Thriller Novel “Mind Games” Tests its Characters’ Memories and Sanity

mind games coverMind Games by MJ LaBeff is one wild ride! I picked it up right before I left for a holiday trip, and was sad that it took so long to finish. I truly enjoyed reading this suspenseful mystery—Its numerous twists will keep you guessing, while enough hints are dropped that the reader is able to piece everything together along with our protagonists. It deserves at least a four-star rating!

Sparrow is the main character. She is a yoga instructor who volunteers part-time at a health clinic with Derrick, her current boyfriend. The story opens at the funeral of Sparrow’s ex-boyfriend, Dana, where his brother Tony is also introduced. You can tell right off there’s animosity between him and Derrick, which coupled with Dana’s abusiveness creates tension between all three. Other characters include the runaways Angel and Sly whom Derrick tries to help, and Sparrow’s father, Theodore. Throughout, Sparrow tries to piece together the mysteries of her past; forgotten memories that crop up unexpectedly.

The scenes involving yoga meditation are my favorite. They are detailed and have a natural feeling, while leaving you on the edge of your seat. You know something is going to happen, but you can’t imagine what. When the truth about Sparrow’s practices comes to light, you’re in for a wicked surprise!

Speaking of surprises—I am happy that Sparrow has the courage she does. By the end of the story, she shows a lot of growth; the way she comes to accept everything and move on with her life.

I love the way the ends of the chapters usually change scenes. It’s the first book I’ve read in a while that allows the reader the relief of finishing a portion of a story. When you know you don’t have a lot of time to read, it’s great to feel a little bit of closure so you’re not too anxious about setting the book down for a few hours of work. I applaud the way LaBeff has turned each chapter into manageable, conclusive sections that keep you thinking without fretting. I need more stories designed in this fashion!

One problem I encountered while reading is the point of view, as well as unnecessary changes in points of view. The story is written in the third person, and with an omniscient viewpoint, you shouldn’t need to ever change it. Third person means the narrator is all-knowing, so it’s alright to showcase everyone’s thoughts and fears at once. In Mine Games, characters thoughts were difficult to pick out of the text because they were not italicized or set off from the prose in any way. While LaBeff does not tell you who’s thoughts we’re listening in on, I could tell whose they were because she does change points of view. However, I had a hard time picking out these sections, and then would have to reread the passage. I had similar problems reading Dana’s diary and his other scattered notes. I would be unsure where they began and when we were being brought back to the present and everyone’s reactions.

One other thing I stumbled over is name of Derrick’s portable clinic, The Mobile Health Clinic RV. It could easily be abbreviated, or dubbed something such as the “Mobile Clinic” or even the “RV Clinic”. It takes up a lot of space on the page and it feels a little like a tongue twister. It doesn’t sound like natural speech when the characters speak the long phrase several times per page.

Overall, I loved the story. I savored my time reading it, taking breaks from the chaos of Christmas and other holiday celebrations. I spent my moments alone tearing through this wonderful work, needing to know the outcome. The pacing is fantastic, and we learn the necessary facts so we can try to put things together ourselves. It’s a mystery that reads smoothly and easily, drawing you into Sparrow’s perplexing world.

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