2 out of 4 stars
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Bad Karma focuses on Zoey Callaway, a freelance information professional, as she delves into a mystery left behind when her uncle is found murdered in his home. His murder was staged as a suicide. Zoey disagrees with the assessment, as her uncle, a former cop, wouldn't have killed himself in such a manner. Having assisted Uncle Felix on some cold cases in the past, she is instantly drawn into his current case when she finds files hidden on a USB hard drive. Her search for her uncle’s killer leads to danger as the murderer quickly becomes focused on Zoey. Despite her dislike of guns, she might be forced to take one up to defend herself against this threat.
This mystery was plotted very well. It is what drives the novel, though there are some interesting asides about Zoey’s other freelance work. The events and actions were believable and well thought out. Like any good mystery, it was difficult to identify the ultimate culprit with multiple characters exhibiting suspicious behavior throughout. It was an enjoyable mystery story to read.
The biggest negative to this novel, and the reason I didn’t fully enjoy it, was a lack of characterization. From the start, we know very little about Zoey. This author clearly subscribes to a “tell” vs “show” attitude for characterization. We learn that the protagonist’s mother is an alcoholic because Zoey just tells us. Everything we learn about the characters is directly told to us. Most of the characters are static and one-dimensional, including Zoey. The most interesting characters were Karma, the cat, and Atlas, the dog. In fact, we find out more about Atlas’ past than nearly all of the characters!
Going further, the author generally doesn’t describe things in great detail. We learn the murderer's MO from a report and it’s very clinical. This lack of detail might be because the author has focused primarily on paranormal nonfiction rather than fiction. She needs to work on “showing” character development rather than “telling” us everything outright.
The editing was okay. There were a few mistakes here and there. There are also some satanic overtones, which might bother some who are religious. Ultimately the story was decent, but the lack of characterization hurt it a lot. I give Bad Karma by Debi Chestnut 2 out of 4 stars. While I did enjoy the book, the characters need a lot of work if the author wants to make it into a great series.
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