01 | Russian Dolls

What do book bloggers say about it…



The Neve & Egan Cases, book one

This is an engaging story of an unlikely pair who come together to seek the truth about what happened to Irina. The crime-solving duo is a beloved trope of mysteries and the more unlikely the pair is, the happier readers are and you handle it well and believably here. The pair may be quite different, but it’s understandable why they like each other and work well together.

It’s a real pleasure to see Alexandra grow from a college student who just wants answers to a private investigator who will seek out answers for others. You do a wonderful job of characterizing her not just through her self-awareness but through her reporting what other people say about her, and through the reactions of others.
Alexandra’s journey gives the story a satisfying ending despite the fact that the Sorter is still out there, probably preparing to give Alexandra other headaches.

You have a vivid way with words, and using the present tense with a first-person narrator gives the story a very immediate and compelling feel. We’re seeing it happen right now, not through a lens of distance.

In all, a very enjoyable read and I look forward to more Neve and Egan cases!

Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

Russian Dolls reminded me of a mature, gritty version of Veronica Mars. Alexandra Neve, our main character, doesn’t want to become your typical mystery-solving sleuth, but she’s forced into the role after her best friend commits suicide by jumping off a school building. When Alexandra finds a note with a list of names hidden in her best friend’s bedroom, she realizes there may be more going on than just a suicide. She never believed Idrana would take her own life in the first place, and with the clues adding up, it seems like something else is going on.

Alexandra finds an unexpected ally in her blind professor, Mr. Ashford Egan. He’s a grumpy, bitter man, but his intellect and quick wit make him the perfect ally for Alexandra. He recognizes the names Alexandra found as being names of towns all around Russia. When the two of them dive deeper into the mystery, they uncover a secret human trafficking organization, and before they very well realize it, put themselves in harm’s way.

I liked how Neve and Egan were an unlikely sleuthing pair, but yet they work remarkably well. I enjoyed Egan’s sarcastic, dry sense of humor, and Alexandra’s down-to-earth view on life. While the MC is a ‘new adult’ (and fits perfectly within the new genre of “new adult”) this book would be an excellent fit for the older young adult audience, and the adult audience alike. There’s action, mystery, suspense and a lot of character development. Some more grown up topics are touched upon, but in a mature, distanced way. There’s no swearing or profanity, which is a bonus. Lately, it seems like all the mystery novels I’ve read are wrapped in a layer of profanity with a bit of swearing on top. Here, no such thing – thank God.

Russian Dolls is a great debut novel. The author certainly managed to keep up the suspense, and to keep me at the edge of my seat until the end. I can’t wait to read more about the Neve and Egan cases.

08.08.2013 – http://www.iheartreading.net

I am somewhat surprised by just how much I liked this book. I haven’t been too into reading mysteries as of late, but I might have to rethink that decision. ‘Russian Dolls’ is a fast-paced, unique mystery. It’s the kind of mystery that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until you reach the end and find out the truth. The story is wholly unique and the two main characters were different than your average mystery characters.
It all starts when college student Lexa Neve’s friend Irina dies out of nowhere by allegedly jumping off a roof. It is ruled a suicide by the police, but Lexa doesn’t buy it. Irina had always been a happy person with a bright future ahead of her. She refuses to believe that her friend would kill herself. She begins her own investigation and comes across a clue in Irina’s room. She finds a list of names and places in her room. With the help of her history professor, Egan Ashford AKA Ash, she begins to uncover a human trafficking ring among the Russian mafia.

The story is engrossing and, at times, tense and frightening (in a good way). The plot kept my interest fully and I was kept guessing all the way through until the end. I’m pretty good at predicting mysteries, but this one was not easy to crack.

I have to say though that the best part of this book was the two main characters. They were both well crafted and fully realized. Lexa is a young college student who is a bit of a loner while also being a little over zealous when it comes to rushing into crazy situations, whereas Ash is a middle aged blind man who is much more cautious. The two worked very well together and definitely brought balance to each other. They played off one another very well. He pushed her to be less careless and she pushed him to be a little less cautious. They made a perfect amateur detective duo.

