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A Smudge of Gray

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Detective Brian Boise is about to embark on the biggest case of his career. After being thrust into law enforcement on the footsteps of his father, Detective Boise finds himself on the trail of a murder suspect he could never have imagined, the mysterious businessman, Trevor Malloy. Trevor is an irresistible hitman with everything going for him, while Detective Boise is a cutthroat detective going against the grain. These two men, both breadwinners and keystones of their families, play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. They are a contrast of each other and as their game progresses, their worlds contort and the line between black and white blurs.

194 pages, Paperback

First published January 3, 2012

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About the author

Jonathan Sturak

14 books76 followers
Jonathan Sturak grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He is a Penn State University graduate and holds degrees in Computer Science and Film. He currently lives in Las Vegas where he uses the energy of the city to craft stories about life and the human condition. "The Place Called Home," Sturak's essay about Eastern European heritage in Northeast Pennsylvania, was featured on Glass Cases, associate literary agent Sarah LaPolla's pop culture blog at http://glasscasesblog.blogspot.com/20.... Sturak is also a contributing editor at http://NoirNation.com, the premier location for international crime fiction. His debut thriller novel "Clouded Rainbow" was published in December 2009 and has over 200,000 downloads on the Amazon Kindle. Sturak keeps updated information on his website at http://sturak.com

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5 stars
103 (19%)
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152 (28%)
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143 (26%)
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92 (17%)
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41 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews
Profile Image for Selene.
933 reviews229 followers
February 10, 2018
Forty-three year-old businessman Trevor Malloy is an independent contractor. He’s CEO of his consulting firm and travels frequently, but he treasures his family and they are the apple of his eye.

Detective Brian Boise is under tremendous stress at work and rarely spends time with his family. A new homicide case is handed to him soon after he tells his wife and son that they should take a family vacation. They don’t end up taking that well needed break and the outcome of the homicide investigation proves to be disastrous.

► This story had the potential to be something great! Chapter one ended with a bang and immediately drew me in, but the writing style was a bit odd and the transition scenes between characters was bumpy. I loved how the plot unfolded but certain trigger words made the direction of the story too obvious. The pacing was perfect throughout until the ending. It felt rushed and wasn’t my favorite.

► Psychological thriller
► Descriptive murder scenes
► Fast-paced
Profile Image for Martyn Halm.
Author 9 books59 followers
March 15, 2020
I'm conflicted about writing a negative review of this book. I stopped reading, which is usually a 1-star (I didn't like it) review, but the merits of this book still pushed me towards a 2-star rating (It was OK).

The reason for my conflict is that I dislike the style of Sturak's writing, but I acknowledge that he has a way with words and that there are almost no mistakes in his prose.

Let me first state what I liked about the book:
The cover is brilliant, I think. Ominous and eye-popping despite the lack of bright colours. Clearly a professional cover.
The blurb is also good. Good, clear prose, and a concise conflict that interested me.

Which is why I'm disappointed in the content of the book itself and stopped reading at the end of chapter 10.

Like I said, Sturak has a way with words, but instead of form following function, function was definitely subservient to form. Sounding a bit too pleased at his ability to write a simile or metaphor, Sturak's convoluted prose strangles the story like kudzu vines killing a tree by taking away all sunlight.

I read part of the sample before I downloaded the book (for free) and was at first captivated by the prose, but after a while I started to long for the clear, concise prose Sturak used in his blurb.

Make no mistake, Sturak can write. I enjoyed the flowery descriptions: "A subway station bustled, infected with morning commuters." The images were wonderful, however, the descriptions often tended to run several paragraph and dragged down the pace of the story.

Meanwhile the characters are unsympathetic without fail. Trevor Malloy is an arrogant and sadistic hitman, and his wife Laura is described in loving detail as a ‘housewife, a homemaker and babysitter when the kids weren’t in school’ with ‘a hourglass figure’ with the ‘naive look of an auburn-haired Hollywood star from the 1940s with her simple elegance’ who ‘spoiled her children’ and was in turn ‘spoiled by her husband with a large bankroll, which offered her a life filled with salon trips and a closet filled with designer clothes’. She behaves unsympathetic, complaining that she ‘doesn’t understand why her husband bought a trampoline’ when all the children do ‘is jump on that trampoline the minute they got home’. In all the interaction with the children and her husband she comes across as a whiny insecure hellion.
Brian Boise is an overworked detective who’d rather spend time crawling up the career ladder than with his haranguing wife and non-descript sullen kid constantly complaining about Boise’s lack of attention. His colleagues are rude, obnoxious turds who belittle and ridicule him.

