Deep in the gritty underbelly of New Orleans, psychologist Grayson Thibodeaux loses everything when his wife leaves him to climb her company’s corporate ladder. He buries himself in his job of creating mind-bending adventure games for businesses as team-building explorations. When his ex-wife’s company hires Grayson’s to create an elaborate game, he doesn’t see how things can get worse. Until she dies during the course of the game he created…making him the prime suspect for murder.
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Home sweet home.
Long weekends were great for a getaway to think and refocus, but Grayson Thibodeaux itched to get back home. He turned onto his street and let out a sigh — he'd sleep in his own bed tonight. Tomorrow would start a new week, and he could put the last couple of months behind him, especially the past two weeks.
Maybe then he could put the last several years in his rearview mirror.
The drive had been slower than usual, but with Mardi Gras coming next week, New Orleans burst at the city limits with tourists and carnival people. Bright, sparkly greens, purples, and golds lined the French Quarter and beyond. The floats housed in the many warehouses would receive final touches before the upcoming parades.
Tension gripped Grayson as he spied a car parked in the driveway of his home. He didn't get random visitors, and very few people knew he'd even left town, much less when he'd return. He didn't recognize the vehicle.
He eased his truck behind the car, effectively blocking it in. Grayson stepped silently onto the concrete and stared at his front porch. No one there.
Zydeco music blasted from the house next door: an early Mardi Gras celebration in full swing. Smoke from a grill drifted from the couple's backyard, sending a mouthwatering aroma wafting through the garden district neighborhood.
Grayson gently pushed the truck door closed, then headed down the cobblestone path that ran alongside the old house. Even in the waning light, his steps found the stones with no stumbles. He'd grown up in this house, had helped his father place the very cobblestones he now walked on into the sod.
The light by the kitchen door illuminated a man and woman standing on his back porch, their backs to him. The woman had her hands cupped around her face as she pressed against the kitchen window.
Grayson's muscles flexed. "May I help you?" The man and woman spun at the same time, both setting their hands on the butts of their respective side arms.
Recognition came instantly. "Brandon?" Grayson asked.
"Hey." Brandon Gibbons, Grayson's old college buddy and currently a detective with the New Orleans Police Department, removed his hand from his sidearm. Grayson had worked with Brandon when he was a consultant for the department.
"You remember my partner, Danielle?" Brandon nodded at the woman beside him.
Black-as-night hair, brown eyes, and a chip on her shoulder bigger than a boulder — yeah, he remembered Danielle Witz all right. "I do. Hello, Danielle."
Her eyes narrowed. "Thibodeaux." Apparently she still hated his guts. It'd been months ago — how could she still carry a grudge for his not calling her sister after their blind date?
"What're you doing back here?" Grayson asked. It wasn't like Brandon to creep around backyards.
Danielle leaned against the porch's support beam. "Where have you been?"
In a split second, Grayson took in their body language and the microexpressions most people didn't even realize they showed. Brandon's lips were thinned, and he wouldn't meet Grayson's stare. Danielle, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes and held eye contact, dropping her chin as she glared.
"Why?" Grayson stood a little straighter.
"Maybe we should go inside?" Brandon asked, looking quickly at Grayson, then darted his gaze to his partner.
Grayson crossed his arms over his chest as little pinpricks of apprehension pimpled his arms. "Why don't you tell me why you're here, peeking in my back windows?" Brandon met his stare. "I think you'd rather us go inside to talk, Grayson."
This wouldn't be good, but now curiosity nibbled at the edges of his mind. He sighed. "Sure. Come on."
Grayson led the two detectives around to the front door. He unlocked it, then stepped inside and punched in the disarming code on the keypad to his alarm system.
Brandon and Danielle followed him into the cool house. Grayson took a seat in his recliner, leaving the two to sit on his couch. But Danielle didn't sit; she stood behind the couch, facing Grayson. She wore her animosity like a shield.
"So, again, why are you here?" Grayson rested his elbows on his knees and let his hands hang loosely.
"Grayson, I'm sorry," Brandon interrupted his partner.
"For?" His gut twisted.
"It's Anna Belle."
Grayson gripped his hands together and squeezed. "She's hurt? Was she in an accident?" Images of the way his ex-wife drove filled his mind. She often forgot to wear a seat belt. "Is she okay?"
"She's dead." Danielle's words were too flat for the information. She had to be wrong. This was a mistake. Had to be.