I thought the writing was straight forward and not over done. It wasn’t overly lyrical or pretentious. It was just right for this sort of novel.
If you enjoy action packed mysteries with unique characters, this book is definitely for you. It’s been a while since I have read any mysteries and this book perfectly reminded me why I have always enjoyed the genre. This is the first book in a series and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the books to come. This is a solid start to a promising series.

04.08.2013 – http://bookcrackercaroline.blogspot.be

I really liked this book. It is so different! Alexandra’s best friend allegedly kills herself but the circumstances are suspect. Alexandra and Egan begin looking into it, and what a pair they make. Their investigations takes them places they never imagined. What they discover at the end was unexpected.

I think this book is well written. It has the perfect pacing, excellent character development, and was a real page turner. I like that one of the main characters is blind. That’s not something you see often in books, especially in detective stories. Overall, this book is well done, and I hope to see more in this series in the future.

14.03.2013 – http://engelsigh.blogspot.ch

A great start to the series, Russian Dolls kickstarts with a profound and confusing death, two unlikely and exciting characters, and a wonderfully woven story. From the first page I was entranced by the story-telling and description. A fast and engaging read. I’m excited to see what else Comby comes up with in the future!

15.03.2013 – http://haleymathiot.blogspot.ch

From the start I liked Alexandra. I felt almost an instant connection with her character, and wanted to keep reading. It crushed my heart a little to see how detached she became after Irina’s death. From that point the story goes on such a wild, random, almost fly by the seat of your pants kind of ride! Throw in a mystery, the Russian Mafia, and two polar opposite people and you have the perfect little book!

17.03.2013 – http://mustreadfaster.blogspot.ch

My rating: ****

Set in London, “Russian Dolls” is a gripping new adult mystery that I am very excited to recommend! Alexandra’s best friend, Irina, supposedly commits suicide, but Alexandra’s gut tells her that there is more to this story than meets the eye. So when she finds a clue in Irina’s room in the form of a list of Russian names and cities, she is off on an adventure to prove the police wrong and find justice for Irina. Alexandra finds a surprising companion and sleuthing partner in her blind history professor, Egan.

This new adult book does reference human trafficking and even has characters talking about their experiences as victims of it. But there are not any gratuitous sex scenes. The book is about Alexandra and Egan finding out what really happened and why Irina had to die.

The characters are well developed, and the plot is extremely layered and complex. While Russian Dolls is not a “light read,” it is definitely worth sinking your teeth into.

18.03.2013 – http://livinginafictionalreality.blogspot.ch

New Adult Mystery Makes the Grade! *****
I’m lucky that I can choose what I want to review. Well, this book was a total charm. St.Patty’s day is close by and I’d say everyone else’s luck will holdout if you’re looking for your next NEW ADULT suspense mystery read, here it is: Russian Dolls.

Ms. Comby gives everything a reader of suspense wants. Fast-paced story about a student whose life takes a 360 degree turn. Death comes at Alexandra, or specifically, suicide. That’s what her friend’s death is deemed. Mmmm. That becomes the question to be solved.

Russian Dolls was more than a pleasure to read in the author’s voice, the storyline, and how she delivers thought provoking exchanges. I don’t delve into other piles away from erotic or hot romance often, certainly not mystery, but I made an exception here. Boy, AM I GLAD.

I fell in love with the characters, a modern day odd couple. Alexandra Neve (Lexa) is young, quick witted, ready on the draw. Comby hooks her up with a polar opposite, the type of character who immediately embeds himself in your heart. Professor Ashford Egan, a man who is invisible to his peers and mocked by some students when he mercilessly prods them. Professor Egan might not have sight but his mental acuity is as sharp as a blade. He’s one of those characters that becomes the consciousness for humanity, pushing Alexandra while helping her.

Spinning through the pages, this read was nothing short of a roller coaster ride. I recommend Russian Dolls unequivocally for Comby’s ability to create a world full of memorable characters, delving into the Russian mob. Neve and Egan bond elegantly as Lexa pieces together the events surrounding Irina’s death. This duo, I predict, will become the next crime solving partnership. I look forward to Cristelle Comby’s next book.

