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Book: Condemned to Freedom by John DeFrank

Book Reviews: Condemned to Freedom by John DeFrank

categories: Books, Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, suspense


 Enjoyed the Read

My end of the summer read was a mystery based in a school environment. Many people don't understand what a school environment is like and this hits the nail on the head with that. Kept me guessing as to who was the killer. Even at the end, there is a question as to whether the killers were actually brought to justice. Perfect for a sequel! Was fun to have some PA Dutch country info in it. Glad I ended my summer with this book! [by pms]

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 Who Knew?

It's not often a murder mystery novel comes along that takes place in the shady underbelly of our educational system. DeFrank manages to educate us as well as entertain us with Condemned To Freedom. Being a medical professional and not realizing all of the tricky politics that exist in our school hierarchy was a real eye opener! DeFrank inspires me to try my hand at writing about the goings on in private practice. Lord knows there is tons of material to pull from there. Kudos to DeFrank for writing a fine first novel and hopefully anticipating more great works to follow. [by Lee Ann Syrylo]

 Worst Book My Book Club Ever Read!

I can not understand how this book is rated highly. My book club - of 6 professionals - felt it was the worst book we ever read. The writing was poor and character development was sadly lacking. Most of us either threw out the book or gave it away at yard sales.


This book needed a very good editor. There was none, apparently. The plot was weak and the character development was extremely lacking. The descriptive language was forced. This was probably one of the worst attempts I have read in quite awhile. Judge for yourself but borrow it from a friend.

 Dutch Country Murder

Like many mysteries, Condemned to Freedom moved deliberately at first, as characters were introduced and clues (and red herrings) packed the opening chapters. In that respect, I agree with the notion that it is like a good Agatha Christie novel.

A different reviewer thought there are too many characters and that they are not well-developed. Again, like Dame Christie, DeFrank populates the mystery with enough characters to challenge the reader's mind, and as a safety net, he thoughtfully adds a cast of characters at the beginning. As to character development, Doc Randori, the iconoclast/counselor with finely honed powers of perception is a gem. He and Nick Neidrich,the staid and conservative state police investigator, form an intriguing "buddy" pair: they aren't sure they trust each other, but they develop tremendous rapport as the plot unfolds. In Neidrich's struggle to get past the grief of his wife's death and forge a new life, I found myself sympathizing and pulling for him in a bit of subplot that doesn't interfere with the major themes. These are but two of five or six characters that come to life on the page and intertwine through the mystery.

This is first and foremost a murder mystery, with a sparkling final chapter that had me leafing back through the pages to find out how and why I missed clues that seem so obvious in the end. Secondly, it is a modern parable about the loss of honor in our society and the responsibility each of us must bear for the decisions we make, all told within a context we can relate to in our towns, schools, and even our families.

Because of the pace of the first few chapters, I originally toyed with giving Condemned to Freedom four stars, but then I realized that the author was in fact being deliberately deliberate. With the onset of the action on the school, dealing with the sociopathic student, the story gained and kept momentum. In the end, the means were all justified, as is a five-star recommendation. [by S. L.]

 Still Trying to Finish It

I am really trying to like this book but I am not there yet - with 25% left to read. One complaint I have is that the descriptive language in the book seems very forced. The main problem I have with the book, however, is the lack of character development. At this point, as a reader, I really do not care who committed the crimes because the characters are not distinctive. I am going to finish the book soon and hope the ending hits a "home run".

 A Few Inside Tidbits Shared From the Author

What's in a name?

1. I named my two local police officers, Harley Snitz and Ed Knepp, after a well-known Pennsylvania Dutch dish, Snitz und Knepp; AKA dried apples and dumplings. And if you think about the physical description of the officers, it fits.

2. Tammy Eboli was named in honor of both the Ebola Virus and Tommy Eboli, a New York Mafioso who at one time was acting boss of the Genovese crime family.

3. Kass Marburg was named after the Marburg Virus, a deadly hemorrhagic fever for which Ebola was initially mistaken.

4. Kerry Wyatt, Meryl Morgan, Virgil Davis, and Doc Randori were named in honor of the Earp brothers "Wyatt", "Morgan", and "Virgil", and Wyatt's best friend, the ruthless gunfighter, Doc Holliday. In developing my character of Doc Randori, I considered Val Kilmer's intelligent and wry take on Doc Holliday in the film Tombstone.

5. Finally, Randori is a Japanese martial arts term for free-style fighting that has several definitions, usually meaning "to bring order out of chaos" or "to grasp freedom". [by John DeFrank]

 Red Hot Story

I couldn't put this book down for fear the flames would go out! It is red hot with sizzling twists and turns that have your interest captured from the start. I loved it! [by D. H. from PA.]

 Should be a Movie

I love mysteries, and after finishing Condemned to Freedom I was sad to leave this superbly twisting tale that kept me guessing until the end. In some ways, it was like a very good Agatha Christie novel: the quaint-on-the-surface-but-evil-underneath setting, the victim who had scarred so many lives, the varied cast of potential suspects. Unlike Ms. Christie, though, there is a greater issue that the author examines: the contemporary dilemma of people whose untethered freedom has warped into a sense of entitlement whereby they feel they have to bear no responsibility for their actions.

It is an issue that pervades everything in our society from national politics to interpersonal relations, and, ironically, it puts our very freedom at risk. This factor elevates the Condemned to Freedom above and beyond so much of the pulp that pervades the best-seller lists today. But more, it built a film noir atmosphere in my mind as I read the book. That, along with memorable suspects like Doc Randori, good cops and bad cops, an old-fashioned femme fatale and a surprise ending give this book the elements of a wonderful film. [by David]

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