"D–dead?" No, Anna Belle was too — well, she was just too alive to be dead.
"I'm sorry, bud. I hate to be the one to tell you, but it's true." Brandon leaned forward on the couch. Empathy did little to soften the severity of his expression.
Anna Belle — dead. She couldn't be — he couldn't — "What happened?" She was vibrant and always driven. She couldn't be dead. Not Anna Belle.
"She died from anaphylactic shock."
Grayson snapped his attention to Danielle. "That can't be." He shook his head. Sure, Anna Belle would take risks, but not with her allergy. She'd always been extremely careful about that and never went anywhere without her EpiPen.
"It's true. The autopsy confirmed it. I'm sorry." Brandon's words registered with Grayson, but he still couldn't fathom the finality.
Numbness spread out from his chest like icy fingers as images of Anna Belle sped across his mind like a movie.
In college, her hair flowing and eyes flashing against Death Valley stadium lights as the Tigers won the national championship. The warmth of her body against his as she hugged him in her excitement.
Her fingertips grazing his cheek as he cried at his father's funeral. The surprising strength of her small stature as she held him up at the grave.
Her unmistakable beauty in her wedding dress as she said her vows to him in the cathedral.
The hardness of her eyes when she told him she was filing for divorce.
"Grayson?" Brandon's voice cut through the memories.
He looked to his friend. "She's always extremely careful about her allergy. She steered far away from anything that could remotely have cherries or cherry juice or even be cross-contaminated with them. She was almost paranoid about it." Privately of course. Not many outside her tight circle of family and friends knew of the allergy.
Brandon nodded. "So we've been told."
"But either way, she always carries her EpiPen. In her purse. In her car. In her office. Everywhere." The woman nearly mortgaged their house with how many she bought and stowed everywhere.
Brandon nodded again. "We've opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death."
Wait, what? "Do you suspect foul play?" That would be the only thing that made sense. Anna Belle would never be so reckless with her allergy.
Then again, who would want to hurt her?
"Why don't you tell us where you've been the past several days?" Danielle interrupted, crossing her arms.
Ahh. Yes. Reality crashed into his racing mind. An ex-husband would definitely be of interest when his wife died in such an unusual manner. Ex-wife. "I went out of town. To St. Francisville."
"What were you doing there?" Danielle's body stood as rigid as her tone.
"Where?" She stared straight at him.
Grayson tightened his jaw. She might just be doing her job, but she didn't have to have such an attitude.
"The Bluffs. And before you ask, I stayed at the lodge there on Thompson Creek."
Brandon sat on the very edge of the couch, writing in a small notebook balanced on his knee. "When did you leave town?"
"Wednesday. About eleven that morning."
"You've been gone, what, five days?" Danielle's eyes were still narrowed. "That's quite a long weekend golf trip."
Grayson didn't reply because there wasn't a question. He knew how this played out. He'd consulted enough.
"Were you playing in a tournament or with a group?" Brandon's pen hovered over the notebook.
"Not a tournament. I played Thursday with some friends of mine from medical school. We had an 8:00 a.m. tee time."
Brandon scribbled. "Their names?"
"Skipper Bertrand, Tom Bridges, Robert Bertram, and Donny Olson."
"What time did you finish up?" Brandon asked.
Grayson lifted a shoulder. "About noon or so."
"And after you finished the round?" Brandon's gaze held an unspoken apology.
"We grabbed lunch at the club."
"All of you?" Danielle interrupted.
"Yes. All of us."
"Then what?" Brandon asked.
Grayson shifted in his recliner. "I went back to my room at the lodge and fell asleep in front of the television." He cut his stare to Danielle. "Tombstone, starring Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell, and I don't remember what channel."
Brandon tapped his pen against the notebook. "Do you remember what time you left the club?"
Grayson's mind wouldn't function right. "I'd guess about one or so."
"And you went to your room and watched television? Fell asleep watching a movie, you say?" If Danielle tried to hide her disdain, she failed miserably.
"Yes. I woke up about six and took a shower."
"Why? What did you do that night?" Danielle asked.
Grayson ran a hand down his face. "I met my friends at the Francis Southern Table. Our reservations were for seven."
"How long were you there?" Her tone matched her facial expression.
"I'm not sure. When we finished eating, we left. I got back to the lodge about eight thirtyish."
"Why didn't you answer my calls?" Brandon asked. "I left you a voice mail."
"I lost my cell phone in Thompson Creek." For the first time in a really long time, he wished he'd had his phone.