Along with the drawn-out descriptions that reek of verbal diarrhoea, Sturak has a tendency to talk down to his readers as if they are totally ignorant of the world around them:
Katie and Kevin jumped from the trampoline and ran toward their father at the back patio. Their dad was tall and wore a dark gray suit with black onyx cufflinks securing his French cuffs. He was wheeling a 20" Travelpro Rollaboard carry-on featuring toughened nylon waterproof ball-bearing inline skate wheels and a Checkpoint-friendly laptop compartment--the ultimate addition to the frequent business traveler. The kids hugged him tenderly, just as two kids did who adored their father.
Like we need the retailer’s description of his luggage and the pointers that the kids adore their father.

Brian lowered his voice as lovers did when they expressed their feelings verbally.
This is a detective trying to convince his wife that it’s a good career move to solve a copycat murder case.


The verbosity extends to the use of alternative speech tags for the simple 'said/whispered/yelled', but often missed the ball:
"I want spaghetti!" Kevin shouted.
"I want hot dogs!" his sister contradicted.
To contradict is to deny the truth (of a statement) by asserting the opposite, and hot dogs are not the opposite of spaghetti.

"All you do is jump on (the trampoline) all day long."
"Not all day, Mom. We have school," Kevin clarified.
Kevin's reply is a retort, not a clarification.

One of his gloved hands gripped his proverbial briefcase.
I wondered to what proverb or idiom the briefcase referred, but evidently Sturak means that the briefcase always accompanied the character.

The silhouette of an inert figure holding a briefcase stared at him.
Inert means lacking the ability or strength to move, it’s not a substitute for ‘motionless’.

…, the tingle of adrenaline flowing through his amplified veins.
Amplification is the increase in volume of sound, not an increase in physical volume of matter. Though sometimes used to describe the intensifying of feelings (amplified hearing) or concepts (amplified political unrest), or enlarging upon or adding detail to a story or statement, the widening of veins is not amplification.

The verbose prose also tends to dramatise everyday inanimate objects in a way that irritated me:
On the nightstand, a clock blared “11:57.”
The clock is not making any sound, so blaring is odd.

Without warning, the car propelled on the track, and just like that, chaos ensued.
This is a description of a subway train leaving a station during normal 'rush hour'. The departure of a subway train is usually preceded by doors hissing shut and the soft tug when the train starts moving, so it’s not shooting forward ‘without warning’. No ‘chaos ensues’, but rather the normal bustle of a subway station continues.

This time he dropped the cake on the floor. It detonated.
The sponge cake ‘detonates’? Since ‘detonate’ means ‘causing to explode’, the description goes awry. Sponge cake, even if flung at a tile floor, rarely explodes and never causes anything to explode.

The third floor elevators sat in tranquility, but then an abrupt ding sliced through the silence. The shining doors opened as Trevor strolled off.
Quite a dramatic description for an elevator arriving and a passenger getting off.

Large maps of the city were sprawled across the walls.
Sprawling is a horizontal action (sitting, lying, falling), not a vertical one.

(Character opens a top drawer.) Inside, a 9mm pistol, silencer, and ammunition glared at him.
So a pistol stares at him angrily or fiercely? While I concur that a pistol might have a menacing or ominous vibe, glaring requires eyes, something a gun lacks.

I’m sure many readers will probably delight in Sturak’s wordiness, but I couldn’t be bothered to drag myself through garrulous blathering with literary pretensions where I expected a tense thriller.
Profile Image for Misty Baker.
403 reviews130 followers
May 31, 2012
When I started KO a few years ago I knew no one in the book industry. Authors, publisher and agents were in an entirely different stratosphere than myself. They lived in solitary confinement in areas of the world I was not privy to. They held secret meetings and plotted characters demises behind closed doors.

I would like to chalk this up to being naive and not just plain moronic, but hell…that’s exactly what it was. Moronic.

Since then I have learned a new lesson. Authors, publishers, agents…etc. are just like me. They live in suburban homes, get snappy when they don’t get enough sleep, forget to buy milk and have to trudge back to the store, spend hours on the computer surfing social sites, and drink more coffee than should ever be allowed in any single human body.

Why exactly does this matter?

Well…because a few years ago I met a very delightful man named Jonathan Sturak on Twitter, and since then we have become friends. And, while you may continue reading the review below and conclude that “if this is how I treat my friends you’d hate to see how I treat my enemies,” I assure you that my honesty IS in the interest of a friend. I aim to help, no hinder an author. Especially those I think are working outside of their potential.