18.03.2013 – http://taylormadebookreviews.blogspot.ch

Wow. Let me start by saying that hand’s down, this is one of my favorite books of the year. The synopsis drew me in even as I was skeptical about the cover. This is one of those books where I’m glad I didn’t judge it by the cover alone. The writing is masterful, the mystery intriguing, and the characters complex. I found myself wondering what Egan and Alexandra would uncover and what would happen to them along the way.

I adored Egan. As much as I liked Alexandra – and she is an awesome character – Egan was my favorite. Comby created this character and weaved his story into the larger mystery. At first I didn’t know what to expect from him. He was this cold, hard professor with a sarcastic streak a mile long. But as the story unfolds we get more and more clues about who he is and why he acts the way he does. I emphasized with him. As Alexandra learned more about him and started to consider him a friend, I found myself wishing I had a friend like him. He’s intriguing, smart, and independent but still vulnerable and human. He’s the perfect blend of fiction and human emotion.

The interactions between Alexandra and Egan were amazing and usually hilarious. I mean really:

‘I’m frowning at you right now,’ I inform him courteously as I fall into step. ‘I’m frowning really, really hard.’


‘Well four dates in and we’re already moving in together,’ I say in a deadpan fashion. ‘Now people will definitely talk.’

Now I must say I’m biased when it comes to their interactions: 1) I love dry British humor and 2) these are things I would say to my friends. But their banter back and forth had me falling in love with the characters. I loved their little jabs at each other and their inside joke about dating. I could really see the friendship grow between the two, though I do wonder if it will escalate into something more. They most likely wont, but I think they’d be an interesting couple.

As for the story, I didn’t know where it was headed until they were already there. I loved it. I hate mysteries when you know who the killer or the thief is within a few chapters. I just end up yelling at the main character to pay attention so they can solve the mystery instead of goofing off for half the book. Thankfully, Russian Dolls is not one of those books. Oh I had my guesses, and yes some of them were right, but I didn’t realize how complex the story was. What starts out as a simple case to solve a friend’s apparent suicide explodes into plot twist after plot twist with more at stake than avenging a friend.

One thing that should be noted is that the book is set in London and is written in British English. While I know that won’t bother most people, it’s something to be aware of because British spelling is used (colour instead of color) and the colloquialisms are different. But honestly, it gives the story an authentic feel. I felt like I was in London figuring out the mystery alongside Egan and Alexandra. Overall I adored this book and I cannot wait to see what Comby comes up with next. The Neve and Egan Cases are going on my automatic buy list because I have see what happens next.

19.03.2013 – http://overflowingbookshelves.com

This was definitely a different type of mystery novel. Alexandra and Ashford (aka Neve and Egan) are the most unlikely duo I have ever come across. Even when they first hook up to do their sleuthing, it is a little hard to believe. Somehow, their differences serve to balance each other out and they are actually able to learn from each other.

Alexandra is convinced that her best friend didn’t commit suicide, though the supposed evidence all points to that being true. She finds a list in a secret hiding place that gets her asking questions and leads to her hooking up with Egan. The next thing she knows, she is knee deep in the Russian Mafia and other shady groups with all kinds of twists and lots of action.

This is a shorter New Adult read that looks to be the beginning of a series featuring the professor and his student solving a bunch of mysteries together.

20.03.2013 – http://andisyoungadult.blogspot.ch

Finally a book for Mystery Lovers that is in the New Adult Genre. I love reading about 20-somethings and not teens or adults. I also really love to read a good Mystery. This is the perfect baby of the two!

Cristelle Comby has introduced us to characters that are easy to get behind and a plot that will keep you guessing. It is a bit gritty, but in a good way that adds to the story. I think the dynamic between the characters is wonderful and I really look forward to seeing where they go from here.

20.03.2013 – http://authoreverleigh.blogspot.ch

Welcome to a new detective team. This first book in The Neve&Egan Cases introduces us to an unlikely duo in the annals of detective fiction – a blind professor and his student. Comby makes it work.