"When did you lose it?" Brandon asked.
"Thursday morning. First hole." Grayson shook his head "I figured that was a sign of how I'd be playing that day, but I actually shot two under." Seemed lame now, considering Anna Belle was dead.
"So you were asleep from about one until six, alone in your hotel room?" Danielle took a step around the couch, still staring him down.
Grayson nodded. "I was dozing in front of the TV. I don't know what else to tell you. That's what I was doing."
Brandon shot his partner a hard stare. "What about Friday? Did you play with your group again?" Grayson shook his head. "Only Tom and I played."
"All day?" Danielle pressed.
Grayson shrugged. "Basically a repeat of Thursday. I got up and ate breakfast in the club, then met Tom at eight for a round."
"Did you have lunch at the club when you were done?" Brandon asked. "Or go to a restaurant?"
"The club." Now even Brandon was pushing the envelope.
Grayson shook his head. Enough. He'd been a consultant for the police department, had worked with Brandon many times, for pity's sake. "What happened with Anna Belle, Brandon? She'd always been so careful about her allergy. She saw it as a weakness in herself and hated it. She let very few people even know about it."
"We can't really comment on an open investigation —"
"We're still working on gathering all the facts." Brandon cut off his partner.
Grayson's throat tightened as if concrete filled his mouth, and his memory raced through police procedure. Notification. That's what they were doing here, but as an ex, he wasn't legally considered her next of kin.
Anna Belle had alienated her mother, the only living relative she'd had, but Grayson had liked her the few times he met her. She still lived in a double-wide in Breaux Bridge, about two hours away. He looked at Brandon. "Have you called her mom? Do you want me to?"
"Her next of kin has been notified." Danielle shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
"Her mother is staying at the Darkwater Inn," Brandon offered.
Danielle took a couple of steps toward him. "Did anybody see you at all Thursday afternoon in St. Francisville?"
"I don't know."
"What about the rest of the weekend? What did you do?" Danielle pressed.
He opened his mouth to answer that he'd slept in, then went and toured the USS Kidd, but clamped his mouth shut in that split second before he spoke. The clouds of shock in his mind cleared just enough. He cut his eyes to Brandon. "When did Anna Belle die?"
Brandon and Danielle looked at one another. A volume of unspoken words passed between them.
Finally, Brandon turned to him. "Thursday afternoon."
Grayson shook his head. "That can't be. She was scheduled to be involved with a corporate game with her company at a rented house all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It was a controlled environment."
Danielle nodded. "She died during the course of the game, Mr. Thibodeaux." She paused, letting her words sink in. "The game you custom designed for her to participate in."
Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse.
"You need to come to the station with us and answer some questions." Danielle put her hands on her hips. The leather of her holster creaked. "About that game."
"Have you already spoken to my business partner? Colton York? He handled the contract with Deets PR." Grayson tightened his jaw. He'd told Colton that they shouldn't have taken the job. Even worse, Colton and the Deets PR contract didn't allow for the players to fully know they were involved in a game, so they were playing in the dark.
Brandon gave a little nod. "He gave us some basic information and is going to speak with us again. But he said you were the actual creator of the game."
Grayson paused. While he knew he didn't have to go anywhere to answer any questions, he wanted to help Brandon in the investigation. But not tonight.
"I'm happy to assist you in your investigation, but I think it best I wait to answer any questions until I can adjust from the initial shock." Right now, he needed to process.
Brandon nodded, even though Danielle looked ready to spit nails.
"How about I come in Tuesday morning about nine, and we can talk then?" Grayson stood and led the way to the front door. He needed time to process everything.
"Sure." Brandon hesitated at the door. "I'm sorry, man. See you Tuesday." He headed out, Danielle not saying a word as she followed.
Grayson moved his truck to let them out, then grabbed his duffel and clubs and brought them into the house. He made it as far as the dining room before he dropped them on the floor, the thud of his clubs against the hardwoods echoing in his head. He gripped the back of a chair, steadying himself against actuality.
Anna Belle — dead.
The room seemed to be spinning, but Grayson recognized his mind was trying to accept she was gone while his emotions spun off in varying directions. His psychologist's mind attempted to categorize what he thought. To characterize his emotions. The shock and disbelief, then the uncertainty of what he even felt. All normal reactions but nonetheless destabilizing. He forced himself to head to his bedroom.