“Detective Brian Boise is about to embark on the biggest case of his career. After being thrust into law enforcement on the footsteps of his father, Detective Boise finds himself on the trail of a murder suspect he could never have imagined, the mysterious businessman, Trevor Malloy. Trevor is an irresistible hitman with everything going for him, while Detective Boise is a cutthroat detective going against the grain. These two men, both breadwinners and keystones of their families, play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. They are a contrast of each other and as their game progresses, their worlds contort and the line between black and white blurs.”

*sigh* I’m going to be completely honest with you and say up front that this book irritated the snot out of me. Last year (or maybe the year before…I forget) I read Mr. Sturak’s book “Clouded Rainbow.” It wasn’t my favorite book in the world and I said so in my review. The problem was; Sturak showed impressive “writing” ability (aka character and scene development) but was sorely lacking in the plot department. “A Smudge of Gray” was the exact opposite.

Sturak can no longer claim to be knew to this game, and because of this…his ability to piece together a convincing and even mildly enjoyable work of fiction should have been a no brainer. Unfortunately his writing took a massive step backwards.

What do I mean exactly?

Well, not only did the dialogue and overall narration feel like it was coming out of left field, Sturak made a fatal mistake by over elaborating. (ie: I didn’t need a play by play account of the kids final minutes of a basketball game. It wasn’t relevant.)

I enjoy having the scene set for me. It’s part of the reason I love to read (I can form the picture in my head) but there is a point where miles of strung out adjectives, descriptions and metaphors can get out of hand. This is the point where your novel jumps the shark and you loose readers.

For example:

“Kevin, Jonathan, and Katie ran on the court like three kids in a toy store. Helen focused on the kids, and then ran with them like an alcoholic in a liquor store. Laura and Anne Marie watched like two old maids in a jewelry store.“

Sometime you can have too much of a good thing. This is one of those times.

The story itself also had some pretty severe ups and downs. While I was intrigued by the first several chapters of the novel, at around the 20 or 30% mark the plot became to easy. This was supposed to be a psychological thriller, a genre that is kept alive by twisting it’s characters inside out and throwing a handful of sidebars at the audience to keep their mind active. “A Smudge of Gray” did none of these things. While I will admit that the ending was unexpected (to a point) and the writing finally settled into a grove in the final scenes, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the clues leading up to it’s ending were waaaaay to coincidental and easily hashed out. (AKA my moment of irritation.)

My overall thoughts? It was another good attempt, but still a little short of the mark.

If Sturak finds the time to combine his two varying writing styles he might just take the literary world by storm. Unfortunately…until he gets to that point, all you’ll get is a predictable book with sub-par writing.

Sorry Jonathan. Better luck next time.

Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember:

“Once you become predictable, no one’s interested anymore.” – Chet Atkins.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 12 books1,262 followers
September 20, 2012
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

For those who don't know, whenever I finish reading a book I plan on reviewing, I actually wait two or three weeks before writing that review, because hindsight and contemplation almost always tends to bring out nuances in my write-up that wouldn't have otherwise existed; but every so often I'll sit down to write that review and realize that I have completely forgotten everything about that book in just those two to three weeks, always a bad sign because it doesn't designate a bad book but merely a bland, generic one. And so it is with Jonathan Sturak's A Smudge of Gray, which I want to reiterate is not terrible at all, a competently written crime thriller about a cop and the criminal he's trying to catch, both of them genial middle-aged fathers whose lives sometimes accidentally intersect in interesting ways (both their sons are in the same basketball league, for example), even while both of them remain oblivious to the fact that the other is the subject of their antagonism. And that's what makes reviews like these so painful, because I hate having to pan novels that aren't actually that bad; but in a world that now sees the release of 50,000 new novels at Amazon every single year, it's becoming of greater and greater importance to an artist now to ask themselves not just whether their own book is well done, but whether it has even a chance of standing out amongst those other 49,999 books it's directly competing against in just that year alone. And the simple fact is that this one doesn't, no more than a random April 1993 episode of Law & Order does when compared to every other episode of Law & Order ever made; and that's a shame, because Sturak is a decent writer and I'd love to see him do something a lot more memorable than this. A middle-of-the-road score for a middle-of-the-road book, it comes with only a limited recommendation, to diehard crime fans who find themselves burning through a book a day and don't mind that many of them are only mediocre.

