Secrets and Lies – Review

Secrets and Lies, ABC
Starring: Ryan Phillipe, Juliette Lewis
Grade: B-

Based on the commercials and trailers I was really looking forward to seeing this new ABC murder mystery series.

Premise

Ben Crawford (Ryan Philipe) a family man in a small town goes for an early morning run and discovers his neighbor’s son in the woods, dead. He runs home in a panic and calls the police. But rather than being lauded as a hero and a good Samaritan, the lead detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) sees him as the prime suspect in the murder of the young boy.

Good, solid premise – an unassuming family man is yanked from his ordinary world into a nightmare scenario that would horrify any normal human being.

Back story

Ben is married to Christie and they married young. He is a house painter and his wife is a real estate agent who makes most of the money. They have two daughters – Natalie 17, and Abby 12. The youngest daughter is close to her father and stands by him. There is trouble in the marriage but despite this they seem to love each other. Ben’s slacker friend Dave lives in their guest house – drinks too much and is a womanizer. Tom, the murder victim is the son of Jess an attractive woman who live across the street. She has an ex special forces husband from whom she is estranged and who is recently showing violent tendencies.

I want to avoid giving any spoilers to those who haven’t seen the show yet so I won’t do a play-by-play on the story itself. It is well-written for the most part and worth watching. However, I had some problems suspending my disbelief in certain areas:

1. Ben is immediately regarded as a suspect and crucified in the press, shunned by the neighbors and even his house is vandalized. But the writer fails to show us why. There are several interactions between Ben and Detective Cornell that are tense and accusative but we don’t know why. There is no explanation why people immediately jump to the conclusion that Ben would kill a five-year-old boy. No criminal background, no unsavory interaction with children, no apparent motive. Yet within 24 hours people are convinced Ben did it and are distancing themselves from him. Why? I just couldn’t buy that it would happen that quickly without some substantial reason.

2. Detective Cornell is a very unlikable character. She is sour-faced from moment she appears on the scene. Granted, murder investigators lead grim lives and their work must weigh on them but they aren’t necessarily grump, sourpusses who cock their eyebrow and smirk at everything that moves. Also, I don’t think that detectives are that obvious, even they suspect someone of a crime, especially if they haven’t got any solid evidence, they aren’t going to come at a suspect like that. Instead, I’d expect them to be a little more friendly, and try to get their suspect to trust them a little, hopefully so they might slip and give themselves away.

Summary

Overall I think the story is good and the characters will be flushed out as the story is told. The production values are good. And Phillipe is quite good as the confused and isolated man accused of a terrible crime. There are lots of twists and turns and surprise reveals that create doubt for the viewer and should keep people watching. So, if you like a good solid mystery I think this will be a good addition to your Sunday night viewing and it’s positioned between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, so it should get decent traction.

Personally, I’d like to know more about Detective Cornell and why she is such a tight ass and more about Jess, the victim’s mother. I am suspicious of her already and believe we’ll find her caught in some pretty big lies in the not too distant future.

Did you see the show? What did you think? Any theories on who did it yet?
Let me know in the comments.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pretty Little Liars – Is Mona Really Dead?

mona

Anyone who has watched more than three episodes of PLL knows that nothing is ever at it seems. That’s why we’re hooked, because the producers and writers are so good at fooling us.

For years the producers convinced us that Ally was dead only to reveal not so long ago that Ally was not dead and had been on the run all that time. (Although the pragmatist in mean wonders how they could’ve buried the wrong girl, believing it to be Ally. DNA would’ve been used to establish identity and had it been used it wouldn’t have come back as an i.d. for Ally. But I digress…) And they also made us believe that Ezra and Toby were A. Not so much.

Where is Mona really and what is she doing?

Mona has always been a bit of a chameleon on the show, shedding one skin only to expose another. And consequently has had as many lives as a cat. She’s the character we love to hate, love to suspect, love to fear and ultimately feel sorry for because she is the epitome of the insecure high school girl who no matter how hard she tries only really wants acceptance and to fit in.