He could almost see her here, in the room once called theirs. Her long, blond hair splayed across the pillows as she slept, looking more like a porcelain doll than a young woman. Curled up in the chair in the corner with a book, her feet covered in fuzzy socks on the ottoman. Bouncing on the bed and yelling at the TV as LSU lost against Alabama — again. Running across the room in her fleece pajamas after turning off the light to jump on the bed and under the covers, unnerved from watching a scary movie.
Cherished memories assaulted him. The gentle love they shared early in their marriage. Laughter and midnight picnics in bed. The whispers of encouragement. The tenderness of her fingertips on his cheek. Sharing secrets. Making plans. Holding on to each other through the pounding of multiple hurricanes. The sweet kisses and passionate embraces. The loving until the sun rose over the crescent city.
But it all changed. Oh, did it change.
What was once passion mutated into heated exchanges. His trust lost in her betrayal. His honesty discarded with her lies. Lashes meant to cut. Words used as soul stealers. Accusations. Lies. Her deception challenging the boundaries of his forgiveness.
Now she was gone forever.CHAPTER 2
"He's as guilty as Adam and Eve in the garden. I could tell by looking at him." Danielle stomped on the brake at the end of Grayson's subdivision.
Brandon had already heard his partner's ranting about Grayson Thibodeaux and accepted this would be one of the few cases they wouldn't see eye-to-eye on. "Because he didn't break down in tears when we told him she was dead? It was a shock, and you know that's what it was. People react differently to bad news."
"Yeah, but he sure didn't look upset over the information that Anna Belle had been killed." She turned the unmarked cruiser toward the precinct.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Stratagem"
Copyright © 2018 Robin Caroll.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Where do I begin with reviewing this book? Perhaps with the twists and turns that give you metaphorical whiplash while you turn each page? Perhaps the truly dynamic characters and how clearly the author made their interaction? Perhaps the intriguing background the author creates for us? From the setting in New Orleans to the whodunit journey we adventure into, surprises lurk around every corner. I truly enjoyed each character and had them clearly pictured in my mind. The ending is one I promise you won't want to miss. I was glued to the page until I finished the book. Pick up a copy today, and plan to make time to read it in one sitting! I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Excellent title! Suspense-filled all the way! STRATAGEM by Robin Caroll, a skilled writer indeed! starts this fast-paced, high speed plot off with an eye-popping opener, and an intriguingly dangerous mind game that will string the reader along with the amazing characters, as they follow the clues to who knows to what end, who will escape? Who is this murderer? And, what does he or she want? What could be the motive for this cruel deed? How was the murder accomplished, and why? Who... saw... what? With the ex-husband as the number one suspect, will he be caught up in the web of deceit? Or pay the price? Will justice be done? I highly recommend this book! I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Stratagem by Robin Caroll is an intriguing murder mystery. The mystery behind this murder will keep you intrigued throughout the book. I enjoyed the characters of the story, along with the detailed interrogations. Unfortunately for Grayson, he seemed to be the main suspect. But did he really murder his ex-wife? If not, then who did? What was the motive? These were the question that I asked myself as I read. Can Grayson forgive his ex-wife? Can he let go of the anger, the pain, and the grief? Where does God fit into all these emotions? You have to read the book for the answers. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
This is a unique story that keeps you guessing. I figured out who-dun-it about halfway through but enjoyed the ride.
Tight, tense, and twisted, this Christian suspense novel is for sure one of Robin Caroll's best. This lady's got talent, and I give her five stars wholeheartedly. A broken marriage sends the former husband, a psychologist, into a tailspin. Worse, the new company he's started with another guy has been contracted to create a game for the company his former wife works for. The winner of the game will be second to only the boss. Grayson is out of town when Anna Belle dies from an allergic reaction in the course of the game. She always avoided cherry juice and carried multiple EpiPens with her everywhere she went. Therefore, probably murder, and he the most likely suspect. To the despair and delight of the two police detectives assigned to the case. One is his friend, and the other's sister had been spurned (or worse, ignored) by Grayson. One mess piles upon another until finally the real killer is found, but it's probably too late anyway. Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christianbooks.com. Go for it!