Out of 10: 7.5
Profile Image for Roger DeBlanck.
Author 6 books116 followers
November 14, 2016
Jonathan Sturak’s novel A Smudge of Gray does more than deliver page-turning suspense and a stunning revelation in its final pages. Imagine traits of Patrick Bateman in Ellis’s American Psycho merged with the psyche of Tyler Durden in Palahniuk’s Fight Club and then combine them with plot twists reminiscent in the better screenplays by M. Night Shyamalan, and you have an idea of how Sturak’s storytelling will play out. The influence of these writers and their works are evident in Sturak’s novel, and the result is a highly satisfying thriller. Sturak expertly balances an intriguing criminal story with the intricacies of family conflicts. This is not your run of the mill thriller. He takes time to humanize his characters and their lives, which makes the events all the more chilling and plausible. Trevor Malloy, a successful consultant turned hired assassin (who seamlessly slides between targeting his victims and spending time with his family), faces off against his archrival, Brian Boise, a workaholic detective (who allows his unrelenting career and the demons of his past to lodge a stake between himself and his family). Sturak uses taut and polished language to ensure that the narration doesn’t use words as mere devices to speed the plot forward. Each chapter feels like a well-illustrated canvas that pieces together the lives of the two main characters, Boise and Malloy, as they head towards a collision course of shocking proportions. As the story builds and unfolds with steady pacing, the twists are intensify to a mind-bending conclusion that recasts the narrative in a different light. The descriptions in this novel are also satisfying as Sturak takes care to produce a distinct mood of eeriness and gloom in relation to the mysteriousness of the story. This thriller succeeds on a number of levels. It is recommended both for readers seeking a fast-paced crime novel and for those interested in well-developed character studies.
Profile Image for Shai Williams.
809 reviews8 followers
June 9, 2012


Before I put my name in the hat for this book, I did read a few reviews to see if this was a book that I could do justice too. And most readers gave it high marks. I am only sorry that I don't agree fully with them.

This book is all about connections. The connections between the police detective and the killer and where the lives of their family intersect. I found this part of the story to very interesting. The strange ways that lives interweave even without our knowledge.

There were a few things that I really didn't care for however. The one of least importance is the overblown descriptions. I want to be able to build a scene in my mind not be told all the details insignificant or not. I could have overlooked this however if I felt that the book had no heart. Even when there were scenes of a personal nature, I got the feeling of coldness. There was no one to relate too.

I feel that this author has been touched by greatness but needs refining. I would definitely read his next book and I am sure that a lot of my readers will absolutely love this book but I just couldn't get behind this book. For a book to be great,it has to effect me emotionally and this book didn't.

I rate this book a 2.3.

I received this book at no charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. No monies have or will exchange hands.
68 reviews
June 6, 2012
Brian Boise and Trevor Malloy are both family men. Both have lives that revolve around their wives and children. Their sons even play together on the same basketball team. But these men are very different as one is an assassin and the other is a detective. And of course the case of Trevor's murders falls on the desk of Brian to solve.

To a certain extent, I did enjoy this novel. However I did have to keep telling myself, "It's okay if there are inconsistencies in the story, it's a work of fiction". But the inconsistencies were there and there were several times in the book that the plot was just unrealistic.

That being said, the book was enjoyable and did have a wicked twist in the end. The end was actually very good and made having read the first three quarters of the book worth while.
Profile Image for Renny.
13 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2012
I really wanted to like this book as the title and the short synopsis of the book (you can see it on Amazon) were intriguing and promised good read. Unfortunately my enthusiasm for the book started to crumble not long after I started reading the book. Don’t get me wrong, the story is very decent for a thriller but it isn’t one of those that will catch your imagination and keep you glued to the book throughout the night. And by saying that, I think I have exhausted all the remotely positive remarks I have about the book.

Few pages in and I started to question whether this is really the final product or whether I am reading a first draft. For me, the characters felt flat and unlikeable and there are many actual errors! For example - on one page Trevor Malloy wears his coat open but right on the next one he unbuttons his coat to impress the first victim with his Burberry attire. There is also quite a few spelling mistakes which any decent proofreader could spot miles ahead (know x now) and the same characters are described and introduced over and over again. I also was under the impression that the author is mildly obsessed with some words like ‘dapper’ and ‘yuppie’. There is nothing wrong with these words and they can clearly describe certain trade of the character but to use them frequently in space of several pages is just excessive and irritating. Not to mention that they were always linked to the same characters. Why doesn’t the author use the characters’ names instead?! Author also has a certain way of using phrases and metaphors. They are just odd phrases that never properly sit within the situation or scenario. I even caught myself guessing what ridiculous blurb the character is going to say next to further trash any good parts that the book has left. One example for all of them - and don’t worry it is not what it seems! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

‘He sat down as the woman dropped to the floor, opened the box, and caressed Trevor’s legs removing this oxblood boat shoes. Then, she guided his appendage into the hole. ‘

This passage describes Trevor testing new shoes in a shoe shop…

All in all, this book is in a desperate need of some TLC from a good editor and proofreader. Then it will have the potential to be developed into a decent and readable book.