The characters are the most interesting part of this book–to see the growth of Alexandra Neve as she plays off the steadier Ash Egan is interesting. She’s determined to prove that her friend did not commit suicide. Egan is steadier and provides a guiding hand when she wants to rush off half-cocked. On the other hand, Egan is withdrawn and friendless and Neve offers companionship he so desperately needs.

The plot is interesting–going from Alexandra’s conviction that her friend didn’t commit suicide to the discovery of a mysterious list to links to involvement in human trafficking and money laundering, and more. I’m interested to see what else Ms. Comby has in store for Neve & Egan.

21.03.2013 – http://www.longandshortreviews.com

As part of my job with the library, I’ve been reading a lot more YA and New Adult fiction–and this will be an interesting addition to our collection. The unlikely teaming up of a student and professor (not to mention the fact that he’s blind and almost universally unliked because of his caustic ways) is second only to the fact that they are drawn into such a multi-country scheme–almost by accident.

Alexandra Neve does not believe the police when they rule her best friend’s death a suicide–and a chance discovery starts her on a journey to prove that there was more involved. Egan’s keen hearing brings him into the mix and together they are able to put the pieces together and solve the mystery involved.

Ms.Comby writes the book in first person, present tense–that might be off-putting to some, but I was willing to give it a chance and soon became so immersed in the story that it didn’t bother me as much as I was afraid it would. I would like to see future books in third person, however, just because I would love to see inside Ash Egan’s mind.

He, to me, was the most interesting character, even though the book is told in Neve’s POV. The unlikely teaming works and I’m looking forward to reading more books in this series and to see how the characters develop more fully.

22.03.2013 – http://straightfromlibrary.blogspot.ch

First of all, I wish the cover drew readers into the greatness of this world that Cristelle Comby has created.

Believeable and Relatable characters really help to captivate the reader and get them invested in the happenings of this story. I loved Alexandra Neve from the very start. I loved that she had a personal tie to the mystery and it shows how she gets involved in the world.

There are some grittier topics such as Human Trafficking, but it is not extremely detailed in a way that would be off-putting.

I liked that the characters were very much the odd-couple but they definitely worked together.

I think this is a great start to the series! Can’t wait to read more!

23.03.2013 – http://myaddictionisreading.blogspot.ch

Alexandra Neve is a student at University College London, when her world tragically falls apart. In a bizarre turn of events Alexandra’s best friend jumps from the university’s rooftop and the police automatically assume her friend’s death was a suicide and close the case. Alexandra can’t stop asking “Why”? And teams up with an unlikely ally named Ashford Egan to find the answers she desperately needs. I really enjoyed the storyline, and think that there’s a little something that any reader would enjoy. This book has it all, plot twists; unique characters and lots of excitement to keep you interested every step of the way. I would give this book a 5 out of 5 stars and I’m looking forward to the next book!!!

5 stars.

25.03.2013 – http://bookreferees.blogspot.ch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This may be the fifth book about human sex trafficking that I have read in the past five months, and it never ceases to completely blow me away! This book leaves the familiar Mexican/Hispanic tie-in and tackles another area I never thought about–Russia.

Let’s tackle the first thing. This book is almost completely free of profanity (the minor instances don’t really bother me), and sex is only talked about. Morality is high, and justice is served. This is the first book in the series, and the ending left me practically breathless. I realized that I was going to be left hanging about ten pages before I finished the book, but it is not one of those endings that upset me. There is resolution, but there is a promise for more. All I can say is that Ms. Comby needs to get the next book out as soon as possible!

I love mysteries, and this book was everything I could have wanted from that standpoint. It also dealt with an important issue. But all these things do no automatically equal a 5-star rating. Neve and Egan are amazing detectives, and you never would have paired them up as amateur detectives. But they make it work, and it is one wild ride. I experienced it all: anger, humor, suspense, and practically nonstop action! This book is not for the faint of heart.

