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”.
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.
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.
Gillian Flynn has quickly become a part of our current zeitgeist, much thanks to her highly celebrated novel “Gone Girl”, a portrayal of a modern day marriage gone toxic. Having made the New York Times bestseller list and read by millions around the globe, Flynn has proved herself to be a compelling writer, a singular voice with flair in the dark and macabre.
“Sharp Objects” (2006), Flynn’s debut novel, is no different. A mere 272 pages, “Sharp Objects” is a lean, sinister and compulsively entertaining novel about family origins and secrets, repressed grief and self-destruction. At the center, we meet second rate journalist Camille Preaker, assigned to report on the grisly murder of a teenage girl back in her hometown. Having removed herself from her childhood home, she reluctantly takes on the assignment and is forced to reconnect with her estranged mother Adora and half sister Amma.
On arrival, Camille’s initial response is to quickly report on the occurrence and remove herself from her family. However she finds herself drawn to the peculiarities surrounding the murder, the nature of the town’s reaction and to the disturbing secrets she discovers about her family’s history. As Camille finds herself sucked into the nefarious setting, her own demons begin to resurface as past traumas come to light.
The strengths of the novel come in its deliberate pace and the writer’s close attention to detail. Despite its brevity, Flynn carefully fleshes out each character, skillfully developing their personalities and histories. In a short period, we quickly understand Camille’s apprehension in returning to her roots. Subtle cues in the writing and detail foreshadow for events to occur. The conclusion may or may not surprise you, but the effect is no less than lasting.
Petar Vidjen is a member of the Thunder Bay Public Library staff.
Aaron Stevens is pretty unpopular in school. As the son of Derek Stevens, the richest man in Lee Chambers’s The Pineville Heist, it’s no wonder: the people of Pineville all suspect that Aaron’s father is planning on closing the local mill. If that happens, Pineville will become a ghost town without any industry, forcing everyone to move away. To secure their own fortunes while simultaneously giving a big “screw you” to Derek Stevens, a couple of people decided to rob the Pineville bank.
When his father forces Aaron to walk to school, Aaron unknowingly sees the robbers. Later overhearing the sheriff talking about the robbery, Aaron puts two and two together and talks a couple of his friends into skipping school to recover the stolen money. But when the robbers are murdered, Aaron and his friends are caught in the middle of everything. Grabbing some of the money and running back to school, Aaron is separated from his friends. Terrified that they didn’t make it out of the woods alive, Aaron is left running for his life, having to remain one step ahead of the relentless killer who wants his stolen money back.
I don’t normally read thrillers, but I found myself quickly drawn into The Pineville Heist. While the writing can at times be a little bit awkward, I found I stopped noticing it as I got caught up in the plot; The Pineville Heist is the type of book that you won’t want to put down. Now that I’m finished reading it, I can’t wait to see the movie, which was filmed locally and is due out in early 2015.
After reading the Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series, I seriously could not believe that I had never read a Lee Child book before. I mean, here I am writing about all these great books you should try out and I had never read a Lee Child novel. For shame, for shame. Well now I plan to rectify this by telling about an absolutely great author whom I definitely recommend. The Killing Floor by Lee Child introduces the reader to Jack Reacher, the novel’s protagonist, an ex-military policeman travelling America trying to live “off the grid”. As Reacher passes through yet another small town, this one named Margrave, he stops at a diner to have breakfast. That is where the normalcy of recent months ends as Reacher finds the diner flooded with police all heading in his direction. Reacher is then accused of murder and begins to find himself knee deep in the unknown where he will have to use his military training and wits to claw his way out from (gee that kinda sounded good, I probably read that line somewhere and borrowed it for this little blog entry, no plagiarism intended). The Killing Floor is a mystery/thriller that I found to be a complete page turner, unlike the last few books I have read. Maybe someday I will write about them but I have this irrational fear that the author will find out that I trashed his/her book and track me down (yes, I think myself that important).
I really liked the concept of Jack Reacher, a man just wanting to be on his own, doing his own thing, on his own time. A man with the background and training to deal with situations you or I would find knee buckling. Child’s writing style is great and never leaves the reader with dull moments as he introduces unexpected twists to thoroughly leave the reader captivated enough to forego sleep to read and find out what happens next. I should also mention that as of Mid June (the time I am writing this), I finished the second Reacher novel and while, in my opinion, the story wasn’t as good as the first novel, it was still very readable. It’s always nice when you find a new author and I now have 14 more Reacher novels to read through. Please feel free to give the Reacher series a chance.