(review copy)
Profile Image for Sarah.
107 reviews20 followers
March 4, 2012
Shades of Gray follows a hitman who, on the surface appears as the perfect family man and the Detective, desperate to catch the hitman, so much so that it’s affecting his home and family life. Two contrasting characters described in exquisite detail with an intriguing connection.

This book starts brilliantly, and had me hooked by the end of chapter one – it is probably one of the best starts to a book I’ve read for a long time. The story begins with a charming man flirting with a woman, then boarding a train. The rest of the book follows the lead up to this moment where the two join the train before the ‘twist’ and climax you’d expect from a good thriller.

Shades of Gray is a good thriller, and gory with the details and descriptions of the murders that take place. As Sturak describes Detective Boise, you feel tired for him – this guy works all day and night to chase down the murderer and you feel his pain – a clear demonstration of the skilled writer that Sturak is.

I suspect this book will keep most readers guessing and will certainly keep you enthralled as the story begins to reveal itself. I have to admit that I has guessed the twist quite early on but that in no way diminishes the appeal of the book and the manner in which the twist is revealed to the characters and the reader.

A good book with an interesting turn of events that I’m sure will keep many readers guessing until the final pages.
Profile Image for Diane.
555 reviews8 followers
September 7, 2016
I received this book as a free copy in exchange for a review. The book is short-ish so was a quick read. The story was fast paced and the main characters were well drawn out. There's a twist that I didn't see coming but looking back, there are clues to it. I never seem to catch on!

The story is about a police detective tracking a serial killer/hit man who gets his targets via a phone call. Both men are married and have families. The police detective's family is suffering because he spends so much time at work, obsessed with his cases and the hit man's family, while they don't get to see him as he's "away on business" a lot, seems to be quite successful as a business consultant and they enjoy a large house and nice style of living.

I did find the dialogue a little clunky at times and did a double take when the 9 year old son of the detective didn't know what a "murder suspect" was. This is a kid that plays action video games, presumably watches movies that have some violence in them as most do these days, and has grown up with a policeman as a father. It seemed odd, but it's a minor thing. Overall I liked the book quite a bit.
Profile Image for Liane Manso.
145 reviews8 followers
July 23, 2012
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately that feeling only lasted two pages. I tried on several occasions to get into this story but could not get past the overly exaggerated descriptions. There was an extreme amount of run-on sentences. And Sturak made the common mistake of telling instead of showing. Page after page of telling me what I should think, feel or get from a scene makes me feel as if the author believes I am too stupid to figure something out for myself.

An example of this happens of Pg. 9. I don't feel it's a *SPOILER* since it's so early in. Det. Boise misses the cutting of his birthday cake in the first paragraph so of course I can figure out that he felt he had something more important to do. However 4 paragraphs later, in case I didn't come to the right conclusion, Sturak writes "As his hand clutched a black BIC Round Stic Pen, he seemed more worried about filling in the suspect's blood type than eating the cake the captain had ordered for him in the break room."
Profile Image for Tony Parsons.
4,156 reviews73 followers
April 23, 2019
Trevor Malloy (43, Malloy Consulting Service; president, Harvard, MBA) persuaded April to take the same commuter train.
His family is: Kevin Malloy (9, twin son/brother), & Katie Malloy (9, twin daughter/sister), & Laura Malloy (36, wife/mother).
News flash: guess who was on TV?
Happy Birthday to you…Detective Brian Boise.
Anne Marie Boise (39, wife) called him at work & told him about Jonathan Boise (9, son).
Trevor next contract is for April Benko. 12 8th St. # 4C.

Would Detective Boise solve his case & bring someone to justice?

I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. Only an honest one.

A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written psychological thriller book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great psychological thriller movie, or better yet a mini TV series. There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars.

Thank you for the free author; Goodreads; Pendan Publishing; 1st edition; BookSends; Amazon Digital Services LLC.; book
Tony Parsons MSW (Washburn)
July 4, 2018
Not what is expected

This was a very interesting read right from the beginning. I don't feel like it any point the book lost you. The ending was definitely something I did not see coming and I really enjoyed the plot twist
1,270 reviews
August 5, 2017
Good book

You people should just read this book yourselves and write your own review on this novel yourself and I really enjoyed reading this book very much so. Shelley MA
86 reviews
July 10, 2021
Drama

This book will blow your mind. Two men, two families on a collision course. Kept me guessing until the very end.
Profile Image for Mirrani.
483 reviews7 followers
April 25, 2012
A Smudge of Gray was as it sounds, a blending of two colors to make one whole... though I don't mean this in the typical way one would expect. I found my emotions toward the book blended from confusion over some of the character or plot points to absolute rapture with some of the descriptions.

