What Meets the Eye By Alex Kenna: Review/Giveaway/Interview

Feb 4, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrance V. Mc Arthur

by Terrance McArthur

This week we have a review of a debut mystery by Alex Kenna called What Meets the Eye, along with an interesting interview with Alex. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

What Meets the Eye By Alex Kenna
Review by Terrance McArthur

Margot Starling was a talented, controversial artist. Now she’s dead, but her daddy won’t believe it was suicide. He turns to private detective Kate Myles in Alex Kenna’s debut mystery, What Meets the Eye.

Kate is an ex-LAPD detective with an ex-husband, thanks to an on-duty accident and a pain-caused prescription drug dependency. The ex got custody of their daughter after he threatened her with photos. The more she digs into the case, the deeper she gets into a web of art forgery, blackmail, mob ties, and shoddy/shady police work. There are a lot of not-so-nice people in here, and Kate isn’t so sure she isn’t one of them.

Flashbacks told by different characters add background to the book, flashes of memory from the living and the dead. The FBI is involved in investigations and wants Kate to stop. One of Margot’s art projects of names cut into her own flesh provides a list of potential suspects. A gallery sells lots of paintings by artists who died tragically. Kate’s old partner from the force gives help and warnings, and there is a little tentatively-generated, maybe-someday heat. Blackmail. Foreign gangsters. An international art festival. A finger is missing. There are many reasons for Kate to backslide into addiction. Truth comes out, but it takes a while, and may not be the truth you expected.

This is gritty material, like an art exhibit viewed from the windows of a speeding subway train—about the time one picture registers fully and you get an understanding of it, another image takes its place. About the time you think you understand what this story is all about, another viewpoint or piece of information appears that contradicts the framework you thought you understood.

What Meets the Eye is one of those books that you reread, and how everything fits together suddenly becomes clear. It’s worth the effort. Remember, what meets the eye is not always the whole story.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.

Interview with Alex Kenna:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Alex: I’ve been involved with the arts for as long I can remember, but I started out as a painter. After college, I did freelance art reviews, which sparked my interest in writing. I didn’t try my hand at fiction until about four years ago, when I had an idea for a book.

KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?

Alex: My debut novel, What Meets the Eye, came out last December. It centers on Kate Myles, a down-and-out private detective looking into the suspected suicide of Margot Starling, a famous artist. Kate was formerly an LAPD officer, but a car accident and opioid addiction destroyed her career and family. When Margot’s father hires Kate to investigate her death, she’s looking for a quick buck and an easy solve. Instead, Kate gets sucked into a web of murder, blackmail, art forgery, and organized crime.

Alex Kenna

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?

Alex: I wanted to write a book that drew on what my interests and life experiences. I’m a prosecutor and an amateur painter. Before law school, I studied fine art and briefly worked in a gallery. An art-related mystery felt like a good way to combine my fascination with painting and murder.

For Kate, I wanted to create a character who has gone through something that really destroyed her sense of identity and altered how she perceives herself. I wrote this book while cooped up at home with a relatively high-risk pregnancy at the height of the pandemic. At the time, I definitely felt like a chunk of myself had been ripped away. I think that’s what drew me to Kate. She is someone who is fundamentally strong, but in the process of rebuilding her life and rediscovering who she is after a significant change.

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?

Alex: In this book, I was very interested in writing about the dark side of the art world – the greed, the misogyny, the market forces, but entertainment is definitely a major focus of my writing. My husband, who is a huge book nerd, says that some books are like a meal that nourish you and others are more like dessert. My book is definitely in the dessert category.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?

Alex: I work full time and have a toddler, so I really steal hours when I can. I write when my son naps, or after he goes to bed. Recently, I took four days off work during the holidays to finish a rough draft. I hate it when people say, “you just have to make time,” because it really is a struggle.

KRL: What is your ideal time to write?

Alex: Afternoons and late at night. If I could roll out of bed at noon, caffeinate, and write for 6 hours, that would be fantastic.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Alex: I’ve never been great at outlining. I also think that planning too much can make plots more predictable. I usually have a general idea of where I’m going but the details come to me as I’m writing them. If I’m stuck, scribbling ideas in a notebook helps a lot.

