Category Archives: Thriller

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

0316216852.01._SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Mulholland Books, New York 2013

Borrowed from my library.

First I read Zoo City.  Then I read Moxyland.  I have been waiting for this one to come out since I first heard Lauren Beukes had another novel being published in the US.  Boy, was it ever worth the wait.  This is a thriller, a murder mystery.  Very enthralling and very creepy.

A killer find a key.  The key opens the door to a house.  The house opens the door to time.  The girls shine.

A young girl meets a stranger.  Years later, she is attacked and almost killed.  When she recovers she is obsessed with finding her attacker.

The Shining Girls grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  It’s a time travel story unlike any I have read, with a structure like a house of mirrors, dark, frightening and constantly driving towards a resolution.  I loved it.  I think it could be this year’s Gone Girl.

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Filed under Books, Mystery, SciFi, Thoughts, Thriller

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

Bantam Books, New York, 2012

Borrowed from my local library.  A book from my RIP VII reading pool.  I am really glad to have discovered this author.

Wow, talk about dysfunctional families.  The Rand’s are a family of thieves and have been thieves for generations.  They are bound by honor, love and closely held secrets.   When Terrier Rand is called home by his brother, Collie, some of those secrets are exposed to the light, with devastating consequences.

Let me explain.  Collie ( yes, the Rand’s are all named after dog breeds) is on death row, about to be executed.  He was charged with the murders of eight people, openly admits his crime, and has never explained what happened on that awful night.  Five years after the murder his family is still in shock.  Terry, having run from home after the murders, abandoning his girlfriend and his family, comes running back at his brother’s request.  He doesn’t even understanding why.  He returns to the house where he grew up, to his Mother and Father, Sister, Grandfather and Uncles, and all the buried feelings held within.

Surprisingly, considering the horrible violence,  I loved this book.  The Rand family is not exactly likable, but I found myself caring about each one of them, even Collie, unrepentant, sitting in prison and waiting to die.  Pirrilli’s writing kept me up at night, his ability to build relationships and grab onto the defining, disturbing aspects of this family, had me in awe at times.  I really appreciate emotional depth in a thriller.  I also appreciate humor, which Pirrilli uses to bring light to the dark.   I suggest you read this one, even if you are not a fan of the genre.

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Filed under Books, Mystery, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts, Thriller

The Calling and The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

Harcourt, New York, 2008

Borrowed from my local library.

A well-written mystery/thriller whose main character is a sixty-one year old female Detective Inspector who suffers with a bad back, a dependence on pain-killers and a mother who keeps her on a strict diet.  Her small town office, threatened by budget cuts, is suddenly over-whelmed by the murder of a local elderly women, a murder that turns out to be connected to a string of murders that take place all across Canada.

D.I. Hazel Micallef is a winner.   Short-tempered, with a caustic tongue, she is smart as a whip and facing the same troubles at work as many woman run into, politics and an old boy network that won’t quit.

     Her head was swimming with details.  Everything they knew now had a relationship with everything they did not know.  What they’d learned stood like a range of trees on a lakeshore, reflected in reverse on the water below.  Hazel dreaded the journey it would take to get to those dark shapes.  A dead woman, a dead man.  A pact of some kind.  What was being kept? Were these deaths, at least, part of something longed for.  As she got older and acclimatized herself to her own failures, she had begun to understand death’s draw. From pages 100/101.

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010

Borrowed from my library.  This is the second Hazel Micallef mystery.

Following on the heels of her last case, D.I. Hazel Micallef has had back surgery and must recuperate in the home of her ex-husband and his second wife.  Detective Constable James Wingate , who is running things while Hazel is on leave, calls for her help after someone fishes a body from one of the local lakes.  Things start to get really strange when Hazel discovers a mystery story running in the local paper.  The story sounds surprising like their drowning case.

I think these are great mysteries, smart and beautifully written.  I love Hazel, and her colleagues.  This is a great series and I hope my library orders the newest book, A Door in the River, as soon as possible!

“I’m reading between your lines”

“Yes, yes, you are,” said the voice.  “I’ve been very pleased, I think we are doing very well together.  Maybe the story will have a different ending than the one I’ve been planning.”

