Category Archives: Thriller

Sting by Sandra Brown

Standard

One of the perks of working in a library is getting recommendations from patrons on what they read and liked. Many of the novels that I have come to love the most were little gems that came from these suggestions, so when a number of library members with whom I normally share reading tastes said read “Sting” by Sandra Brown, I put it on my to-read list.  I’d read Sandra Brown years ago, when she was firmly in the romance or romantic suspense period of her career so I thought this would be more of the same and was delighted to find she’d carved out a great thriller, instead.

The novel begins with poised and polished Jordie Bennett in a seedy Southern bar, where she has attracted the attention of the bar patrons, especially two particular men.  Unknown to her, these men are hired assassins and she is their target.  Within a few pages, the hit has turned into a kidnapping as one of the killers, decides that rather than collecting a paltry sum for her death, he can shake her brother down for the 30 million in stolen mob money that he may have access to.  The story then twists into a neat little cat and mouse between Jordie and her kidnapper, Shaw Kinnard, a man with secrets of his own.  In this situation, Jordie must rely on her wits to survive.

“Sting” is like a roller coaster ride of a book, weaving happily in one direction before vering off somewhere completely different. I have read a number of thriller or romantic/thrillers but this one was full of surprises. Everything here works; the characters, the situation, the dialogue and the romantic elements complement each other well.

A number of writers who have honed their skills in the traditional romance market, like Catherine Coulter and Tess Gerritsen have moved on to write superb thrillers which I enjoy, now I will add Sandra Brown to that list. My only regret is that it took me forever to try her again. PS. I just checked out another of her books, “Friction”.

 

 

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

Standard

Werewolves, witches, and omens….are exactly what you won’t find in the newest series by supernatural queen Kelley Armstrong. She is best known for series’ such as Otherworld and Cainsville but with City of the Lost she takes a hard turn away from her signature style and ventures into murder mystery completely based in the human realm. This series is also referred to as the Rockton series or the Casey Duncan series in reference to the central locale and character.

Rockton is a town of last resorts and only accepts a select few. You won’t find it on any map or website and to become a resident you must apply to town council for approval, and even that comes with a limited term for your stay there. Imagine walking away from everything and everyone you know and disappearing into the Yukon to live without any luxuries or conveniences of modern urban life. It is supposed to be a safe haven for those with nowhere else to run – but recently the town has experienced its first murder. Enter Casey Duncan, a homicide detective with a secretive past and every reason to go off the grid. She arrives with her best friend who carries her own fair share of secrets and soon the action really gets going.

This should definitely be on your spring reading list – even if you haven’t been an Armstrong fan in the past but enjoy thrillers and murder mysteries.

Someone You Know by Brian McGilloway

Standard

someoneOn my first trip to Ireland, I found myself in a bookstore discovering a number of new authors to me, including couple of great mystery writers, Liz Nugent and Brian McGilloway.  While, Nugent has yet to break the North American market, McGilloway has been quietly building a fan base with his Benedict Devlin and DS Lucy Black series.  Both writers are very distinctly Irish and the landscape, the language and the history of Ireland figure into the subplots giving a flavour to the books that adds to experience.

“Someone You Know” is the second in the Lucy Black series and begins about two weeks before Christmas, when the body of an at-risk sixteen-year-old girl is found lying on the train tracks. The body was placed there just before a scheduled train run but a railroad mechanical failure prevented the murder from looking like a suicide.  The girl was known to the police due to her tragic home life and had disappeared from a care home a few days before her death. It quickly becomes clear that as well as the victim a number of other girls are being groomed by a stalker and that the police are in a race against time to prevent more murders. The identity of the killer seems obvious at first until a series of twists take both the reader and the police into unexpected directions.

Lucy Black grounds the book with a deep back story that is woven into her persona and effects hurt2how she works through the mystery.  She is a damaged character, carrying the scars of a broken childhood with conflicted feelings about her father, who is suffering from dementia and her mother who abandoned the family but is now working as an administrator for the police force.  The secrets she carries have made it difficult to trust anyone but empathic to the victimized and abused women and children that make up her caseload.

When I saw the book on the shelves at Eason, (the Irish equivalent of Chapters), the novel was called Hurt, but whatever the title it’s a great read and the perfect choice to introduce you to a fabulous series.

Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Standard

womancabinIn the wake of books like Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, the latest novel by author Ruth Ware has been receiving a lot of press, as it combines first person point of view of a character that may or may not be an unreliable narrator and the classic crime story of a locked door mystery.

Travel writer Lo Blacklock has scored a prime assignment for her magazine to cover the inaugural voyage of an ultra luxury cruise liner through the Baltic Sea to view the Northern Lights.   Following a night of partying, Lo wakes to what she believes is the tossing of a woman off the side of the boat. When she reports the crime, everyone claims that no one is missing and the cabin beside her was empty, but Lo remembers the woman, having borrowed mascara from her.  Is she imagining things or is everyone conspiring against her?  In the days leading up to the trip, Lo’s apartment was burgled and she is suffering from vivid nightmares and sleep deprivation; combine that with drinking and prescription medication, perhaps, she is wrong, so why is her gut telling her that she’s in danger?

