Howdy, y’all. A new year, a new annual reading challenge. As usual, I’m sticking with my one book per month goal at a minimum, so 12 books to read this year. And I’m happy to say I just finished my first one! So I’m on track. Speaking of, this first bit of fiction is called, Cutting The Track, by Cheri Baker.
Fresh off the digi-press, the book was released last week, January 22nd, on Amazon’s kindle. I pre-ordered it…and did not read it on my kindle! Instead, I devoured this one in the kindle app on my iPhone phablet. And despite the lack of e-ink, my eyes did not bug out of their sockets. Whad’ya know? I decided to move from the kindle to Apple’s Books app anyways because, well, it’s Apple! Call me a fanboy. But that’s another story.
Cutting The Track is number four in the Kat Voyzey series, a cozy mystery genre. The series is one of several I’ve read by Cheri Baker. Like all of them, Cutting The Track is a quick read. I’ve come to love that about Baker’s short yarns. Chapters are brief and to the point, allowing for fast sessions in-between life-tasks and to-dos. Also, it’s easy to read just…one…more…chapter!
A cozy mystery is cozy because it typically avoids things like sex scenes or graphic gore. This one’s cozy-enough. It contains some expletives and suggested sex scenes (no real details). And there’s nothing violent or grotesque. I’m not one who can stomach a real murder mystery, and I generally don’t like horror.
The writing is tight, but not too much. Settings, action, and characters are all described well without being verbose or flowery. There’s good character development, and the overall pacing is done well. Dialogue is natural, it flows and isn’t forced. Action scenes are fitting, not overdrawn.
The story (without spoilers) is believable. The roller-derby theme was interesting but not ground-breaking. The video gaming references, for this geek, were sweet! The mystery part, though, might be not-so-mysterious (more on this at the end).
Kat Voyzey is a new private investigator. Being new at her job, the story rightly depicts her lack of skill and confidence at points. In turn, it also shows Kat’s character grow in her new role as a PI.
I really appreciate how the story, written in the first person, interjected Kat’s internal struggles. More than once, she wrestles a bit with the ethics of her job that requires some level of privacy invasion. Other weighty issues or themes include sexual harassment, trust, and justice. I think these are all treated well within the context of the story as its events unfold.
There’s some nice juxtaposition too, intentional or not. Without giving anything away, on one hand, a gross character turns out to have some redeeming quality, however small. But on the other hand, a polite character hides debilitating traits. This goes to show that, however trite, you can never judge a person’s character at face value; there’s always more beneath the surface.
This is something I like about Baker’s stories. I have a tough time deciding if they’re more plot driven or character driven. She has a knack for writing true-to-life characters, not mere cookie-cutter stereotypes.
The story has a flare of girl-power to it, which isn’t a bad thing. But the reason I gave this Kat Voyzey book 3 stars instead of 4 is because of the change in Kat’s character with her new PI role.
In the first three books, to me, Kat’s most endearing qualities were her spunk and somewhat clumsy awkwardness. And she was even more of “the underdog.” She had a different job with different demands or restrictions, which affected her character.
But now that she’s a PI, she seems more serious. In fact, she kind of started to resemble Jessica Warne, the MC from Cheri Baker’s other fiction series, Emerald City Spies. That one has a darker tone. Kat Voyzey’s stories have been more light-hearted, but book 4 felt less so.
Overall, I liked reading this book, and I will be glad to read a 5th one in the series. I’m interested to see Kat’s career grow. But I hope the next one will focus more on the mystery.
While the denouement of book 4 was on par for Baker’s writing, meaning nicely done, the mystery itself was weaker this round. There were different leads to follow up, different suspects to scrutinize, and dead-ends. But it lacked a good twist or surprise ending. Not great, but certainly not a deal-breaker.
If you want a good read, you won’t go wrong with Cutting The Track. It’s got fun parts, touches on meaningful themes, has interesting characters, and is easy to jump-in and read through. Even if you haven’t read the first three books, Kat Voyzey book four is like a fresh start in the series. I recommend it.