It's a rare book that makes me go “Whoa!” & “Wow, what a ride!” at the end, but this one certainly did! It surprised me how much I liked this as I tend to be very picky about books labeled psychological thrillers. Some are way to edgy or questionable for my taste. Not “Stratagem”! This one engaged my mind as well as my senses, and had me trying to untwist all the curve-balls Robin Caroll included. As each layer unfolded in the police investigation of the murder of Anna Belle, more and more questions kept popping up. At the same token, more and more pieces fell into place and began to make sense. It's very heavy on police procedure, but that's the kind of writing I love! I think if I were to go back and choose a career path, I would want to be a homicide detective. But since I can't, I'll settle for my arm chair sleuthing abilities. A very surprising ending once the killer was revealed, one person I never even suspected. A good suspense writer will keep you in the dark until just the right time & I think Caroll did her job well! Everything about this book was fantastic. I applaud an author when they can engage you on every level and tick all the boxes of just WHY you love their book! I would say she made me a forever fan of her work, both past & future stories. Summary: this is a mind-boggling thriller that kept me on my toes and thoroughly hooked me from page one! *I received a complimentary copy from Barbour Publishing via Netgalley and was under no obligation to leave a review. All opinions are my own. *
At first it made me mad that the good guy was being accused of the crime. You will love how it all worked out. Great read.
Stratagem is a another great Robin Caroll mystery that takes place in New Orleans. Ms. Caroll has created realistic characters, some of which, I found likable and some were very unlikable, and an unusual plot that was quite interesting to read. Dr. Grayson Thibodeaux is a psychologist who has worked in private practice, for the police department and now with a sociologist friend, Colton York, as a co-owner of a firm specializing in game playing to help employers and employees to find their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Against Grayson's wishes, Colton talks him into taking a case and planning a game for the firm where Anna Belle, Grayson's ex-wife works. During the game, someone slipped cherry juice into Anna Belle's power drink and she died from a allergic reaction. Her epi-pen was not used. Even though, Grayson was out of town during the game, he is the number one suspect in her death. As the story unfolds, Grayson has many reasons to want to do harm to her but he never would. As a Christian, that would never be an option and he still cares for her. She was quite a pain, really narcissistic, and others had reason to be unhappy with her. Each person involved in the game as a participant or worker had a different element to add to unraveling the mystery that helped the detectives as they work the case. This didn't stop Grayson and his assistant Pam from trying to find answers as well. The end was an interesting twist by a diabolic and desperate mind. This was a story that held my attention from beginning to end with suspense, danger, interesting facts, greed, addiction and also dealt with forgiveness, healing and faith. I received a complimentary ARC from Shiloh Run Press through NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are mine only.
Deb’s Dozen: Game-playing leads to the murder of the creator’s ex-wife—he killed her? Stratagem by Robin Caroll intrigued me from the start. First, the book takes place in New Orleans—one of my fave locations. Second, the main character, Grayson Thibodeaux, a game-playing expert, not only has a wonderful name but has engaging charm. His ex-wife, who left him to move up her corporate ladder, takes delightfully nastiness to another level. Grayson’s company creates elaborate games that help corporations vet their employees for promotions and important positions. Grayson’s experience as a psychologist and former consultant for the police department makes him not only a good game creator, but the prime suspect when the game he created for his ex-wife’s company apparently leads to her murder. One of the detectives on the case is a good buddy—the other is sure he’s the perp, and she’s the lead detective. Although Grayson is not guilty, he was out of town playing golf, he has great difficulty proving his innocence. And off we go to find out what actually happened during the game. Caroll deftly manipulates our minds as we hear from witness after witness. We never quite know who is telling the truth and who is lying. As a result, she keeps us from guessing the identity of the murder until the end of the book, something I greatly appreciate. Four stars! StratagemRobin Caroll is a bestselling author of what she calls Southern-style romantic mystery/suspense. Perhaps her writing can best be summed up by this statement she made about herself: “I love boxing, I love Hallmark movies, I love fishing, I love scrapbooking. Nope, I’ve never fit into the boxes people want to put me in.” I’ve not read her books previously, but you can be sure I’ll go hunting for them now! Barbour Publishing gave me a complimentary copy of Stratagem, but I was in no way obligated to write a review.
The book’s back cover blurb grabbed my attention immediately. It’s a unique story where a corporate game goes horribly wrong and one of the owners is accused of murder. Grayson Thibodeaux is a divorced psychologist who says yes when he should’ve said no. He agrees to create a game where his ex-wife is involved and when she dies during the course of the game, all eyes are on him. I absolutely loved Grayson. He’s calm and intelligent when most people would be absolutely freaking out over the situation. Pam is by far my favorite. Her spunk and attitude are refreshing and keep the story moving. The mystery is enthralling and captivating right to the last page. I’d definitely recommend Stratagem.
