory about cannibals in New Guinea, you have an entertaining read.

I really like this book. It is intelligently written and engrossing. The sheriff is well drawn. It is nice to have a believable, decent law enforcement character who is not riddled with guilt or addiction and who is not a goody good. The political infighting and backbiting was also realistic. The Christine/Joe romance was appropriately restrained. Christine's focus on the possibility of a genetic predisposition to murder is addressed in the chilling epilogue.

On the other hand, the New Guinea connection falls flat. I found it hard to believe that Christine would advance in view of her very obvious addiction to prescription painkillers and anxiety disorder. She pops pills like breath mints. Also straining credibility is that she would be naive enough to sleep with her boss, who is also a pompous ass. Women in law enforcement don't usually mess where they eat. I was also troubled by her secreting an important piece of evidence from an autopsy. But overall , I enjoyed this story and look forward to the sequel.
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VINE VOICEon November 12, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to say I really enjoyed the book but had a problem with the constant use of Zanax by Christine to deal with her PTSD and anxiety. I like to think someone in her position within the FBI would have been vetted better especially after ten years.

That said, this is a fast paced book that keeps your interest quite easily. The fact that the investigation is a tightly conducted murder mystery. FBI Special Agent Christine Prusik is the SAC (special agent in charge) of an investigation into a series of murders in the mid-west. Her problems with a co-worker with issues about having a woman as lead is just about as problematic as finding the murderer. As more and more young women go missing, each of them turning up with a significant clue upon autopsy, we see both the anti-Prusik attitude and Prusik's anxiety about the case ratchet up.

There was some anthropologic information but we were not beaten to death with it. The bad guy was well presented and explained and the original suspect was entwined with enough explanation to make it understood easily.

The "good old boy" attitude really makes me grit my teeth but I am hoping that one of these days it will become less of an issue.
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VINE VOICEon November 7, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Christine Prusik is a forensic anthropologist and special agent with the FBI. She is gutsy and creative, but also suffers from PTSD and is given to gulping down xanax when stressed (which is often). Young girls are being murdered and eviscerated in bizarre fashion, with artistically carved stones left in the bodies. David Claremont is a mentally disabled young man who may be responding to voices, who soon becomes the principal suspect. Prusik isn't convinced, but, then again, her career isn't going well and her opinion is definitely unwelcome. The plot takes a bizarre twist, which I won't tell you, and leads to unimaginable complications.

So who's the real killer? What is Prusik's theory? Where does she go with it when her superiors have her grounded? Will the true killer be found? You'll have to read the book to find out. If you're looking for a high adrenaline thriller, you may like it.

Author Lloyd Devereux Richards has crafted a fast moving, heart-pounding thriller, but it's also flawed. The characters are over-drawn, almost caricatures of themselves. The story strains credulity. Yes, most thrillers have a bit of the hard-to-believe, but they make it believable. Author Richards doesn't quite succeed at that. Much of the story depends on a knowledge of psychiatry and mental disorders, but the author isn't at all convincing with this aspect. His psychiatrist isn't credible. So, as I say, you may enjoy this novel for its action and excitement, but it's not my first choice. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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VINE VOICEon November 12, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An unlikeable protagonist combined with an unbelievable plot twist made for a painful read. In fact, at page 244 (out of 350), I stopped reading the book for a week before forcing myself to finish it. It shouldn't have been the case because the book has potential. Unfortunately, the author blew it.

The protagonist, the chief forensic anthropologist in the FBI's Chicago field office, never connected with me because the author chose to hamper her (supposedly stellar) abilities with (1) a severe addiction to Xanax, (2) the uncanny ability to make poor decisions in both her personal life and her work on the case, and (3) the reliance on PTSD & New Guinea rather than actual character development.

The entire book just ended up being too much & the author seemed to try too hard to further the plot. The plot twist was the clincher - I groaned when I read it.

This was the author's first novel. The notes claim a sequel is on its way. Perhaps if the protagonist cleans up her act, is actually developed (gains a personality), and behaves the way her background is written, it will be a series to follow.
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on May 20, 2016
Stone Maidens
By: Lloyd Devereux Richards
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller, Detective, Horror & (maybe even a little) Paranormal

I read this book months ago; I’m just now realizing I never reviewed it. This makes me feel badly because I actually liked the book and the author needs to know it. Reviews are bread and butter to writers!

