Tour Type Thing: A Review of Zombie Candy by Frederick Lee Brooke

We return this week, as the title so graciously states, with a review. This is one of those Novel Publicity Whirlwind Tour deals, so there are prizes for you at the end of this. Stay tuned! Yes, prizes are great. I’m entering, too, but prizes are not why I’m participating. No, no! Instead, this is part of my challenge to bring you more of the good, original indie stuff.

It’s a scattered approach, I must admit. One of the drawbacks of these things is that I have to sign up before I read the content, so while I can read story descriptions, I can’t know for certain whether a given story fits with what I’m trying to promote. The whole thing is a bit sticky, but in the event that I promote a story that doesn’t feel original to me, you’ll be able to tell. In the midst of telling me to get on with my review, you might also be asking if this really is a unique story. The answer:

That said, let’s get on with the review, shall we?

I am not a mystery fan; at least, not the standard mystery as we’ve come to know it: someone is murdered, clues clues clues, plot twist plot twist, big reveal. Yes, I know this isn’t every mystery plot, but the genre does have a formula and there’s a good reason for that formula that I can respect while not enjoying it. Hell, I get why people love them, as I enjoy a good “fantasy” mystery (for lack of a better word) in my stories.

As a result, I went into this novel with some trepidation. In addition to having some conversations with Brooke and enjoying his blog writing, I’ve forever had his first novel, Doing Max Vinyl, on my to-read list. When this came around, I figured it might be a good kick in the pants to finally sort myself out on that whole “reading-Max-Vinyl” thing. Yeah, I thought, It’s a PI mystery series, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m glad I did, because the thing grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and held on right through the end.

Seriously, I neglected other books for this one. I had to know what happened next.

Zombie Candy is not a traditional mystery novel. Yes, there are private investigators involved and they do unravel something of a mystery, but that mystery is of a mundane variety, the kind that real PIs handle: Candace Roach discovers a black bra in her husband’s suitcase upon his return from a business trip. Is the guy cheating? Well, of course he is. Queue the mad dash for evidence and information on just how much he might be cheating. As the investigation progresses, things become more and more bizarre as Candace (or Candy, part of the title) goes off the rails both mentally and emotionally.

Having been in Candace’s position – in a manner of speaking – many of her emotions ring true. Her plot to both trap her husband and exact her revenge are the same kind of elaborate thing I would have concocted in my darkest moments, though I never would have followed through with them. Her follow-through on her mad scheme doesn’t strain credibility, as the author gives us enough of a hint that Candace is not entirely well from the very start. There are some credibility issues, though, and I’ll address them shortly.

What I’m trying to say is that the characters and their motivations ring true. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the people (and these are real people, no doubt) that appear in the book are just that: they have real emotions, wants, and needs. They provide their own agency – for the most part – to get those things, whether it’s by befriending the cheating husband or participating in Candy’s crazy idea. The characterization is what kept me coming back.

The story arc is good, though I have a few issues with the ending, which I’ll also address shortly. The plot starts fast and keeps the pace up all the way through, which is part of what kept me reading.

Brooke’s style is darkly comic, and I enjoy it quite a bit. By the end, even with my concerns, I had to stand up and applaud a job well done on the writing and style front. Not once did I cringe or shake my head. The thing is solidly written and edited.

BUT…I have two issues that ultimately dock this story a star:

  1. Credibility
  2. The ending.

The last quarter of the book is a problem. Everything is going well right up until characters leave for Italy, and things begin to wobble a bit. It doesn’t take long in Italy before you get the sense that Candace’s revenge plot requires coordination on a massive scale – coordination that strained my credulity. Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching the thing unfold, but the effort required to get every note right would make an Oscar-winning director think twice. I found it hard to believe that a pair of private investigators (one a total newbie) and a chef would be able to pull something that sophisticated off, not to mention that some people would very well be putting their careers on the line for no real personal payoff. That drew me out of the story a bit.

Then we have the ending. Oh, lord the ending. I had some problems, but I was still loving this story right until it hit what is arguably the ending. That’s the thing: it just…ends, and it’s  difficult for me to point to any one moment in the last quarter of the book as a climax. It gets emotionally confusing, as you’re not sure whether you should still be experiencing a rising action on the plot. That rising action does arguably exist in the last five pages, as revelations continue to come after the ostensible climax, and there is still a very emotional, action-packed event right near the end.

Had this been something of a cliffhanger story following an easily-identifiable climax, I might have been more inclined to forgive it, but the book is clearly meant to end there, as we get a series of Animal House-style “where are they now” paragraphs as an afterword. It rang as a disappointingly flat note in an otherwise lush symphony.