Wingate spoke.  “What ending have you planned?”

“Now, now, Detective Constable.  Do you read the end of a book before its beginning?”  She began to write again.  “I knew someone who used to do that.  Couldn’t stand the suspense of not-knowing.  Let’s just say the trajectory of the story has a natural end-point.  We’re wired for it, did you know that?  The shape of our lives imposes itself on the way we tell stories: a welter of possibilities at the beginning narrows and narrows and instabilities appear that obligate us to take certain turns.  And then the end is a forgone conclusion.  However, twists are possible in such stories as the one we’re telling.  Unexpected outcomes.  In my experience, it happens only  rarely.  But we can see.”  from page 235.

Inger Ash Wolfe is a pseudonym.  People have been  wondering (and guessing at)  who the mysterious author is since The Calling was first published.  At the end of last month the mystery was solved when The Globe and Mail published this essay.  Turns out my library has several books by the culprit and I have added them to my TBR list.

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Filed under Canadian, Fiction, Mystery, Thoughts, Thriller

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Harcourt, Inc., New York, 2007

Borrowed from my library.

A strange, suspenseful novel that touches on current issues between east and west, The Reluctant Fundamentalist opens as  Changez, a Pakistani man who has spent time in school and at work in the US, approaches an American on the street in Lahore.

     Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance?  Ah, I see I have alarmed you.  Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America.  I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.  From page 1.

Changez invites the stranger to a cafe, tells him of his years in college in the US, of his job with a financial firm and his relationship with an American women.  Throughout this story he tells of  his struggles with choices, of his distancing from his home and his culture, almost with a sense of self-revulsion.  He pauses to address the stranger, questions his background, his reason for being there, then returns to his tale.  He is disturbed by his own response to 9/11, but the world and his place in it shifts after that event.

This is an odd quirky book  layered with anger and black humor.  The stranger never says a word, we don’t know what his mission is.  We’re not sure of Changez’ politics.  is he simply a college lecturer or an Islamic fundamentalist?  Are these two men assassins sitting across the table from one another?   Their late night walk back to the stranger’s hotel seems to answer this question, but does it, really?

As I read I kept thinking of Scheherazade.  Is this story a seduction? When it ends will someone die? Hamid gives his character’s voice that kind of power.  I enjoyed this strange thriller and recommend it to those interested in unusual literary form.  Just don’t expect any clear answers.

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Filed under LiteraryFiction, Review, Thriller

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my local library.

I discovered Jo Nesbø while search for a mystery/thriller to read as I waited for Henning Mankell books to be published in the US.  I don’t usually write about mysteries as there are many great blogs out there that follow the genre but, since I read The Snowman for R.I.P. VI,  I thought I should write about why I like this series.

In the middle of a cold, moonlit night a young boy, Jonas wakes up and finds his mother gone.  Looking out his window at his yard bathed in eerie light he sees a snowman that mysteriously appeared earlier that day.  Around the snowman’s neck is a pink scarf that belongs to his mother.

Harry Hole, contrary police inspector and recovering alcoholic, receives a letter and believes it is connected to the disappearance.  An officer new to the Crime Squad, Katrine Bratt, is eager to help Harry make those connections.  This is just the beginning of a mystery with many twist and turns, one that had me reading way past my bedtime.  In places The Snowman is very, very creepy, reminding me a bit of Silence of the Lambs, so much so that I have a crazy desire to read that book again.  It must be R.I.P. season….

The thing that holds me to a mystery series, or any series really, is the characters, with all their flaws and bad behavior, and the way they relate to each other and those around them.  If they are well written I will put up with almost anything.  Harry is deeply flawed and often behaves very badly, but I care about him and about his friends and colleagues.

I find it interesting that Jo Nesbø’s books are being translated into English out of order, starting with The Redbreast, which is number three in the series.  And it ticked me off that number seven, The Snowman, was published in the US before number six , The Redeemer, which is already out in the UK.  Oh well, it is all up to the marketing people.

If you like this sort of thing I suggest starting with The Redbreast.  Enjoy!

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