LSBBT BOOK REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Coded for Murder by Dianne Smithwick-Braden (Mystery)


Genre: Murder Mystery / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: DSB Mysteries
Publication Date: September 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 358 pages


Jade O’Neal is a senior at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas. She’s on track to graduate with highest honors and a degree in history until she is accused of murder. She juggles her busy school and work schedule around taking care of an overgrown Rottweiler and being questioned by police until she finds a series of clues hidden in puzzle form.

Time is against her as she follows the clues to find the true identity of the murderer while avoiding arrest and her own murder.

If you’re a fan of mysteries and really want to put your sleuthing skills to the test or maybe you’re just simply looking for a place to start within the genre, then here is your next read! This is an engaging and easy read that lures you in under the pretense of quickly solving the case; however, puzzles are tricky for a reason, and this book might just trip you up as well!

Jade is a young woman anticipating her graduation from college and living a very normal if not boring existence. She has a fantastic and enviable relationship with her uncle, Erik, who has essentially filled the father figure role following the suspicious death of her own father years earlier. The synopsis and the opening sequence of the first chapter set the framework for the mounting tension that escalates to the perilous danger that Jade ultimately finds herself in, flinging her life into anything other than monotonous. While I do feel that too much of Jade’s eventual troubles are given away too early, there is a pervasive sense of dread that lingers as you get to know these characters. They each become remarkably lifelike, but sadly in the back of your mind you know that something terrible is about to happen. Everyone and everything is incredibly realistic, painting an authentic picture of how suddenly life can change due to tragic and/or unfortunate circumstances. The author masterfully created Everyman so that any reader could project themselves into this plot.

Puzzles play a role in the friendship between Jade and her uncle, which became an intriguing aspect of the story that worked well towards understanding how to solve the mystery. It was a clever use of subterfuge that not only showcased the intimate bond shared between the two, but was also an intuitive way on Erik’s part to redirect Jade’s focus away from her pain. More often than not the clues were so cryptic that it was hard to see their usefulness; however, the unspoken connection between them provided enough to steer her in the right direction. It was quite fun to watch and definitely provided that needed breath before the suspense kicked up again.

Jade’s budding friendship with Hudson, a police officer working with her case, provides a valuable and relatable glimpse into the fine line that the law enforcement community walks when trying to balance personal and professional relationships. They navigate a difficult road that requires them to both build and maintain friendships and trust while also upholding the laws they are sworn to protect. Given Jade’s circumstances it is easy to see how she would be skeptical about his motivations to “help” her, but gradually, his continued presence and superb ability to compartmentalize provides the anchor she so desperately needs. 

The vast majority of the story is told from Jade’s perspective; however, there are smaller snippets from the antagonists’ viewpoint that while brief were useful in clinching the tense grip the story will have on readers. I certainly would have enjoyed much more from their outlook as well as being inside Erik’s point of view to provide more understanding and investment into the overall mystery. Personal preference aside, the perspectives as written work well together to spotlight the ensuing conflict. The story is overwhelmingly heavy on dialogue and minor details that for the most part could have been eliminated to tighten the narrative, yet their inclusion continues to highlight the normality of our own lives, while also adding some charm and lightheartedness to an otherwise stressful situation.
Many thanks to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author for providing me with a free copy of the book. This is my honest and thoughtful opinion.

Dianne Smithwick-Braden is a native Texan raised on the family farm near Vernon, Texas. She seasons her mysteries with a little romance, a dash of adventure, and a touch of humor. She currently resides in Amarillo, Texas with her husband, Richard. 

GRAND PRIZE:Signed copy of Coded for Murder, hot chocolate mix, mug, crossword puzzle book, mini-notepads, M&Ms, clip-on book light
TWO WINNERS: Signed copies of Coded for MurderFebruary 25-March 5, 2020
(US Addresses Only)

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Best of luck!
Many thanks again to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author! It was a pleasure reading, reviewing, and hosting! And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more opinions and author extras!

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