Still, I don’t think this should scare off a reader. Four stars is still a damned good book, and Frederick Lee Brooke’s Zombie Candy is a fantastic read, no question about it. I enthusiastically recommend it, so long as you go in ready to accept some strained premise and an iffy ending. I’m going to be gifting it to a few friends, in fact – my ultimate seal of approval.

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And, of course, your standard tour notes, wherein you Get Your Goodies:

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Zombie Candy eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Zombie Candy for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About the book: Weaving elements of mystery, horror and romance in a hilarious romp that starts in Chicago and ends in a quaint medieval town in sun-drenched Tuscany, Zombie Candy is a genre-hopping knee-slapper of a novel. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Frederick Lee Brooke has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner and has travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. Visit Fred on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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17 Comments

  1. Good review, Jonathan, although not sure I’ll pick it up. I can agree with your credulity argument. And unfortunately, it sounds like mine would be tested at the very beginning. I’d have to see how they play it out, but my biggest issue would be with the black bra in the suitcase. I mean, is he just WANTING to get caught?

    Otherwise, I have some of the same issues with mystery/detective stories as my wife does with Dean Koontz novels: huge jumps in associative logic to solve problems (my wife’s favorite is to mention a Koontz story where the main character just happened to spot a mop bucket and then just happened to figure out the “evil” came from a tainted water supply 🙂 ). I realize that there are true life detectives that are able to make these connections, but for us laypeople, I think we need more clues throughout. Otherwise it just feels like a bunch of subterfuge, in which case I just want to skip to the end.

    I thought Usual Suspects did an amazing job with this, the way Kevin Spacey eyes the bulletin board early on sticks out in my memory, but I know there are great clues dropped throughout.

    But I digress. Based on your recommendation, the author should take comfort in the fact that if I read mysteries, I would probably pick this one up… if they could justify that whole bra thing 🙂

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • p.s.- I’m a little confused by the title, as well. I know the main character is named Candy, but especially in this day, you throw “Zombie” into the title and you potentially mislead readers… unless it comes up somehow. Maybe it’s part of her elaborate plan at the ending? Two PI’s, a chef and a voodoo doctor? 🙂

      • Jonathan D Allen

        I wondered about the zombie thing, too, but it does actually make sense by the end. I don’t want to give too much away, but the husband is in love with zombie movies and her revenge centers around that fact.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Actually, that question does come up in the course of the book. It’s never decided that he was, but it’s clear that on some level he was trying to get caught. He got sloppier and sloppier.

      Hah, is that Koontz book Phantoms? I remember that driving me NUTS.

    • Maybe his fling put the black bra in his suitcase “for” him?

  2. Nice review Jonathan. I do like mysteries and might put this one in my queue.

  3. Yay pictures! And the words you put with them were pretty nice, too. I can see your points on both sides. The characters are strong, and I related to Candace more than I should probably admit. Zombie Candy is entertaining the whole way through, and who else could make zombies kind of almost sexy as Fred does? 😉

    Thanks for being a part of this tour, Jonathan, and for writing a fantastic review to go with it. When you have a moment would you kindly cross-post to Amazon and GoodReads? Please and thank you and love your new blog header, btw.

    Emlyn

    • Jonathan D Allen

      It’s a great book, no doubt, and I didn’t mean for my few issues to cast a pallor over the book as a whole. It’s fun as hell just to watch the whole thing play out.

      Thank you! I’m definitely adding my reviews to Amazon and Goodreads today, just ran out of time yesterday. And thanks, I’m partial to the new header myself 🙂

  4. I’ve been seeing Zombie Candy popping up everywhere! I enjoyed your review. I find that my biggest problem with almost every book I read is the ending. I realize they are hard. I struggle with them, and still worry that the one for Stolen Climates isn’t exactly what it should have been. Mr. Aniko knows the true test of how good I really feel about any book is to ask me if I liked the ending. There is some wiggle room here for series, though. Now, off to check into Novel Publicity!

    • Jonathan D Allen

      I find endings to be incredibly difficult even when I know what they’re going to be in advance. There’s always the danger of one last “yeah, and then” sneaking in. I’m going to be practicing these things myself very soon.

  5. Jonathan, thank you so much for your kind review. I’m glad you enjoyed Zombie Candy so much and I appreciate your analysis. As a fellow writer, you can imagine how happy I am to hear that the book grabbed you “by the scruff of the neck” and held on to the end. And I love thinking of it as a symphony … what a cool image! Once again, my thanks.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      No problem, Fred, and thank you for such a cool book. Looking forward to digging into Max Vinyl very soon 🙂

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