Right now we are to believe Mona is dead and Ally killed her. Hey we’ve got a video with a blonde stabbing her, right? Yes and no. We have the video but it’s all weird angles and blurs and we never see the attacker’s face. And while we were all sure that she was in that industrial barrel in the storage locker, surprise, it’s not her. Probably next season we’ll learn it’s CeeCee or Meredith or just some homeless guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I believe Mona is still alive and hiding out. Remember that hitherto unknown friend who just showed up in town? She’s blonde, right? What if Mona and her ‘friend’ cooked up the idea of setting up Ally? They staged the video and the crime scene and voila she’s dead. Mona is so tech savvy the video would’ve been a snap for her to make and she’s not squeamish either, so drawing a vile of her own blood she could’ve done without blinking. And most importantly, they can’t find her body. Now I know that Ally is resourceful but how far could she have taken a body and gotten rid of it? She’s just one 120 pound teenage girl after all. Also Mike’s mysterious behavior gives me pause. The bag of candy on the pier? Is it for Mona? Does he know she’s alive and Mike is helping her to get some much deserved payback? Could be. But to me, the fact that they never found Mona’s body tells me she is still alive.

I guess we’ll find out next season.

What do you think? Is Mona dead? If so, where is her body? Did Ally kill her or somebody else? Or, like me, do you expect her to show up in the flesh much like Ally did?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

A Walk Among the Tombstone – Movie Review

A_Walk_Among_the_Tombstones_poster

Based on the novel A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

This movie is based on an old Larry Block novel from the Matthew Scudder series. I’m not a huge Block fan but his books are solid and I do find the Scudder character appealing and likeable. So I was certain I would really enjoy the movie. Since I hadn’t read this particular book, I assumed that I wouldn’t have the usual hissy-fit about a poor adaptation that I have when I see movies based on books I know and love.

The story takes place after Scudder has left the police department and is working as a sort of free agent P.I. He’s sworn off alcohol and lives a quiet, albeit lonely life. He’s approached by the brother of a high level drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped and murdered.

Scudder goes to see the drug kingpin and they don’t hit it off, so Scudder passes on the job. Later on, the drug dealer shows up at his place and gives him the real story of what happened. And it’s grisly, cruel and inhuman what these men have done to this guy’s wife.

Scudder decides to take the case. But as he investigates, he discovers that there are other women who have suffered the same fate. All connected to drug dealers, all tortured, raped and killed in sadistic ways. Scudder now has a hard-on to find these degenerates and put an end to them.

For a little comic relief and human interest, we meet a young homeless boy named TJ, who Scudder befriends and helps. He’s a funny, smart alec kid with Sickle Cell Anemia with loads of attitude, some courage and a good heart. Probably the best scenes in the movie, in my opinion.

While I wouldn’t pan the movie – it’s definitely watchable – I don’t necessarily recommend it either. I don’t know if it was Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Scudder or the direction or both but the movie was too glum. And dark. And depressing. And I’ve never found Block’s novels to be that way so I’m assuming it’s the film makers that made that call. I realize it’s a murder mystery and not a musical comedy but the film lacked the humanity that Block writes so well. And for me, that has to be an element in a story like this – otherwise after you’re done watching it, you just want to blow your brains out.

Would I recommend it? Well, if it was a choice between watching this movie or watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels, I might opt for the movie. On the other hand, there are all those clothes and retro hairstyles. Maybe you’d enjoy the book more.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

The Love and Hate of Writing a New Series – Guest Post by C. Hope Clark

Murder on Edisto

C. Hope Clark is guest-posting today and sharing some great advice about writing a book series. I certainly have an interest in the topic myself and I hope it will give you some insights into your own projects. And by the way, it’s Hope’s birthday today.  Happy birthday, Hope and take it away. WC

Starting a novel is a frustrating venture for an author. All that empty white space awaiting genius. So much room for brilliance . . . and failure. Writing down the bones of a new story, especially under the shadow of a deadline, is pressure. Creating a virgin series, however, can reap an anxiety attack.

