Petalfrog’s #CBR5 Review #6: Dead Weight (Lizzy Gardner Series #2) by T.R. Ragan

Again… what is with the covers of T.R. Ragan’s books?? These are both awful, just like the first ones! I don’t think I’m a particularly particular cover-person… but Ragan clearly needs a new cover artist.

Anyways, I’m not here to nitpick cover art (too late!). Okay, so Dead Weight, is the second in the Lizzy Gardner series. This book takes place a few months after Lizzy, her FBI boyfriend, and her two assistants (college student Jessica [I think] and damaged high schooler Hayley), thwarted the evil serial killer, Spiderman. This time around Lizzy is dealing with two more typical P.I. cases. The first involves a cold missing person’s case, of a teenage girl who ran away from home and then just disappeared. The second (and the main plot of the book) is another missing person’s case. This time, the missing person is a morbidly obese woman who recently became obsessed with a celebrity fitness guru. Her sister hires Lizzy, convinced guru is responsible for her sister’s disappearance.

The most interesting part of the book is when we follow a friend of the obese women, who manages to get herself kidnapped too, and locked in a crazy fitness cabin. This is pretty weird and unique, but didn’t really pay off. The tertiary plotline involves Hayley, who appears to be losing her mind as she seeks revenge on all the abusive men in her life. It’s pretty bizarre characterization, since I think I was supposed to root for her, but I was more sickened by her actions. This story had somewhat of a drastic tonal shift than the first one. In Abducted, Lizzy and her friends are in constant danger from Spiderman and there is a genuine threat. In Dead Weight, the focus is off of Lizzy and more in the mysteries, which in the end turned out to be a bit boring with no real pressure or consequence to them. I didn’t care for either of the missing women, nor the family members who sought them, so why would I care about the outcomes? I would sum this book up as a fairly standard mystery-thriller, with somewhat boring and unlikable characters, inconsistent plotting, and lack of suspense or urgency. Not my favorite.

Read more of my reviews at my blog!

Petalfrog’s #CBR5 Review #3: Abducted (Lizzy Gardner Series #1) by T.R. Ragan

Abducted is the first in the Lizzy Gardner series by self-published author, T.R. Ragan. When Lizzy Gardner was 15, she was kidnapped by serial killer “Spiderman,” and held hostage for weeks. Through her own wits and determination she managed to escape, the only girl to ever survive Spiderman, and soon became known as “the one who got away.” Battling some major psychological demons, she started her own PI practice investigating non-dramatic cases (workman’s comp!). On her downtime, she holds seminars teaching young girls how to defend themselves against a stranger’s attack (don’t get me started on the fact that most attacks against women are done by people they know, but okay!). Lizzy is beginning to feel some relief, as a man who confessed to being Spiderman was recently apprehended and found guilty of the crimes. Her relief is short-lived, however, as a teen girl’s body is found along with a note addressed to her… is the Spiderman back and after Lizzy?

Overall, this book was a fairly decent thriller. It’s not the deepest book out, and the writing is somewhat run of the mill, but it was good enough for me to want to read the second in the series (that review will be coming soon). I was a bit annoyed when, throughout the book, certain lines/points were repeated almost words for word. It is either quite pandering to the reader to assume we’ve forgotten key plot points, or lazy editing. Either way, it drove me a bit nuts.

Lizzy is a damaged character, obviously, but I didn’t find her to be particularly layered or complex. She hits every note you’d expect to see in a book-traumatized person (e.g., nightmares, distrustful) which makes for a somewhat clichéd character, but overall, as a protagonist she’s fine. The secondary characters are also not as deeply written as they could have been. There’s her unpaid, psychology major, assistant who is a real “gumshoe” type with her own personal demons. Lizzy’s sister and niece are boring and stupid to the max. Lizzy’s high school boyfriend Jared, is now (of course) an FBI agent who just so happens to be called in to work the newly renewed Spiderman case. When he and Lizzy see each other for the first time in a decade… well, you can guess what happens. Then there’s the original FBI agent on the case, who is alternately caring and an asshole (an attempt to give him depth with a cancer diagnosis falls flat). Finally, there is Hayley, the spunky, abused teen from a bad home, who inexplicably decides to “bait” herself to the Spiderman. Oh, I guess the Spiderman himself is the last major character. Well, I barely remember much about him or his motivations, which certainly makes him minimally scary, doesn’t it?

I realize I sound like I disliked this book, but really, it was serviceable and there is room for Ragan to grow as an author. She has some good ideas and can execute them well at points, but she is relatively new at the game, and I suspect that she will continue to improve and refine her writing style and who she is as an author.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about these covers. I get that, as a self-published author, most of Ragan’s sales will probably be online, but man, these covers are BAD and will do nothing to draw in a bookstore buyer. The first looks straight out of 1985 and the second is so bland. I hope that Ragan will find a new cover artist in the future.

Finally, I just want to mention that I thoroughly respect the work of self-published authors. They have a difficult road to face, but I think it’s pretty cool there are many avenues out there for them to get their work out to readers. Ragan herself wrote a pretty awesome post on her website on how to self-publish. That link is here.

More of my reviews can be found here at my blog.