I completely enjoyed reading Stratagem by Robin Carroll! I enjoyed the characters and the writing style. I also was a fan of the story being told from different characters points of view. Grayson Thibodeaux is a psychologist whose his wife has recently divorced him. Grayson is a partner in a game-making company that creates corporate games for employees. His company is asked to create a game for a PR firm for the candidates up for a promotion. Seems they can figure out who to promote by the observation and outcome of these psychological games. The last game that Grayson designs is for the firm, the same firm where his ex-wife works! Something goes wrong and during this weekend game his ex-wife ends up dead. Such a great story here, all the facts, dates, times, events and game events are weaved together in this story, it fascinates me how to think of such complex ideas! Follow along with the police detectives trying to put the pieces together to find out how or who! I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Who is really the gamemaster...? Stratagem had more twists and turns than a game of Sorry! I'm relatively new to Robin Caroll's writing but I find her take on suspense to be quite interesting. It's not romance-heavy at all, in fact, this book didn't even really have a romance thread that I could spot. She also tends a little bit more towards the gritty side with plenty of psychological drama. I was interested on reading Stratagem because of the premise on the back cover blurb. Tell me, what doesn't sound interesting about a guy blamed for his ex's death during a game HE created? And what a wild ride it was! I think one of the more interesting parts for me is that the story was set in New Orleans, a city I have never been to but have long wanted to visit. There is something a little dark and mysterious about New Orleans that really lends itself to suspense and Robin Caroll makes full use of it in Stratagem. Check out the dark side of New Orleans and the human mind with this riveting read from Robin Caroll. Try to figure out the game before it's too late.... (I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.)
Stratagem A very unique who did it book. It was so hard for me not to look at the end of the book. Grayson ex-wife is murdered and he is desperately trying to figure out who did it because he is getting the blame. I kinda had my suspicion of who did it but wasn’t sure. I kept trying to come up with ideas myself. This would make a really good movie. This is an book that you want to read every word, great suspense and mystery. The author is new to me. I will definitely have to keep an eye out for more of her books. This is one of those books I would give more than a five star rating. I received an complementary copy of the book from Celebrate Lit. I was not required to write an positive review. This is my own opinion.
A book that will keep your attention from beginning to end, and when the answers start to come you will be shaking your head and wondering how you didn’t come to this conclusion. I was quickly page turning to find the answers here, and find out who committed the murder and why. The author was great a keeping me guessing and it wasn’t until about three fourths of the book was finished that I thought I had the answer, but did I? I recommend this book for a clean, interesting murder mystery that will keep you guessing, shaking your head and changing your mind. I received this book through Celebrate Lit, and was not required to give a positive review.
I'm starting my review with a warning about the book. When you start this book, make sure you allow yourself time to read the entire book in one sitting. Why? To put it simply, because there is no way to read this book without stopping. The story line is rich in intrigue and takes us to the dark places of a person's emotions. I was shocked at first to read that a company thought the only way to pick who would get the promotion out of four people was to play a game. It's not just any old game, folks. It's a game specifically designed to use past hurts, fear, manipulation, anger and secrets against you. How will each person act in different situations is where the real nitty gritty goes. To understand the master mind behind the game, we get to meet Grayson. I enjoyed him so much and found his intelligence to be quite impressive. I thought it was cool that the four people didn't know they were playing a game, but trying to outshine their peers in front of the boss. They were watched at all times like a lab rat which is kinda creepy. The author delves into their past in a way that brings out the darkness in some and in others an almost give up attitude. I can tell you right now I would never want to play this type of game. I did forget to mention that one of the players in the game is Grayson's ex-wife. Anna Belle is the epitome of girl gone bad. There is nothing nice I can say about her. She was mean, vindictive and down right evil. Anna Belle is the woman that other women hate and men fall all over for her attention. Someone definitely has it in for her, when she is found dead . The first person the police point a finger at is Grayson. I wasn't surprised because it is a given the ex-husband is automatically the top pick as the killer. Anna Belle is certainly not a popular person and I'm not sure anyone shed a tear over