Monday, July 10, 2006

Mystery Book Review: 13 Days by L. A. Starks

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of 13 Days by L. A. Starks. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

13 Days by L. A. StarksSynopsis (from the publisher): What could spike gasoline prices even higher?

Energy executive Lynn Dayton thinks her challenge is fixing the troubled refinery her company has just acquired on the Houston Ship Channel. But soon she must save it, and other oil refineries, from the industrial havoc and deaths directed by a French saboteur, simultaneously fighting off threats to her own life.

As Lynn deals with chemical leaks, disloyal employees, a new season of hurricanes, and mounting casualties, Robert Guillard, a corrupted idealist, plans to manipulate her through her vulnerable sister.

But Robert underestimates his prey.

Review: L. A. Starks' first novel, 13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy, is a topical international thriller set in large part at one of the many oil refinery complexes that border the Houston Ship Channel.

Lynn Dayton, the oil industry executive at the center of 13 Days, is stretched so thin, both professionally and personally, that she barely has time to deal with all the issues at hand. And that is part of the problem with this book. Starks has included so many subplots involving Lynn that they ultimately dilute the effectiveness of this otherwise well written and thought out suspense novel. Had she scaled back the scope of material included, the end result would have been a much more focused, far more suspenseful, book.

13 Days moves along at a brisk pace and is generally intelligently written. The conspiracy plot is just absurd enough to be totally believable, and it is refreshing that Starks selected a group other than the stereotypical Middle Eastern extremists or the US Government to be the puppet master pulling the strings behind the conspiracy.

The book is prefaced by a list of key characters, some background notes, a map of the refinery, and a (ahem) simplified refinery process flow diagram. Many chapters are also preceded by definitions of terms that help the reader better understand and appreciate the complexity of the oil refining business, and, by inference, the difficulty Lynn faces in identifying the problems at her refinery.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing an ARC of 13 Days for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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