After years of dreaming about a home for my Carolina Slade Mystery Series, and finding that home with Bell Bridge Books, I envisioned myself writing about Slade for the rest of my life. I would become the Sue Grafton of South Carolina, carrying a character through twenty years of crime solving and family feuds, with a slight smack of romance for good measure. I’d be old and gray and still leading Slade into danger, and making her scramble her way out.

Then my publisher asked for a different series.

In a knee-jerk balk, I argued the request. She calmly explained that I needed diversity. She saw more talent in me that wouldn’t come to pass unless I had to stretch my writing muscle in a different direction. The flattery in the message gave me pause. Then after much tossing and turning, I caved. Besides, when a publisher says write this way, you don’t turn diva and refuse. So, I asked with guarded concession, what are you looking for?

Southern in a locale of your choosing, she said. Make the protagonist real law enforcement, not an amateur sleuth. And of course throw in a heaping dose of family drama.

I won’t lie: the assignment scared me crazy. What would my Slade fans think? Would I lose readers, not that I had a Sue Grafton-level fan club? As hard as I’d worked for the past decade developing Slade, I felt I was abandoning her. Seriously, it hurt. I think I even cried.

Opening my notebook, I started with location, since I believe setting is as important as the protagonist. In my tales, anyway. To me, sense of place is like a fingerprint for a story, especially a mystery. And since this place had to carry an entire series, it had to be seductive.

Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Obscure, haunting, remote, with a sense of escape. I knew Edisto, having visited it since I was a teen. No motels or franchises. Laid back without the neon. For me, that decision served as the catalyst for the rest of the series structure.

So now I have two series under my belt, and a box full of lessons learned about series.

1) Plant your flag. My ideas center around setting. Yours might be a particular type of crime, a unique profession, or an especially eclectic character, but find that aspect that allows you to plant your flag, because from this choice will arise all else. The very nature of my setting told me to weave it into the other characters, choices they made, clues, crimes, reactions, obstacles, and of course, the climax and solution. It’s a unifying thread that brands the series, to establish a consistency through all the books.

2) Let your titles identify. My newest release is Murder on Edisto. The series is The Edisto Island Mysteries. If your anchor is character, then your series title might be named after your protagonist, like the Walt Longmire series written by Craig Johnson of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. With Star Wars, you know you’re getting an environment, a specially built world around which all the players, arcs, and stories revolve, much like Game of Thrones. The Dark Tower series from Stephen King. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The item, place or character is the key.

3) Avoid backstory. One of the biggest temptations is to regurgitate scenes and history from previous books. In a series, each book usually needs to stand alone as well as hold the thread. Sure, the earlier books impact the current one in a reader’s hands, but backstory must be handled with a deft hand, sprinkled with a light touch. The reader does not need to know all those details, just hints, because the attention is on the now, not the before, in case a reader starts with book two or three.

4) Keep facts straight. There’s a reason you see guidebooks and “bibles” for famous series. Facts pile up and become hard to manage. Ages, car makes, streets, eye color, names, rank, employment and familial status all become fuzzy over time because the author edits and rewrites so many times. Most of these facts change between the first draft and the final edit. Spreadsheets help. I also keep a dry erase board on the wall.

5) Write several synopses for several books. You do not know if you have a series until you write a synopsis for several of the books. I once thought of a marvelous idea for a mystery and came home eager to flesh it out. The initial story held great potential with some curious players and a unique crime, but I could not find the common thread for a second or third book. Disappointing, but I would not have known without thinking ahead. I outlined three Edisto Island mysteries before writing the first chapter of Murder on Edisto.

There are many intricate rules of thumb for writing a series. Readers adore series, that’s for sure, and they stay hungry for those recurring characters and themed stories they can become intimate with as time goes on. It’s lovely to have such a structure in place each time you start writing a new story, but it’s also a challenge to remain consistent while still creating a fresh story that doesn’t fall into an easily recognized template. Love and hate. But the rewards are immensely satisfying, for both the author and the reader.

C. Hope ClarkMurder on Edisto is C. Hope Clark’s latest release, and represents the first in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Also known for her award-winning Carolina Slade series, Hope finds additional time to edit FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. Her newsletters reach over 40 thousand readers.