her death except maybe her mother. There is however another character I found to be extremely annoying. Danielle and Grayson's friend Brandon are investigating the death. Danielle is so determined to prove Grayson guilty that she made me want to stomp on her feet several times. She is so relentless in proving Grayson guilty, that she has tunnel vision. Her character is so well developed I loved to hate her. She was one of my top picks of stand out characters in the story.Her nastiness towards Grayson is evident when she says to him, " Although , you know sometimes murderers will do bad things to themselves to garner sympathy and try to throw off suspicion." It is a cat and mouse chase as Grayson tries to figure out what went wrong in the game, as the police start closing in on him. I was literally turning pages fast because I had to know who the killer was. I had my list but I was very wrong. The author has included faith in the book but not in a preachy way. Grayson really stands on his beliefs and will face the question of is he able to forgive. That is one of the great lessons in the book and one of the hardest things people have to deal with. The author knows how to shock readers with intense drama and an ending that will have you looking for more books by this very gifted author. I received a copy of this book by Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
I have enjoyed Robin Caroll’s books since I first discovered her early Love Inspired Suspense novels. I have since then made it a point to at least try to read her latest as soon as it was released. I have been fortunate to receive review copies of many of them. Stratagem was not a disappointment. In fact the author seems to have upped her game. This one left me in suspense and guessing the murderer until the very end. Readers who are also fans of the popular escape rooms that seem to be springing up everywhere should particularly enjoy this book. A similar concept is used by a business that develops adventure games to help companies in their team-building efforts but this time things go terribly wrong and one of the team members is found dead. She just happens to be the ex-wife of Grayson Thibodeaux, one of the partners in the game development business. When investigators decide that her death was murder, Grayson becomes the primary suspect and even his detective friend cannot help him. The plot of Stratagem was filled with twists and surprises from beginning to end. Strong characters were well-developed and all essential to the story. I felt as though I was present at the investigative sessions which helped me learn more about each character. I was not overly fond of the female detective but as the story progressed I was better able to understand why she reacted so strongly to the situation. I was fascinated by the process developed for the adventure games but would personally not want to work for a company that invaded the privacy of its employees to such a degree. A strong theme of faith and forgiveness permeates this highly emotional book which I appreciated. I look forward to this author’s next book and can’t wait to see what twisted plot she comes up with for her readers. I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by Celebrate Lit. A favorable review was not required. All views expressed are my own.
I’ve heard about being on a train or locked in while playing a game to try to figure out who did it before the ride or time is up.. This book took it to a new level! Playing it on the corporate level for a high level job when a murder throws the game off and into a whole new level! Lots of suspense, action and it definitely kept me guessing. I really liked this story! I was gifted a copy, no review was required. My review is voluntary..
I decided to read a book that is a little bit different than what I normally read which almost always has to include romance. However, Stratagem is a suspense book about the murder of an ex-wife. While not my usual read, I have read author Robin Caroll’s books before and the book premise sounded intriguing. First off, Grayson Thibodeaux has such a unique job. It is one in which he creates a life game for businesses. Unfortunately his latest game design ends with the death of his ex-wife Anna Belle. Grayson of course was considered the prime suspect and the homicide detectives investigating both knew him personally. Brandon is his friend and he is on less friendlier terms with Danielle who certainly held a grudge against him. I really enjoyed getting the details of how the game worked. We also get to sit in on the police interviews of all the suspects and others involved. It really made a complete picture and I enjoyed that aspect immensely. And the author gave us a little bit of Anna Belle’s point of view before she died which really made the picture so much clearer. Besides being suspense and a murder mystery, this book definitely takes a look at the failing of a marriage and divorce and the effects it has on the partners. It also took a hard look at forgiveness and what that may look like when is all is said and done and the secrets have been all uncovered. I felt for Grayson and this book was sad in some ways as we begin to get the picture of the dissolution of his marriage. At times the book could be heavy, but it was a good read. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.