So, Mr. Richards, let me tell you what I liked about your book:

1. The main character, Christine Prusik, "the chief forensic anthropologist for the FBI’s Chicago field office", is neurotic, anxiety ridden and comes complete with a devastating history. And yet, she’s also strong, smart and capable. The problem is, her co-workers don’t see her that way. That got my ire up—for both her and me. I hate being dismissed by men who think women are only important in kitchen’s and birthing rooms. So, you go Christine!

2. The story line is both entertaining and chilling. Not only is the killer cruel and monstrous he seems to be somehow linked—maybe on a psychic level to Christine’s history. Every move he makes is reminiscent of what she herself went through in New Guinea. (No spoilers from me!)

3. Joe, the local Sheriff Christine partners with to hunt this killer down, is a sweetheart…maybe to his detriment. I liked him very much. He’s very well written and makes the perfect yin to Christine’s yang.

4. Christine’s co-workers (including the boss she had an affair with) are jerks and misogynistic creeps. However, I liked how well they were written. I’ve known jerks just like them and these characters reminded me of my own personal cavemen experiences. When an author can make his characters so real you want to punch them…he’s a really good writer!

Here’s what I didn’t like, Mr. Richards:

1. While the story-line was entertaining, it wasn’t unique; not in its entirety. (The New Guinea side story was fairly different, however.) At times, I almost felt as if I were watching an episode of Law and Order, SVU. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story-line, I did. I like Law and Order and I liked this book. I’m just saying it was a little predictable. Just a little.

That’s it. My only “criticism” and the reason I would rate this book a 4.5. But, Amazon doesn’t have ½ star ratings so I had to make it a four. But, I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes mystery, intrigue, detective stories and paranormal touches. It’s a good read!
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on August 11, 2013
I'll start by saying that I gave this book 1.5 stars because Richards is actually a really good writer and I can tell that he has the ability to write a suspenseful thriller. I'll say I ONLY gave this book 1.5 stars because this book was an absolute disaster and Richards skills as a writer are the only thing that save this book from having NO stars. Richards set out to write a book that is heavy in the forensic sciences and it becomes obvious very early on that he did no research in actual forensic science.

The lead character is a forensic anthropologist, but Richards has her not only functioning as the FBI Supervisory Special Agent in Charge, which she's not, she's a forensic scientist, that is made clear multiple times, but he also has her functioning as the forensic pathologist. All of the victims are more or less fully intact. The particular skill set possessed by a forensic anthropologist would not have been called upon unless the bodies were mostly skeletonized, fragmented or otherwise extremely damaged, such as in an explosion or burning.

Another problem is the other forensic experts on the FBI team, they discuss aspects of the case with each other jumping back and forth in the same sentence between professional jargon and layman translations of that jargon. Additionally, they give explanations to each other for things, that the others, also being experts in forensics, should already know. And what's more, the explanations are wrong. Not to mention the main character popping Xanax like no body's business. Maybe most people don't realize this, but Xanax is in the same family as Valium, it's not only in the same family, it's like the bigger stronger brother of Valium. No one popping Xanax like the main character is going to be thinking clear headed enough to being doing this particular job. You can't even legally drive for 8 hours after taking Xanax.

Then there is this other character with the visions. He is introduced as he is going to see his PSYCHIATRIST, not psychologist, psychiatrist. I don't know who is in more denial about what is going on with this character. The guy or the psychiatrist. The guy is taken to the psychiatrist with what are essentially vivid descriptions of what, by all accounts are very vivid visual, auditory and olfactory hallucinations and the psychiatrists response is to label these hallucinations "Day Dreams" and to wax on about how everyone dreams and dreams are just dreams, nothing to worry about, just need to learn to focus better. And then gives him a prescription for Amitriptyline (which is an antidepressant and not recommended for use in patients with schizophrenia or Bi-polar) and a prescription for Mellaril to treat his insomnia (Mellaril is a strong antipsychotic that is rarely prescribed because of the extreme and potentially lethal side effects)it is not given for insomnia. When the patient complains that he is having difficulty waking up in the morning the psychiatrist recommends backing off on how much he is taking of the Mellaril until he no longer has difficulty waking up in the morning. Holy Cow! Anyone who knows anything about antipsychotic medications knows you DO NOT play fast and loose with the dosage and you most certainly don't play loose with the dosage of an antipsychotic like Mellaril.

Estimating time of death by stating that green bottle fly's wouldn't have laid eggs on an exposed body in the middle of July in Indiana for at least 24 hours? Try less than an hour. And further estimating time of death with the explanation that the eggs would have taken 9-10 days to hatch? Uhm...did you do ANY kind of research? Seriously, in warm conditions, like Indiana in July, those eggs would have hatched in as little as 10 hours and if it were a chilly fall they may have taken as much as 3 days to hatch. In 10 days in the middle of July those eggs not only would have hatched, the larvae would have gone through all 3 instars and been a pupal stage.