The words flow easily in most areas, in some instances there are paragraphs of absolute beauty, where the flow and construction of each sentence really helps you to visualize what is happening and feel the emotion of the situation within yourself. There were a few clumsy times where this didn't happen, but overall, it was a very well described work.

What threw me were elements of the lives of the family members. For an example, I found myself often flustered that a 9 year old child would be clueless as to the actual types of people who are brought in to a police station, have no real concept of a criminal investigation or be unable to comprehend the title "murder suspect." His basketball team also seemed a little mature for the age of 9 as well, but I am not as much an expert on youth sports and I could be misjudging that. I also felt as if the the set up and portrayal of the two families involved in this novel were not quite settled in their presentation. I would have liked to have seen more of why each wife thought the way she did, beyond one wife being a devoted, stay at home mom and the other being a disgruntled, lonely woman who loses her husband to work all the time. There were hints of family order there that I felt got missed, was one wife being forced into her stay at home role... was an action happening because /she/ wanted the husband to be in charge or because /he/ wanted to be? There can be a big difference in there, especially when dealing with a murder mystery like this one.

At first you start this book and wonder where the mystery is because you meet both families, you see the cop and you see the murderer. There is no question as to who is guilty, but if you are picking it up thinking you will solve the case in the first few pages, this book is about to throw you for a loop. I was impressed with the continuity in the end, enough to look over the stumbles throughout and give this book a place of value within my library.

Note: Though this book was a free gift from the author, the content of my review was in no way influenced by the gifting. The book speaks for itself and my review would have been worded just this way even if I'd gone out and bought it. I also give bonus points for Text To Speech enabling on Kindle format.... but that also wasn't a factor in the above review.
Profile Image for Julie.
64 reviews27 followers
June 14, 2012
*3.5 Stars*

A Smudge of Gray is a quick, interesting thriller. The story is told through third person perspective allowing the reader to see the plot unfold while flashing between two characters, Brian Boise and Trevor Malloy. Brian Boise is a man who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps ten years ago and is now a Detective. But being a detective has taken a toll on his personal life as he hardly sees his family anymore. After connecting a few murder victims he is investigating, the trail leads him to a suspect known as Trevor Malloy. Trevor leads a similar life to Brian’s. The only difference is that Trevor has secrets. He is a hitman among other things and now the two men must face each other.

Jonathan Sturak has a way of describing and portraying things in his writing. I feel this is both the strength and the weakness of this novel. A Smudge of Gray is presented as a psychological thriller but I wonder if it would be better classified as literary fiction. Expecting something different automatically lowers your initial opinion. This is a good story for people who can appreciate deeper internal meanings instead of constant action. What I mean by this is if you are expecting an action packed story with a detective and hitman going at it, than this is not the story.

This story is full of metaphor and symbolism. An example of this is the reoccurring symbol of a man’s shoes as they travel throughout the story. The shoes seem to represent the man’s life as well as reflect inside his mind. The symbolism is this story was great and will have you thinking outside of the box to connect the dots.

I do not know if it is because of the type of books I read but I had the story figured out pretty early on. However, I do not think everyone will and the ending will be a treat for those who do not see it coming. I would like to say more about the characters, story and climax but I do not want to give anything away.

Overall, I think the author has great potential and the only real weakness of this novel is that it is labeled wrong or fits half in half out of two different genres.

Recommend to fans of Literary Fiction and Thrillers.





*Although I won a free copy of this book through a Goodreads first reads giveaway, my review is not altered. This is my honest opinion.
85 reviews6 followers
March 8, 2012
A Smudge of Gray follows 2 similar yet very different men. Trevor Malloy is a fastidious dresser, great husband and father, excellent provider, but travels quite a bit so isn't home as much as he would like. Did I mention that he kills people? He does have a tastefully decorated office with a secretary to keep up appearances. Detective Brian Boise, up for a promotion to Lt, works day and night and wants to be a better husband and father but never seems to find the time. Brian is determined to find the killer.

Mr Sturak has everything a great author needs. The first of which is an ability to describe people, events and surroundings that make it not only interesting to read but leaving the reader wanting more. This isn't your everyday description that you can skim through - this is an amazing attention to detail that makes you sit back and just enjoy the ride.

