Daily Review: Spent Identity by Marlene M Bell
March 4, 2020
An edgy mystery with lots of action, a story you will find riveting and suspenseful
To find her missing aunt, she has to unearth the secrets of the past. But lies and deceit run through the very heart of their town…
What started out as a promising relationship with adventurer and tycoon Alec Zavos has fizzled into an uncertain future for antiquities expert Annalisse Drury.
Returning to Walker Farm in Upstate New York to see her Aunt Kate should have been a welcome homecoming and distraction.
Instead, she finds the childhood home she expected to inherit is for sale, without her permission. What’s worse, Kate’s ranch manager makes a gruesome discovery in the barn: the body of an unidentified man, dead by foul play.
Annalisse turns in Alec’s direction for help. She and her aunt shelter on his estate in the Catskills while the authorities canvass the scene.
But when Kate herself disappears without a trace, Annalisse fears the worst: that one of the many secrets of her hometown has ensnared her family—a secret someone is willing to kill for to keep hidden.
Marlene M. Bell is a member of Authors Marketing Guild.
I came for the mystery and stayed for the secrets revealed.
But what really kept me turning the pages in Spent Identity was what happened to Kate? And who is the dead guy in the barn? Ms. Bell skillfully keeps us guessing throughout most of the novel. There are kidnappings, multiple plot twists, various potential baddies, and a few more spoiler-y wild goose chases sprinkled throughout.
The novel moves at a mostly quick pace, with Annalisse driving the search for her aunt.
On the character front, I don’t know if I would want to hang out with this cast of characters on a personal level. Disaster does seem to follow Annalisse and the other characters (and I’m accident-prone enough!). Annalisse describes herself as “Dangerous to longevity”.
I do appreciate that she is determined to find her aunt and is willing to fight back when needed. Alec is an interesting character. He has realized that he’s taken on too much work (as a result of actions in the first novel) and that he needs to make some changes to keep their relationship alive. I appreciate the growth shown in his character to the betterment of their relationship.
I loved the addition of P.I. Bill Drake to the characters in this novel. He steps in to help find Kate. While doing so, he injects some much-needed humor into the story. I’d be interested in reading other stories with his low-key Florida vibe.
This novel also serves a somewhat cautionary tale of don’t mess with the crime scene! Annalisse, Kate, and Ethan all try to play amateur sleuth with the dead body in the barn. And I imagine any detective who came across the disturbed scene would be cringing. I think we should take this as a warning and NOT disturb crime scenes when we come across them!
Spent Identity is the second book in a series, but it can be read as a stand-alone. Ms. Bell covers enough of the first novel to fill in any plot gaps for a new reader while not recapping so much as to fatigue a seasoned reader.
Overall, the fast pace kept my attention and the mystery kept me intrigued. Check out Spent Identity for a great mystery read.
By Jane Z
When the previous book in this series, Stolen Obsession, toured with Lone Star in 2018, I did not have the opportunity to read it. Garnering so much fanfare from the team definitely got my attention, so I was super excited to get a chance to read this book for this tour.
Although the author does a great job of incorporating previous events into this story so that new readers won’t feel lost, I do want to return to the first book simply to understand more of the nuance that is certainly difficult to capture when you start from the middle. While I enjoyed the story, I’m quite sure I would have felt more connected to the characters and their romance had I obviously began with the first book.
From the very beginning, a disarming tone is set up that suggests not everything is what it seems. Something is dead, but no one is quite sure what. When the body is found, questions surface about identity and whether the actual ID card discovered can be trusted.
And then suddenly, Kate vanishes. So many crimes are going on, but are they all connected or just coincidences? Escalating crimes follow, bringing more danger to the mysteries. Walking through the perspectives of Annalisse and Alex allows the truth to unfold right along with the reader, so every twist and turn is shocking for everyone and incredibly difficult to pin down until the final reveal.
While at times unsettling, I enjoyed just how much action and adventure Annalisse finds herself in considering her everyday career as an antiquities appraiser. While I personally haven’t determined how I feel about Annalisse, her character is a testament to how lifelike she has been written. She could be charming, annoying, resilient, fragile, or fickle. She has strong emotional responses and reactions, yet I found myself either wanting her to trust her instincts more or acknowledge the possibility that if a clue looks like a clue it more than likely is a clue.
The tension is fantastically built as the characters move to new locations to find out more information; however, the pacing tended to slow down once they arrived and a casual conversation ensued or romantic trysts were attempted. I found myself baffled at times by the lack of urgency when the violence and upheaval were taking a dramatic uptick. But in the end, it seemed to speak once again to how authentic the writing reflects our own reactions at any given moment.
“The scent of honeysuckle from pots on the porch quickly replaced her concern for something dead nearby.”
Echoing the reflections of fellow reviewers, the author’s descriptive writing is phenomenal at setting the entire scene, especially when it comes to the olfactory sense.
Whether it’s the body decomposing in the barn, Kate’s signature lavender sachets, rank body odor, or the fresh scent of warm pastry, every aroma emanates off the page, leaving you scrunching your nose or taking a deep breath! The imagery is beautiful or nightmarish but remarkably well done.
Overall, this was a fast-paced, engaging, and easy read that will resonate with readers who enjoy their mysteries with a little more edginess. I look forward to the next book, Calico Raven, to discover what Annalisse will find herself thrust into next!
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