Now we get to ridiculous characterizations. Why on earth would the police DISPATCHER be wearing a gun and gun belt while she sat in the station functioning as a dispatcher? Police/Sheriff office dispatchers are not generally officers. And from the way this one was described, she was not pulling double duty as both a dispatcher and an officer. Which means she was filling the function of your typical small town dispacher, which is essentially a secretary.

And the Sheriff. He's been given a tip about what may have happened to a girl who has been reported missing, he goes to investigate, he finds evidence that supports the eye witness account. He finds blood next to the side walk that runs along the road next to the woods in the vicinity where the eye witness says he saw a man splattered with "red polka dots" shoving something into his truck bed. He calls the town coroner to take a sample of the blood. They are going to send the blood off to be analyzed for DNA and Blood typing (which incidentally the coroner said the blood typing would take at least a day, seriously? When I was in high school almost 20 years ago, in my biology class we did a blood typing activity with these little kits that gave us the results in a matter of minutes.) Where this scenario really runs off the rails is after they gather a blood sample and look around noting that they don't see disturbed leaves along the edge of the woods to suggest a struggle. Also they note the blood was in drops not smeared, so they speculate about how it got there and throw out this gem "it's looks like arterial splatter". And then they walk away. Really, they walk away and decide they will look around a little more in a week or so if the DNA results come back positive for the missing girl. I realize that this is a small town sheriff, but seriously, I can't believe he is really that much of an idiot. Come on, picture yourself as the Sheriff, as the sheriff you've received a report of a girl missing, you have also received a report of a suspicious looking man with red spatters over his clothes and face stuffing something under a paint tarp in his truck bed in the exact location that the missing girl was supposed to have been located, you go to the location of the eye witness account and you find blood on the ground next to the woods, that is still fresh enough that it is tacky. And then you, as the Sheriff, come to the conclusion that you DON'T think that is sufficient reason to go looking around a bit in the nearby woods? Supposedly, the rational for this reasoning is that if the girls parents hear about you looking around in the woods after finding fresh blood they may jump to the worst conclusions. Seriously, come on.

At that point I was so mad at all of the stupid lapses in common sense and glaring lack of even basic Wikipedia level research into the contents of the book that I threw it in a drawer. I had to really convince myself to finish the book, because I hate not finishing books.

Even if you can get past all of THAT, the main character as another reviewer mentioned "is a hot mess". Her boss, the man she is still swooning over at the same time she is resenting and hating him is a jack ass. Everyone who is supposed to be in positions of authority and supervision are absolute disasters at being team leaders and supervisors while at the same time they are chewing everyone out on their teams for essentially not being psychic magicians who can magically materialize evidence and read their supervisors minds. And then you have this whole other paranormal thing and cannibal thing and they just don't really fit, they feel like they are being thrown in from left field to give it more drama but it feels artificial.

Like I said in the beginning, the writing itself is very good. I think given different content I would really like Richards as an author, but seriously, how did this get past his editors to actually get published?
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on September 7, 2015
Loved this book! This book started out just steady but the pace increased rapidly until I couldn't put it down! Mr. Richards has a wonderful way of drawing you in with the characters. They have complex problems that many people can relate to. He really seems to appreciate the intricacies of women in law enforcement.
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VINE VOICEon November 11, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Right of the bat, I will tell you what cost this book a star: the protagonist is a forensic anthropologist (my major), but I didn't see her conduct any actual osteologic investigations during this story. It was her profession that caused me to pick up this book; I like well-written forensic anthro fiction.

So, there's that. All the same, this is a tightly conducted murder mystery. FBI Special Agent Christine Prusik is the SAC (special agent in charge) of an investigation into a series of murders in southern Indiana. Her antagonist is not so much the murderer as it is a subordinate member of her staff: a man for whom reporting to a woman rankles so much that he tries to subvert her at every turn. As more and more young women go missing, each of them turning up with a significant clue upon autopsy, we see both the anti-Prusik attitude and Prusik's anxiety about the case ratchet up.

It's a good whodunnit, although I began to suspect how it would come out about halfway into the book. I blame this on having read many mysteries over the course of my life; it's pretty difficult to get one past me. That said, I really think that the author made his protagonist a forensic anthropologist to try to take advantage of what people in the field have referred to for years as the "CSI effect." He could just as easily have given her a different discipline and would have made no difference to the story given the lack of forensic anthro contained therein.
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