Character development is superb. You actually feel as if you know Brian and Trevor, think you understand their motivations and feel badly for them when they miss their son's basketball games because they have to work. The reader is drawn into the lives of these two even getting angry at their absences with their wives and children.

A Smudge of Gray gives a whole new meaning to the words, fast paced and page turner. I found it very hard to put down for even a few minutes. Just when you think you can put it down, Trevor's phone rings and you are off and running again.

The first part of the ending is mildly surprising but not jaw dropping. The ending? Warning: Don't finish at night if you are buy yourself unless you want to see smudges of gray everywhere.

If you like a thriller with a twist that will knock your socks off - this book is for you. I highly recommend this book for mystery/thriller fans everywhere. It is one you will remember long after you finish it.
Profile Image for TJ.
262 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2012
"A Smudge of Gray" is a solid psychological thriller from Jonathan Sturak that features crisp writing and well-developed characters. Sturak creates a plot that spotlights two vastly different family men; one, a severely-stressed detective who feels he's losing touch with his family because of his commitment to his job, and the other, a charming, nattily-dressed businessman with a perfect wife and kids - who just happens to be a contract killer.

Sturak does a wonderful job changing perspective from one main character to the other without confusing or losing his readers. He finds a plausible way to bring these men together without one's true knowledge of the other's vocation and/or stresses with life and family. It all works so well during the first half of the book as important plot points flow evenly from one scene to the next.

Though the story is riveting and believable, some of the scenes in the last half of the book appear (to this reviewer anyway) to be unnecessary to the plot and primarily filler material. My other criticism lies with an ending that I felt was a little tough to accept. I don't feel that I can go into much detail without revealing the grand finale, so let me suffice to say that I felt "A Smudge of Gray" was such a strong book that it deserved a more realistic conclusion than the author concocted.

Most readers will be able to move away from my last point (and maybe I am being a little too critical here) and find a novel that is hard to put down with characters that they can relate to. I look forward to reading another one of Sturak's books. In some respects, his writing reminds me of a younger Thomas Harris. There's no question that based on what I've read in "A Smudge of Gray", he is an author with promise.
Profile Image for Grady.
Author 50 books400 followers
February 15, 2012
Jonathan Sturak Can Spin A Web

Having had the privilege of reading CLOUDED RAINBOW, the first book by Jonathan Sturak and sensing the powerful promise in his writing, reading this immaculately conceived and executed thriller came with a sense of reassurance that promises made in early works DO often result in progressive success. Sturak has a knack for painting characters so clearly, with such attention to detail, that while on first reading the reader may wonder why he is dissecting these characters under a microscope. But read on and it becomes obvious that every character who enters his pages is equally defined and the inventive glow that his novels take on is one that is the result of carefully interlacing these descriptions: nothing is extraneous material - everything has its place and purpose.

We first meet Trevor Malloy, immaculately dressed and assured and the perfect businessman and husband and father until it becomes shocking clear that he is a man of profound mystery. Then enter Detective Brian Boise who descriptors are at the other end of the spectrum - or so it seems. Boise is a workaholic detective and becomes obsessed with the chase of hitman Malloy. Their personalities have been so carefully explored by Sturak that the race becomes one of breathtaking propulsion.

It would be difficult to imagine that Jonathan Sturak's novels not being noted by screenwriters. There is a wealth of cinematic detail built in. Sturak is well on his way to becoming one of our major creators of intrigue and suspense stories. Jump on board - if you dare!

Grady Harp
Profile Image for Joan.
2,417 reviews88 followers
December 19, 2015
This author has the strangest writing style I've read in a very long time. He writes in structurally-correct form but with very odd word choices. I wondered if English were the author's second or third language - many word choices were just not those that would be made by a person comfortable with the English language.
Examples:
The word "smirked" is repeatedly used when "smiled" or grinned" would have been much more accurate (smirk implies disdain.)
Characters (sometimes even objects) "slinked" or "lurked" into a room or past someone on the street.
Scenes were described to an irritating degree, with inanimate objects taking active verbs ad nauseum.
"Gobs of people flurried on the main floor."
"...the four desks composing the robbery department."
"As Brian's mind paused from thinking,..."
"...his hefty backyard."
"They embraced with a kiss."
"...the light from the hallway casting around him."
"The scent of fresh lilies swirled."
"But just as silence laughed, keys entered the deadbolt and the sound of a metal click entered the living room."
"Brian lurked toward the closet..."
"...studied the blood fragments..."
What does this mean? - "...but a knot tightened deep within his gut, a knot on a rope made from the hair of his family."
"...patted him on the back with a hand made of concrete that had cured for a hundred years."
"...saw the cleavage of a saleswoman smiling at him."
"...a mysterious signal, invisible to those around it, lurked through the air above the action."
"...before he departed her."

