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Tori’s Row by Nancy Brauer and MCM

Tori McNulty sees dead people. One in particular. 

Tori McNulty has problems. As she’s putting her life back together, she’s attacked in Boston’s South End. She doesn’t remember much: mostly blood-drenched pavement and the crumpled body of her assailant. The good news is that she’s uninjured and not a murder suspect. The bad news is the obnoxious young man in 18th century dress shadowing her and confusing, violent flashbacks. Tori must figure out what happened that night before her stalker gets to her or she goes completely mad.

A novel, no longer online

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Listed: Apr 3, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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Recommended for thrill-seekers, paranormal enthusiasts… and the insane

By A. M. Harte, editor, author of Theatre of Horrors

Apr 9, 2010: NOTE: I was given an advance copy of the first eight chapters, of which right now only 5 are posted. My review however takes those other 3 chapters into account.

"Supernatural thriller” is how I would classify Tori’s Row — it’s a murder mystery tinged with eerie darkness.

Now, I’m always a little hesitant about co-authored works, not because I adhere to the age-old idealized vision of solitary genius, but because I have been put off by reading books where the two voices do not mesh into one consistent narrator. Well, perhaps MCM and Brauer are psychically connected, but Tori’s Row reads like the work of one hand, to the point that even I — as familiar as I am with the styles of both authors — could not tell who was responsible for what.

What I read — the first eight chapters — sets the scene and begins to introduce tantalizing clues, and was only just enough for me to start formulating hypotheses of my own.

The story begins immediately after Tori is attacked. She’s under shock, confused, disoriented, and this really carries through into the text. The reader only knows what Tori knows, and so it’s all a little confusing, but what else would you expect from a murder mystery?

With each chapter, more is explained, both from Tori’s past and family life, as well as from the night of the attack. The slow reveal’s just fast enough to keep you clamouring for more, although I imagine it’s going to drive a few readers mad trying to piece the facts together.

While I enjoyed the first two chapters, I have to say I wasn’t properly intrigued until Chapter 3, with the introduction of the “obnoxious young man in 18th century dress” — he is the most colourful character on set, the most conflict-causing and fascinating (and potentially the sexiest?). His presence is the deal-clincher for me. As soon as he enters a scene, the mystery has a point of reference that you can track. Tori’s numb shock over her attack seems to fade when he’s around, and their interactions seem the most real. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about him.

Having only read eight chapters, so I’m a little hesitant to comment on the other characters, but none of them really caught my fancy. There seems to be a lot of tension between Tori and her family and friends, and they are perhaps a little sidelined by Tori’s growing focus on getting to the bottom of the attack.

As for the writing itself, I’ve already mentioned the surprisingly seamless collaboration between MCM and Brauer; the story has their combined strengths, and is a quick, compelling read. The dialogue in particular is very strong and natural-sounding, although perhaps the story is a little dialogue heavy as I found myself wishing for more description. Character portraits were a little clothes-focused, and I didn’t get as strong a sense of setting as I would’ve liked. The story is set in Boston, but — having no idea what Boston is like — I found it hard to picture Tori’s environment.

There are definite moments of strong description, such as the eerie flashbacks that seem to hold the clues to the mystery, but less so when it comes to Tori’s day to day life. This lack could be intentional (a reflection of Tori’s shock, perhaps?) and I’m hoping the next parts will have a little more meat on their bones.

In either case, I have to say the story intrigued me, and I raced through the sneak preview in record time. Put it this way: my reaction when I reached the end of the eighth chapter was the rather ineloquent “AAAHHHH!!!!”

In sum, Tori’s Row promises to be a suspenseful dark read that may drive you mad, but in a good way. Recommended for thrill-seekers, paranormal enthusiasts, history buffs . . . and the insane.

(Any guesses on what the title actually means?)

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Editor’s First Impression

By Linda Schoales, editor

Apr 3, 2010: The first chapter is solid. A young woman is in shock after being attacked. The police are interviewing her, but her story is missing a lot of pieces.

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Most Helpful Member Reviews

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Her Thoughts Were Red Thoughts

By alphabete, member

Apr 12, 2010: Before "Tori’s Row" was released I was lucky enough to read the first nine chapters. Here I am sharing an updated version of my original review (short version: hie yourself thither to that website and start reading!).

How well do you know the world you live in?

Tori’s sense of safety is being dismantled brick by brick and every step she takes toward comfort is a step into further disarray. Her life is becoming a nightmare and everywhere she turns, nobody believes her. Hell, she doesn’t even believe her. Within her surreal existence, the only companion who knows, shares, and truly understands what’s happening isn’t telling and won’t go away. Welcome to Tori’s Row.

By dint of a fortuitous Twitter association I was invited by one Miss Tenacious Nancy Brauer of "Strange Little Band" to preview the first nine chapters this new title, co-written with MCM, author of "The Vector". I enjoy both these authors so it wasn’t hard to make time for this enterprise. In the past twelve hours I have read these teaser chapters four times. So, what do I think?

I want to know what’s happening! Each time I return to this story I’m searching out hints, clues, the tiniest little indicators of what I’ll see in the forthcoming chapters. MCM and Nancy have got me hooked. The Tori of Chapter One is emphatically not the same Tori of Chapter Nine. Or maybe she is and I don’t want to admit it. Who attacked her and why? What doesn’t she know about herself, and does she really want to know? I want to know.

The dreamlike narrative led me through the chapters feeling as anxious and as lost as the protagonist. I say "dreamlike" because I felt like I couldn’t get a handle on what was happening, as if the very few tangible things in Tori’s consciousness were touchstones while everything else was indistinct and slippery. That is amazingly like the actual feeling I have experienced after a shocking event when everything in the world faded to the background for a while. It’s no mean feat to capture that experience in words.

Complicit in this story-fu are unsettling details that niggle at the back of my mind and make me wonder if I’ve misread them or whether the dark suspicions at the edges of my thoughts are what I think they are. There is intrigue aplenty to be found in the opening chapters of "Tori’s Row" but I’m not sure it’s what I think it is. Right now I know as much as Tori does about her situation and I’m quite looking forward to knowing what happens next. I expect this story will become, in the immortal words of any grammatically incorrect small child, somehow even more gooder.

"Tori’s Row" became available Monday, 8 March with a new chapter appearing each subsequent Monday. I’m sorry that it’s going to take any new readers 2 months to learn what I already know. I recommend starting the first chapter right now so you don’t miss out on what is shaping up to be a fantastic story.

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