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Renee Benzaim was born in Wenatchee, Washington, but grew up in Northern California. She wrote her first short story when she was in the third grade and discovered her love of putting words on paper.
Her novels include the popular Detective Annie Avants crime fiction series, which is set in Kern County, California. Annie has become very popular with readers and some call her the next "Nancy Drew". She will publish the fifth novel in this series in the Summer of 2016.
Her other books include Coyote's Song, the story of a five-year-old Miwok Indian girl who disappears. Ten years later, a reknowned writer sets out to solve the mystery of Evangeline's disappearance.
In addition, Renee has written three non-fiction books: How to Make Compost; Salsa!; and Can Men Get Yeast Infections?
She lives with her husband in a home and gardens surrounded by a stone wall. This small piece of paradise is the home of an ever=growing number of cats and one shaggy dog.
on Nov. 18, 2013 :
Flawed but worth reading.
Interesting plot and intriguing characters. Sadly the plot was somewhat occluded by writing that needed an editor's touch.
The police procedural was obviously heavily and well researched.
The dialogue is clunky and doesn't sound like people talking. Over explanation is another problem, especially when the characters tell us something, and then tell us the same thing all over again in a paragraph of exposition. At the same time sometimes Initials are used (such as SO - whatever that means since it's obviously not Significant Other) which aren't explained well enough.
Also challenging why the dialogue of a 16 yr old Hispanic boy from CA sounds exactly the same as the dialogue of a 30 something police detective from Alabama.
I agree with the reviewer who said there were too many subplots. Noura's plotline (while quite interesting) didn't make sense as it had no relevance and connection to the main plot, and felt like it was just sort of hanging in extra space. The double romances plots (and wanna connect to our Native roots plots) were also distracting. As I'm part Native, I liked that touch in the backstory, but felt it was too heavy handed.
I also didn't get the fact that Annie was supposedly the main character. Tom probably got more time than she did as far as actually closing the case and scenes that featured his viewpoint.
Okay now for the good points: Few typos. The author actually seems to have a good command of the English language which I find refreshing thus far on my exploration of Smashwords.
The serial killer was unique at least as far as methods. I would have liked to have more insight into his reasons earlier in the book, rather than waiting to read them in the epilogue. Since he kept a diary, it would have been great to intersperse parts of that in the book.
I actually DID NOT guess who the baddie was until well into the book, and the red herrings for other characters to be the bad guy were well placed and handled so that I wasn't sure whodunit till right near the end.
The story of the murdered women was also sad/thought provoking. and suitably horrifying. One of the good facets of the book was that dating everyone's actions left you counting how many days each victim had to live and agonizing over whether she'd be found or not. And yes, the victims were drawn well enough that I DID agonize over them. They were probably the best drawn characters in the book.
Despite flaws, I am looking forward to reading the 2nd book. I hope the author will work on voice and editing. She's already got procedure and the "mystery" part down. She's got a character (or 10) that I actually like and want to follow.
This is obviously a first novel which should have been subjected to the demands of an editor, but shows great promise.
(review of free book)
on Nov. 04, 2013 :
I loved the book! It kept my attention and I had a hard time putting it down. I'm reading the sequel now and it's even better. Renee Benzaim is very thorough in her research and it's a delight to read her books!
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Oct. 21, 2013 :
I received this book as a gift. Cause Of Death kept me at the edge of my seat! The suspense throughout the novel kept me riveted. The characters all came to life. Renee Benzaim has written a marvelous novel and I am certain the sequel Damage Control will be just as delightful! Submitted by Vanery Dyer for Lisa Arellano
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Aug. 05, 2013 :
In Cause of Death, Detectives Avant and Weston are out to find a serial killer who tortures victims with black widow spiders prior to their deaths. There are also a few side stories which add to character and plot development as well as hinting at potential upcoming romances in future volumes.
Aside from a few typos and spacing issues, which could be due to the fact I was reading an ARC, the text and story line flows very well with exhilarating action.