The book is set in the modern day but carries the feeling of a golden age mystery like “The Lady Vanishes” or “Murder on the Orient Express” as our technology does us no good in the middle of the ocean, where we are isolated and at the mercy of others.  This is an excellent read and Ware, the author of “In a Dark, Dark Wood” knows how to write a tight mystery. Despite enjoying the book, I must admit I never warmed to Lo, who is a conflicted and complex character, but would recommend this as a read for a cold winter night.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Standard

 

the widow
In her debut novel, Fiona Barton has garnered a lot of attention and even an endorsement by horror master, Stephen King.  The book falls into the vein of recent bestsellers like “Gone Girl” and “Girl on the Train” and concentrates on the dark secrets that can occur within a marriage.The main character, Jean Taylor has spent years being the perfect wife, even when her husband was suspected of committing  a heinous crime, enduring the glares of those who had convicted her husband in their minds. Now her husband, Glen was dead, so she didn’t need to stay quiet and everyone wanted to hear her story; the police, the reporters and the public. Everyone says they just want the truth, but truth is elusive and even Jean isn’t quite sure what the truth actually was.Jean’s husband, Glen, is perhaps the greatest mystery in the book. Cold and controlling, Glen’s death doesn’t seem to really upset Jean and even though physically gone, the character and his past behaviour looms in the background, like an ominous dark shadow.

This book is definitely a mystery-thriller, containing a number of plot twists, most of which I didn’t see coming. Telling the story from a variety of viewpoints keeps the reader off balance.  Actions are seen through Jean’s eyes, as well as the detective who tried to convict Glen and Kate Waters who desperately wants Jean’s story. So any comment, look or action can be interpreted by what the observer expects or wants to see. Particularly effective on Barton’s part was keeping Jean a possibly unreliable narrator of her story, even to herself, so that both the character and the reader notice the small mistakes or omissions that occur as she repeats her tale.

 

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Standard

girltrain

During my Christmas holidays, I picked up the novel The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Other than it was a popular title and was made into a movie, I didn’t know much about this book when I started reading it. Described as a psychological thriller, the novel seemed promising at first.

 

We begin with meeting one of the main characters, Rachel Watson, who is traveling on a train. With her own life in shambles, Rachel creates a perfect, imaginary life for a couple she sees everyday through the train window. But when the woman from this couple goes missing, Rachel decides to make her messy life even messier by helping to solve the mystery. The plot unfolds not only through the voice of Rachel, but two more female characters; Megan, the woman who has gone missing, and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife.

 

The novel’s timeline takes place in both the past and the present. In some cases, the same event will be described by more than one woman, giving the reader multiple perspectives on what happened.

This writing style creates a suspenseful atmosphere and leads the reader to wonder who can be trusted. As dark secrets begin to surface and we learn more about the characters, including Megan’s husband Scott and Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, our first impressions begin to change (the characters are not exactly who we think they were) and we start to see how everything is connected.

 

The Girl on the Train is a fast moving novel. However, half way through, the story seemed to drag on, the characters’ actions were a little repetitive and the conclusion to who committed the crime became predictable. Though overall, Hawkins novel was interesting, and dark, and had enough action and surprises to keep the reader turning pages.

The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn

Standard

internsIn preparation for reading “Hostile Takeover” the new book by Shane Kuhn, I decided to re-read his first novel ” The Intern’s Handbook”. On second reading, I still love the sly,dark humour, the clever plot and the well drawn and quirky characters.

The novel is the first in the series featuring John Lago, a cypher character who is a trained assassin, working undercover as an intern in order to insinuate himself in a position to kill his target.  The idea that an intern is in the perfect position to be an assassin is brilliant. In many large offices, the intern(normally an unpaid, overworked and ignored employee) can move from position to position,  with access to confidential files, company secrets or protected individuals, without anyone really noticing them.  John Lago, the child of the social service system with a dark past.  With the help of HR, Inc., which doubles as a placement agency but is really a cover for it’s murder for hire business and the a personality crafted from the movies, John has invented himself. He feels also outside of humanity and refers to himself as a monster, using movie quotes and situations to move within the conventions of society.

His latest and final assignment at the ripe old age of 25, will be at the law firm of Bendini, Lambert and Locke . Someone at the firm is selling the names and locations of people hiding in the witness protection program and John has been sent to plug the leak.  There he meets Alice, a tough cookie junior associate who might just be John’s dream girl, if he lives through this job and actually gets to retire.

The novel reminds me oddly of a Monty Python sketch, either you understand the joke or not, there really is no middle ground. Some patrons I have recommended this novel to have found it too dark, and can’t identify with John, while others were wildly enthusiastic and found themselves quoting lines from the book.  Personally, I look forward to a long relationship with John, Alice and HR, Inc.