I also try to periodically go back and read the whole manuscript from the beginning as I’m writing. That way I can update and adjust things to make sure that the story holds together and works as a whole.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Alex: Extremely. I wrote another book before this one and eventually put it aside after dozens of rejections from agents. I contacted several agents for this book too but didn’t get any bites. Eventually, I decided to roll the dice and submitted directly to a publisher. I got very lucky and it worked out.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Alex: One agent sent me a rejection almost three years after I submitted a manuscript to her. In the intervening time, I wrote another 1 ½ books, changed jobs, and had a baby. I’m thinking of emailing her back in two years and asking her to reconsider.

KRL: LOL, you totally should. Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?

Alex: I signed several copies at a bookstore before someone pointed out that I was signing the wrong page.

KRL: What are your future writing goals?

Alex: I recently finished the rough draft of a sequel to What Meets the Eye. For now, I want to stick with my main character and see where she takes me. Eventually, I’d love to branch out into standalone novels.

KRL: Who are your writing heroes?

Alex: Writing a book is very different from the sort of writing I learned in school. So, when I was teaching myself how to write something that hung together for the length of a full book, I binged on Tana French novels. She has an incredible way with words and her characters are extremely vivid and multi-dimensional. Her style is very different from mine, but she is a major influence on my writing.

Outside of genre fiction, I love Philip Roth, Octavia E. Butler, Arundhati Roy, Jesmyn Ward, and Elena Ferrante. I also have a terrible memory, sadly, so I tend to be influenced the most by whatever good books I’ve read recently.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Alex: It depends on what I’m researching. I don’t usually obsess about small details – my standard for any topic is, would an intelligent lay person find this believable? A good friend of mine is a doctor who studies infectious diseases and has worked in an emergency room. I definitely text her random questions about medical situations and the feasibility of different ways to kill people.

When a detail is an important part of a story, I spend more time trying to get it right. There was a bleak period where I perused about four manuals on poisoning trying to find something that makes you vomit blood before killing you.

KRL: What do you like to read?

Alex: My reading preferences are all over the place, but I have a particular fondness for true crime, mysteries, and literary fiction.

I have a weakness for mysteries where the suspense comes from the tension between two characters. Katie Lattari’s Dark Things I Adore, Alexandra Andrews’ Who Is Maud Dixon, and Christine Mangan’s Tangerine are all amazing examples of that type of novel.

KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

Alex: Unsurprisingly, I like good thrillers, but my tastes are pretty broad. I’m drawn to shows with incredible writing – the topic almost doesn’t matter. My husband and I recently binged on Severance. The premise is so creative, and the show is totally unpredictable. I also loved Battlestar Galactica, which is super nerdy, but the script is amazing.

Recently, I re-watched Six Feet Under, which was my favorite show in high school. It’s a macabre drama about a family of undertakers. The show was as good as I remembered, but it was weird seeing it as an adult. There were characters who, at age sixteen, I thought were the height of cool, but then in my thirties, I realized that they were struggling lost souls with a lot of problems.

KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Alex: Write about something that you know or are passionate about and try to think about how your story fits into the marketplace. Publishing is a business, and agents and publishers will want to know what successful books are similar to yours.

Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t find success right away. Publishing is a numbers game and almost everyone experiences many rejections before finding success. Two or three or ten, or fifty, or even a hundred rejections don’t mean that you’re not on to something.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Alex: I have no sense of direction – at all. There is a medical term for it. I need to turn on my GPS to get home from the office even though I go there every day. My toddler is already better than me at finding the car.

KRL: Do you have any pets?

Alex: I have a giant Schnauzer named Zelda. She is seventy-five pounds of muscle and fur and has been mistaken for a bear several times.

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?

Alex: twitter.com/AlexKenna9

To enter to win a copy of What Meets the Eye, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “eye,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 11, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week.

You can use this link to purchase the book. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the Amazon link. You can also click here to purchase the book.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Sounds like the old hard-boiled mysteries.
    Love to get in on the start of a series.
    thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

  3. This sounds like an interesting mystery. I also like the cover. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  4. New author to me. Sounds like a great book.

  5. Thanks for the chance to win this! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. The book sounds very intriguing; just added it to my TBR List. Thank you for the opportunity to win it.
    Great review and interview.

  7. We have a winner!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.