There were a couple of details that seemed to switch or get confused at one point, but as they were minor details they weren't distracting to the story line.
The characters were very authentic and true to life. The villain was not one dimensional which I greatly appreciated. The details for the investigations, scenery, and story in general were vivid and imaginable.
Overall, an enjoyable read!
(reviewed long after purchase)
Jane M Carraway
on July 08, 2013 :
Police procedural Cause of Death is the first mystery / thriller for author Renee Benzaim, and the first entry in the Det. Annie Avants series.
This exciting book is fast-paced, easy to follow, with engaging characters and a highly suspenseful storyline. I couldn't put it down. I didn't put it down, and read it straight through in a day. I just had to find out whodunit!
The story is told from alternating points of view of different characters, including Annie, the victims, and even the perpetrator. The reader knows, from the beginning, how the murders are committed, but not why or by whom. The reader is with each victim, as she is nabbed by the perp. The reader is with the detectives, as they pursue their leads and hit dead-ends. The author includes several red herrings to mislead the reader, and a dead goldfish, so beware.
As one would expect in the first book in the Det. Annie Avants series, Annie is the main character, and a very likable one at that. Annie's part is well written, with enough back-story for the reader to really get to know her. The relationships between Annie and her friends / co-workers are complex and interesting, due to the back-stories the author reveals about the other characters.
I look forward to reading more about Annie and company in future books in the series. The eBook edition of Damage Control, the second book in the series, is expected to be published by August 30, 2013, and the paperback edition by September 15, 2013. I rated Cause of Death five stars. I give it my highest recommendation, for anyone who enjoys police procedural mysteries or suspense / thrillers.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on May 27, 2013 :
"I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were well described and realistic. They came alive on the pages. The author Renee Benzaim has done her research and it shows. Her attention to detail allows the reader to learn as well as to be entertained. The lead character, detective Annie Avant in Kern County, California is intellectual and thorough, yet her real to life qualities show through. This novel has twists and turns that keeps the reader surprised to the very end, making it difficult to put it down. I look forward to Renee Benzaim's next novel in this series."
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on May 27, 2013 :
I wanted something to read over the weekend. I have quite a few ARC copies to read and review, but I wanted something quick. This book features only 198 pages, so I figured what the heck… I could knock it out in two days. As soon as I picked it up, I could not put it down. I found myself driving my fiance’ crazy reading well into the wee hours of the morning (he’s forever bothered by the light from my ereader… too bad, a bookaholic has to get a fix every now and then.)
Serial Killer… check.
Detective Team… check.
Well written and captivating, for the most part… check.
I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the character development. I absolutely loved the investigation side of the novel. It was well researched and presented in an alluring way.
CREEPY CREEPY Ingenious way of killing victims! I have read many serial killer books, and I have to say black widow spiders… Ew!!!! Very, very creatively creepy. It’s the main thing that kept me reading. I really wish I could have read more about the killer.
Too many subplots… not enough of the serial killer’s view point.
I really feel the author could either cut out some of the subplots or expand on the killer’s viewpoint and make a longer novel. I found my self frustrated and skipping through pages when it came to the love triangles in the book;
Annie & Jessie.
Tom & Laine.
Then to add in the weird gang related character development of a Noura, Tito and courts? Really took away from story itself. I would rather have read something along the view points of the killer.
In example, at the end of the book we find out the killer had a journal he kept during his “experimentation process.” I WOULD LOVED TO HAVE SEEN “PAGES” of his book. The author was so quick to describe how and when the killer decided to start kidnapping Hispanic women. It was so brief. She really could have expanded this section and made the book a bit more suspenseful and entertaining.
This was the perfect book to read on a rainy 3 day weekend. I am thankful a review copy was sent my way. I think it could be a bit more engaging with some reworking around the killer’s view point. I also think it needs less of the love triangle/personal conflicts of the characters; especially revolving around Tito/Noura.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)