War Factory (Transformation Trilogy, Book 2)
Book 1 spoiler warning: Since this is a review of the second book in the trilogy, there are spoilers for the plot of the first book, Dark Intelligence.
Premise: The surviving characters from Dark Intelligence cross the galaxy—and cross paths—in search of the war factory that created Penny Royal. Several characters continue to experience physical and mental transformations, and an enigmatic new entity becomes involved.
Stay away if you dislike: Graphic violence (torture and brutal deaths). Gross and bizarre scenes of body horror. Never-ending tech jargon.
Recommended if you like: Lots of ship-to-ship and person-to-person combat. Lots of creativity and weirdness. A sense of incredibly large scale. A dark, cynical, but believable future society. Lots of late-night page-turning.
Don’t expect: Scientific explanations of the technology in the book (sort of—see below). Deep relationships or emotions. “Big questions” or “big ideas” (though there are plenty of cool ideas). And finally, don’t expect more than a few hints about Penny Royal’s ultimate goal—it seems that won’t be revealed until the third book.
Trick of the Eye
Jane Stanton Hitchcock
Premise: An artist is hired by a wealthy widow to paint an old ballroom using trompe-l’œil techniques. The artist discovers that the ballroom had originally been constructed for the widow’s daughter, who was later murdered; the murder was never solved. The artist begins investigating, but unearths much more than she expected.
Stay away if you dislike: Stilted language. Subtle worship of wealth and status. Plots where everything is a bit too tied together at the end.
Recommended if you like: High society. Dark family secrets. Mysteries without any police or court elements. Surprising revelations/twists.
Don’t expect: Very much detail about painting techniques, or about art movements and styles. These aren’t really a focus of the story, despite art being a superficial theme.
The Woman in Cabin 10
Premise: A travel journalist is sent to report on the first voyage of an exclusive cruise ship for wealthy passengers. While at sea, she witnesses a murder—but can’t see who committed it, and can’t prove it happened.
Stay away if you dislike: Protagonists who make frustrating mistakes. The word “orientated”. Couples who communicate so poorly you wonder whether they could order pizza without breaking up. Settings that are sparsely described.
Recommended if you like: Mysteries with elements of a psychological thriller. Mysteries where the protagonist is a believable person, rather than a superhuman deduction machine. Flawed protagonists who try their best to do the right thing in a scary situation.