When I began the book, I liked it, but I almost viewed it as a chore. I truly enjoyed the story, but I just didn’t lose myself into it until a little bit later. In fact, as I approached the last third of the book, I was so mesmerized that I lost track of where I was and what time it was! I had to know what the outcome would be.

My heart was touched as evidence and stories emerged. I found myself pondering this horrible crime against humanity, and I discussed it in detail with my mother. There is nothing like an outstanding, engaging story with a message, and I can assure you this book delivers just that. It is a fast read, and you will probably view your world differently once you finish it.

27.03.2013 – www.mydevotionalthoughts.com

When an unexpected death hits close to home, Neve is overcome with denial. She doesn’t want to believe that her friend who loved life and always had a smile on her face has committed suicide, but the police cannot find any evidence to prove otherwise. So Neve decides to conduct her own investigation as she is certain that Irina didn’t commit suicide but that Irina was well in fact murdered. Along with the help of her professor she goes on a hunt to find out the truth behind Irina’s murder.

A five star mystery that can’t be put down. Its like watching a TV show you cannot just leave it playing when you leave the room cause you might miss something. Russian dolls was amazing the writing was perfect, the plot was in a way unique since the student was helped by a teacher usually teachers don’t let you get into anything dangerous but this was not the case . The only flaw that I found was that Neve kind of caved in way to quickly I mean she blurted everything out. But other than that it was a really really great read.

Neve and Egan were amazing characters, Neve really amazed me when she took control of the situations she showed how brave she was just by going in there and facing those guys. Finding out who was involved was like a slap to the face it literately took me by surprise because I kinda knew but I didn’t want to believe it. I can’t stop thinking about the ending, It’s hard to review this book without giving away spoilers because every piece of info would be part of a spoiler so I will stop the gushing now and rate! 5/5

01.04.2013 – http://faroofthedark.blogspot.ch

I’ve never read a book that was specifically marketed as ‘New Adult’. I fall squarely within the intended audience of this new marketing phenomenon but I still am not quite sure I understand it. I’ve read my fair share of young adult and adult books, so it was definitely interesting to read something that was perhaps a bit more in-between.

Alexandra Neve and Ashford Egan are definitely not your typical sleuth pair. Similar to Dark Lie, where the main character suffered from Lupus, I enjoyed that the main characters are not extraordinarily beautiful or ‘perfect’. Egan’s blindness offered an interesting element to the mystery.

I enjoyed Russian Dolls for its intrigue and unpredictability. I am never that good at guessing where a mystery is going in the first place, but I didn’t find myself not wondering what was going to happen next, or what the resolution was going to be. The writing was at its strongest during the action scenes.

I did not give this book 5 stars because, Porca vacca! It could get a little repetitive. Alexandra started really bugging me in her inability to follow directions, particularly when the directions were coming from the police. I understand that it was imperative to have her be in the thick of it for the sake of there to be a story as it was written in first person, but her absolute refusal to follow directions, especially when they were important ones really bugged me. However, it could be said that that was strength of the character because she remains true to herself in that she is a very stubborn character and very well likely not have listened to her elders.

As far as whether this book fits within the New Adult category? I’d say yes. The main character is in her early twenties, trying to figure out who she is and the more adult themes are refreshing after some of the PG young adult reads out there. I think people are wrong when they try to say that New Adult should remain innocent of real violence or deep themes. Russian Dolls, while dealing with human trafficking and gang activity, is an exhilarating read that can help remove you into its world.

03.04.2013 – http://playingjokers.wordpress.com

I found myself connecting with Cristelle Comby’s Russian Dolls in a way I didn’t expect, like her main character I’m somewhat quiet and keep to myself. I felt as if “Lexa” was a real person and someone I knew . While I tend to read more romantic suspense than just plain mystery, I really fell in love with Ms. Comby’s characters and found myself staying up late and turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. Touching on the timely subject of human trafficking, Ms. Comby’s story gives us another glimpse into just how pervasive crime can be in our daily lives.