I quit reading at about 30%.
Profile Image for Lauren Vogt.
27 reviews
February 14, 2017
Decent writing. Page Turner. Twist ending somewhat implausible.

Decent almost poetic writing. Page Turner which kept my attention almost throughout. Twist ending somewhat implausible. May read author again.
Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews289 followers
March 12, 2012
I won this book from librarything in exchange for an honest review.

This book stars two main characters, Trevor Malloy and Brian Boise, that we see in opposing chapters. Trevor Malloy is the more fascinating of the two-- here we get a picture of the ideal husband and father, who also is a cold-blooded killer. Brian, on the other hand, is an overworked policeman, who is endlessly nagged by his wife that he doesn't spend enough time with her and their son. The book chronicles both of their lives, their differences and similarities, and their inevitable meeting.

This book is overall elegantly written. I was drawn into the lives of both characters and was swiftly propelled through the action. The end packs a punch that makes the whole book worth it; and while I should have seen the signs, I was completely surprised and horrified (in a good way) by the ending. I loved the descriptions of Trevor's immaculate shoewear; it was well done.

The author has an odd turn of phrase occasionally, which was sometimes jarring. It's a stylistic preference more than anything else.

I really enjoyed this quick and worthy book! I already downloaded the author's first book, because I want to see what else he has up his sleeve.
Profile Image for Kristina.
48 reviews1 follower
July 22, 2012
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway and while not oligated to comment, I did feel compelled to opine about this book. I apologize in advance for any typos or mis-spellings


While I do enjoy a good crime story, this was just a bit of a twist that I am not sure I was comfortable with. I found that while the premise was good, the book was, for lack of a better description, verbose and a bit convoluted like a jigsaw puzzle missing a couple of pieces, not enough to make the picture unidentifiable, just a noted distraction from the whole.

In getting to the twist ending, I was lost, there were too many inconsistencies, in putting both characters into the final scenario in the manner in which they were inter acting. The lack of recognition from the young family members in the scene where Brain goes to Trevor's home to pick up his son...(I didn't want to put in spoilers, so I realize this is sort of vague, but those that have read the book will understand)

Was I thrilled with this book, no. Will I read another book by Mr Strout, probably....will I re-read this book-yes, I think it deserves to be re-read, to see if maybe there was something that I missed that caused my disappointment. There are no half stars, but I would have given it a 2.5 rating.
Profile Image for Angie ~aka Reading Machine~.
3,145 reviews130 followers
May 11, 2012
Trevor Malloy is a family and business man who is not what he appears to be. Trevor is a hitman and he's very good at his job. Detective Brian Boise is a homicide cop wanting to be home with his family. His wife Anne Marie is disappointed in him but can't admit it to him. A new case has Brian working more hours than ever before. Three lawyers have been murdered with seemingly no connection to one another. Detective Boise is up for a promotion if he makes good effort on this case. He wants to be there for his family. Meanwhile Trevor Malloy makes and spends time with his family all the time. No one would mistake Trevor as anything but a family man. Brian gets a few leads but nothing solid until he finds a smudge of shoe polish at a crime scene. Brian dreads the upcoming ten year anniversary of his father's death. At times, Brian feels like he's losing his mind. Trevor's wife Laura is feeling lucky and loved. Can Anne Marie forgive Brian? Will Brian solve this case? What is next for Trevor? What of Laura? Your answers await yoou in A Smudgee of Gray.
Profile Image for Quentin Stewart.
222 reviews5 followers
November 27, 2012
A police detective is handed a case that very little evidence is available for finding a suspect. The reader follows the suspect and how he carries out the murders without leaving a trace of himself behind and the detective who becomes obsessed with tracking down this killer. Both are family men with the suspect's family being a happier unit even though he is away a lot while the detective's family life appears to be rocky because of the hours he spends trying to track down the killer.

A little smudge of gray found at the crime scenes is the only evidence the detective has to work with to solve the crimes. Through a youth basketball league the two families come together since the sons are on the same team. One father is able to attend the games until he is called away and the other seems to never make it to the games on time. Two men headed for a confrontation.

I found Sturak"s book to be extremely interesting and fascinating. It is well written and gives the view of the paths of two men who are bound to meet toward the end of the story.
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