Title: A Deadly Influence
Author: Mike Omer
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Don’t judge a book by its synopsis. The first time I read a book’s synopsis is when I write my reviews. Why would I rely on it when selecting which book to read when it fails me nearly every time? The author excludes any details that may spoil the plot or a critical fact about the character, making the synopsis worse than a movie trailer.
I use three criteria instead of the synopsis to determine my reading list:
- Someone suggested it (friends, librarian, article, Amazon, random Internet person).
- It’s a genre I enjoy reading.
- It has at least a 3.5/5 star rating on Goodreads.
Few books follow a different path to my reading list. For instance, any new releases from my favorite authors make my list. I’ll also read top-rated books or classics outside of my favorite genres to understand their hype.
How do you decide which books to read?
My strategy to not read the synopsis of A Deadly Influence proved itself sound. I’m not a fan of books about cults, including the heavy development of a character who used to be in a cult. I would have left this great book on its digital shelf had I read the synopsis beforehand.
Abby Mullen is a successful hostage negotiator who has worked tirelessly to leave her childhood trauma in the past. The past rears its ugly head when Abby receives a desperate call from Eden, her childhood friend and a fellow survivor of the Wilcox cult.
Someone kidnapped Eden’s son for a $5 million ransom, and she needs Abby’s help. Abby must confront her past while investigating the kidnapping, or she’ll never bring Eden’s son home alive.
A Deadly Influence is a well-written story that uniquely explores a possible cult conspiracy-based kidnapping in the age of social media. While I didn’t fall in love with the characters, I thoroughly enjoyed how Omen used their backgrounds to move the story forward. A highly entertaining read for my fellow booknerds who love a fast-paced mystery story full of murders, coverups, and a shocking ending.
What I Liked Most
As I noted in the introduction, I’m not a huge fan of stories about cults. Omen, however, won me over with this story by using the cult and the characters’ childhood trauma more as internal and external conflicts to propel the story forward, more than the cult itself being center to the story. We learn how long-term manipulation influences the characters’ minds and emotions, and Omen uses that to make the reader believe each action the characters take.
I enjoyed how Omen integrated older cult-genre concepts into today’s world with simple but accurate use of Big Data and technology in the investigation. The technologist in me cheers any time an author pulls this off.
What I Didn’t Like
The characters were well-developed, and each action they took aligned with how I expected. But for some reason, I didn’t emotionally connect to any of them. I didn’t feel sad for Eden, whose son was missing. I lacked empathy for Abby, who struggled to take care of her family amidst solving the case and fighting her demons. Maybe it’s my fault or my ‘headspace’ (as the cool kids like to say now) while reading it, but I didn’t connect to anyone in the story. If you need that connection during a mystery, then you may be disappointed.
Should you read it?
A Deadly Influence is a fast-paced, entertaining mystery novel. It’s a great anytime read. Plus, it’s the first in a (currently) two-part series for those who never want a story to end.
But don’t just take my word for it. See what other readers thought:
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