When college student Irina Anderson commits suicide by jumping off the roof of a building, her best friend Alexandra “Lexa” Neve can’t believe it was a voluntary choice. Mostly a loner, Lexa knows Irina had a bright future and wouldn’t have ended her life – something or someone had to have forced her to jump. Determined to conduct her own “real” investigation, she knows the cops have never investigated it as a homicide, Lexa accidentally stumbles across a clue. A clue that will lead to a new friend, organized crime and a new direction for her own future.

Blind, middle aged Professor Ashford “Ash” Egan knows Alexandra Neve is both quiet and smart. Her sudden curiosity about Russian geography on the heels of her friend’s death, lets him know something is up. Gaining her confidence is easy, becoming her real friend takes both time and letting her get close. Something he’s had trouble doing. When it’s clear Lexa is in over her head, Ash is determined to help her stay one step ahead of the criminals and help her solve the mystery behind her friend’s death.

While mostly a straight mystery/suspense book, Ms. Comby does give us a couple of different relationships inside this book; we get to see Lexa’s relationship with her mom, her memories of her relationship with Irina, her growing friendship with Ash, and even the mild beginnings of a romance between Lexa and a local detective. While Lexa is quiet and hasn’t made friends easily, she’s honorable, tenacious and devoted to the people she has in her life. No one is going to get away with hurting one of her friends.

Ms. Comby also gives us Ash, a middle aged professor whose personality issues make him the perfect candidate to be Lexa’s friend. He too has issues with the average person, doesn’t make friends easily, and hasn’t quite managed to deal with his blindness. At the same time, he and Lexa share many things in common; he’s a decent human being, he’s devoted to keeping Lexa safe, and he’s able to see things from a different perspective than Lexa, which helps them investigate the crime.

While I was able to identify one of the villains at the start of the story, or at least I was suspicious of him from the start, Ms. Comby does a good job of keeping both the mystery alive and the plot moving at a good pace. While the police don’t exactly come off as a shining example of justice at the beginning of this story, they do manage to get it together towards the end.

Will Lexa and Ash solve the mystery behind Irina’s death and discover the identity of the mastermind behind the crime? You’ll have to read Russian Dolls, the first book in the Neve & Egan Cases to find out. I can’t wait to see what adventure Lexa and Ash find themselves involved in next.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Crowns

03.04.2013 – http://queenofallshereads.blogspot.ch

Cristelle pens “Russian Dolls” in a plot filled with mystery, suspense, crime and the Russian Mafia. With well developed, believable characters this book will keep you reading till the end. I was totally engrossed with the book and highly recommend it to all crime, mystery fans.

I give “Russian Dolls” a 5 star rating.

04.04.2013 – http://coziecorner.blogspot.ch

Unique. That is the main way I would describe this book. This would be described as New Adult as far as the ages and life experiences go, but it really reads like a Detective/Mystery/Nancy Drew type of book with a more contemporary feel.

I loved the writing style and the flow of the novel seemed effortless. I was kept on the edge of my seat til the very end and loved the mystery and suspense that was built.

This first novel really sets up the foundation for a wonderful series and I will be reading more from Cristelle Comby in the future!

05.04.2013 – http://texasbooknook13.blogspot.ch

When Alexandra’s friend Irina dies suddenly, she refuses to believe the police when they rule it suicide and close the case. Finding a list of names and cities in Irina’s room, she begins to investigate with the help of her history professor, Egan Ashford. They stumble into a human trafficking ring run by the Russian Mafia.

“Russian Dolls” is an absorbing mystery novel with a unique detective duo. While they are amateurs, a popular device in many series, they are different from most. Alexandra (Lexa) is a college student, and Egan (Ash) is her middle-aged, blind professor. Much of the appeal of this novel is due to this pairing. Lexa tends to rush into situations without thinking, while Ash is, of necessity, more careful. They balance one another nicely.

While the plot wasn’t the best I’ve read, it held my interest and did not drag. The only problem was that the premise of the Russian Mafia somehow felt like overkill. This, however, is only my opinion. The novel is the first in a series, so I’m sure the characters and plots will develop over time. I look forward to the next installment.

4 stars

07.04.2013 – http://www.theselftaughtcook.blogspot.ch