When I first found out about the opportunity to review this book, I could not wait to receive my copy. The idea of a suspense-thriller focusing around corporate “games” in controlled environments intrigued me. I found Grayson Thibedeaux to be a fairly interesting character, and his relationship with his ex-wife caused me to have more questions at times. Once the two have an altercation over assets not disclosed by Grayson in their divorce settlement, the twists start coming. My favorite character was Grayson’s assistant Pam. She was quick-thinking, fast to get things done and just likable in general. I also loved Anna Belle’s mom, because she was genuine and kind. I found myself hoping that she and Grayson would develop some type of relationship, despite Anna Belle’s death. For anyone who likes mysteries, crime dramas, and intrigue, I would definitely recommend this book. While this is the first book I have ever read by Robin Caroll, I definitely plan on reading more
Stratagem is exactly the type of suspense/thriller novel that I like to read – a plot that plays at your mind even as it plays with the minds of the characters, characters by the way that you aren’t entirely sure you can trust. The whole lot of them. Just when you think you can relax around this character or the other, another layer of their lives or the plot is revealed and you just don’t know anymore. I love it! It keeps me guessing, keeps me invested in the outcome, and lets me play detective right along with the actual (fictional) detectives. Gritty but touching. Complex but easy to read. Intriguing but… nope, no opposite here… intriguing and riveting. Stratagem by Robin Caroll is the perfect choice to read on blustery, cold fall/winter nights when you’re snuggled up under a warm blanket. It’s impossible to put down once you start reading, so don’t plan to sleep until you’ve finished it. Skillfully plotted suspense, layered characters, and a vivid setting all make this a must-read. Loved the nod to Darkwater Inn, from another of Caroll’s current reads. (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)
This is a very good suspenseful story. I did not want to put the book down. I enjoyed the twists and turns. I received a copy of this book from Celebratelit for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Wow. This book had me hooked from the beginning. First what an interesting setting with this game people have to play and then all the mystery and suspense. It was SO good. With each chapter my mind was trying to figure out who the murderer was. I loved the way the book was set up. You are getting three points of view and the pieces come together at different times and you know something one character doesn't no yet. I just wanted to get all of the pieces put together so I could figure it out. If you enjoy suspense you will love this book. A copy of this book was given to me through the Celebrate Lit Team. All opinions are my own.
3 Things I Loved About Stratagem #1 Stratagem was kind of like The Hunger Games, but the good guys are the game makers. Y'all, I love The Hunger Games trilogy. I was a late bloomer (I was in seminary when they made their debut). I remember catching the tail end of one of the first movie when my brother brought it home. He and Dad had already been reading the books, so what did I do? I read the books in one weekend. They're not short books. I didn't sleep much. There are a lot of things I could say about The Hunger Games trilogy, but that's for another post. I actually wrote a paper about the series for my Theology and Film class in seminary. But Stratagem. Imagine The Hunger Games - the game itself. But it's not a fight to the death, it's a corporate team-building exercise, or in some cases an exercise to help employers make the best choice for a promotion. A custom game built by a psychologist to get inside each player's head and bring them face-to-face with their fears. It sounds cruel at first. But to me, it's a little like physical therapy...not fun, but makes you stronger. And in Stratagem, it almost seems like the game maker is caught in his own game. #2 These Characters Surprised Me There were some characters in Stratagem that we're not supposed to like. Except...a few of them came out with surprising strength of character near the end. Repentant, not in an overly simplified way, but complex enough. Or genuinely trying to get things right after getting them so wrong. I found myself wishing I could get to know them better. Is there going to be a book about Danielle? #3 Stratagem touched on some stuff in a non-preachy way. Divorce. Abortion. These are things that many Christians feel very strongly about. Sometimes we don't do such a great job of feeling very strongly about the folks going through these things, regardless of whether we agree with their choices. Stratagem let me feel the gut-punch of emotions by showing, rather than telling. This is something that Alana Terry does very well with topics that we just don't talk about much. Even though Robin Caroll didn't make these issues the focal point of her book, I thought she did a great job of bringing us into the real-life story of so many in our broken world. Was there anything I didn't love about Stratagem? Yes - just a bit. I didn't love the way the game makers (the good guys) brought in some elements of voodoo into the game to play on one character's fears. Let me be clear: they weren't endorsing or practicing voodoo, they were putting things she was scared of in her space and this happened to be what she was terrified of. It bothered me because there is a real spiritual element to voodoo and witchcraft. Our God is more powerful. Period. Absolutely, all the time. But in their shoes, I wouldn't have wanted to bring those things in, even in a game, because it can make light of something with real spiritual power. Also (and maybe this is a personal thing), I would have liked to get to know the murderer before we found out that person was the murderer. I'm being super vague here to avoid spoilers. But sometimes authors don't give us all that much exposure, in their attempt to keep up the mystery. A really well-done mystery can let us get to know that person without giving away whodunit.
Stratagem...wow! What a read! Suspense on every page! Crazy mind games. Adventure. Fears in your face. Death. Blame. Suspects. Guilty. Keeps you guessing! I've never read a Caroll book before, but this ensures I will definitely be checking out more books by this author! I couldn't put it down! I tried to, but I grabbed the flashlight and read under the covers! You must read this book! I was given a copy of this book by the publisher. All thoughts and comments are my own.