Monday, July 30, 2012

"Life in Death" - by Harlow Drake (Novel Publicity Blog Tour)

"When a girl that social worker Kari Marchant places in foster care is brutally murdered, she's compelled to learn why. Her quest for the truth pits her against friends and coworkers.  As Kari works to solve the horrific plot, more people die.  How far should she go to learn the truth -- even if it threatens her life?

When homicide detective Rance Nicolet meets Kari, his attraction to her is powerful -- and the feeling is mutual.  But things between them go terribly wrong when Kari's old lover is found murdered with a letter from her in his pocket.  The evidence against Kari is damning.  Rance's personal and professional lives collide.  Does he blindly believe the woman he's falling in love with or follow the evidence no matter where it leads?"
About the Author
Harlow Drake was born in Kansas City, MO, but grew up in Denver, CO. She relocated to North Carolina five years ago with her husband, two dogs, and 16-year old twins.

She shares a birthday with the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. In keeping with his legacy, she is currently working on taking over the world. Harlow's positive attitude and fresh take on life are her tools and conquest is certain.  She spends her free time writing, dancing, traveling and defending mailboxes from her 16-year-old twins’ driving.

Her debut novel, LIFE IN DEATH, is a murder mystery which pulls from real-life situations from her own family history. She felt compelled to share her story with the world while offering a thrilling, entertaining, and amusing escape for readers.

In keeping with her commitment to improving the lives of children, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of her book will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club in her home state of North Carolina.

She loves to connect with her readers and can be found on Twitter, her blog, or on Facebook.  

When I was 16, a story came on the news in Alaska that exposed consequences on children of overworking an underpaid social service staff whose mission is to protect children.  Yet what happens when members of that system are not just negligent from exhaustion, but instead directly worsen the problem through their own actions and greed?
The Good
This book was not what I expected when I began reading.  The first few pages filled my mind with spy stories, governmental officials with seedy pasts, and crooked cops.  While some of these elements are found in this story in one capacity or another, they do not do so in the expected manner...except the governmental official with a seedy past that made me want to reach through the book pages and strangle the s.o.b..  

A social worker finds herself in the middle of an impossible situation where seeming negligence has meant the death of a child she was trying to save.  People all around her are doing things that are less than great, she is under official suspicion for committing murders, and her personal life is resembling a straw hut following an earthquake.  A child is dead, more people are dying, and those dying have connections to her...a woman unwittingly in the middle of a web designed to exploit children (not in the middle as in her actions are aiding the horror, but in the middle of it nonetheless).  

Drake impressed me - her writing style is flawless and she rewove well-used plot points (strained social service worker, dead kid, a cop attracted to a "person of interest" on a case, etc) in a way that caused plot twists akin to turns on some of my favorite roller coaster rides.  Ah ha!  I figured....nothing out, actually...this thought came to mind a few times.  Just about when I figured out whodunit, it would turn out that it could not be that person, or that said person could not be involved in the way that I thought.  Superb mystery writing, that!

Though this work is relatively short, I came to care for the main character - Kari Marchant - by the end of the work.  A woman who is seemingly caught in the middle of a web, like I said earlier, she isn't entirely innocent herself.  There is a remarkable surprise at the end of the book that left me wondering "Just who is this Kari, anyways?"  Luckily, the line at the top of the cover makes it seem as though this is an installation in a series revolving around Kari...which is a good thing because I want to know more about her!

So yeah, this book has a plot that simply will not let go, characters who are believable, novel usage of well-worn plot points, and a moral that hopefully will help readers not let social services off the hook.  The scary thing about the plot is that I could see it actually happening, and that is terrifying.  We as responsible citizens of the world should not allow a social situation to exist where this plot can occur.

The Bugly
This book simply needs to be longer.  My major issue with it is that so much is happening in such a short space.  There are so many elements that need to be explored further...what drew the two main bad people to work in the U.S.?  What did Kari's son do that warranted his moving back in with her when he had been living with his dad (sub-plot, I know...but still)?  We can conjecture the answer to this question, but what exactly was happening to the kids?  Why didn't any of them go to the officials?  Is the twist tossed in at the end going to be explored further (and what caused the person in question to commit that act in the first place?)?....  At times, it felt as though I as a reader was sitting on top of a stone being skipped into the pond of a plot, only getting enough pieces here and there to get a picture of the current situation, when instead I wanted to be in a canoe getting the entire picture.  Perhaps this is me wanting too much context, but there were simply too many unanswered questions at the end of this work.

Though the characters are believable, some of their situations were not.  The two main bad guys were able to hide their nefarious activities, though both of them worked in the public, okay.  Conveniently no one noticed anything was amiss until a certain little girl went missing and a certain social service worker was involved in the investigation?  Sorry, but the extent of their activities should have tipped off flags somewhere, particularly given that it seems their activities had been taking place for years.

Also, I didn't see how the title really applied to the work.

Overall, this is a very good piece.  A lot of action is packed into a relatively short space, and yet that action flows incredibly well.  The characters are not knights in shining armor who have nothing to hide - dings pepper even the heroine's armor.  It is an accessible read to the general public (by this I mean that it does not contain so much jargon that one must have a degree in a specific area to understand it), and is so realistic that - unfortunately - I could actually see this happening.  Yet there are too many unanswered questions and there were a few too many situations that were just a smidge too convenient.  Hence, I rate this work a 8 out of 10.

Hey hey hey - there is a giveaway to be had!  Enter for a chance at one of
 3 autographed paperback copies of "Life in Death" or a $15 Amazon gift card!!


  1. I totally agree the book needs to be longer - or have a sequel maybe?

    Thanks for the review!

    ~Marie, Novel Publicity

  2. OMG! Thank you so much for hosting me and for your awesome review of my novella! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Best regards.