Tag Archives: thriller

Summer Round Up

She lives!

I’m sorry, I’ve been neglectful, and I have new found respect for all the real book bloggers out there, because after a full day at work, it’s difficult for me to muster the energy to turn on my laptop, let alone write up a book review. You guys are amazing.

The new job is great. I’m learning a ton and feel more secure in my duties with every passing day. Everyone I work with has been incredibly welcoming and so helpful, and I’m lucky to be a part of such a smart team of publicists.

Thanks to my long commute, I’ve been able to get in a lot of pleasure reading and read nearly every book on my Summer 2012 list on Pinterest. Unsurprisingly, much of what I read was in the mystery/thriller genre, which I love all year round but which is particularly good in the summer. I did manage to get in some contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and romance in between murders, though!

I reviewed quite a few of my summer reads on the blog, but here are a few others that I really enjoyed, in capsule. I’m so excited for fall!

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Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Summary from the publisher:
Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.

But what begins as flattering attentiveness and passionate sex turns into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon learns there is a darker side to Lee. His increasingly erratic, controlling behavior becomes frightening, but no one believes her when she shares her fears. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.

Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine—now Cathy—compulsively checks the locks and doors in her apartment, trusting no one. But when an attractive upstairs neighbor, Stuart, comes into her life, Cathy dares to hope that happiness and love may still be possible . . . until she receives a phone call informing her of Lee’s impending release. Soon after, Cathy thinks she catches a glimpse of the former best friend who testified against her in the trial; she begins to return home to find objects subtly rearranged in her apartment, one of Lee’s old tricks. Convinced she is back in her former lover’s sights, Cathy prepares to wrestle with the demons of her past for the last time.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something this frightening. From the very first page, my heart started pounding. When Cathy met Stuart about a quarter of the way in, I was so mistrustful that I couldn’t believe he was a genuinely nice human being. By the end, I couldn’t walk by a door without thinking of Cathy going through her checking. This book had officially crawled under my skin and invaded my life, and I loved it.

The credit here goes to Elizabeth Haynes, who makes an astonishing debut with a book that truly merits the genre of thriller. She expertly built the tension as she moved back and forth between 2004, when Cathy was in the relationship with Lee, and 2007, when Cathy learned of Lee’s release from prison just as she was beginning to move past everything. Both situations reach their height in tandem, and it was incredible to see the contrast between the beaten down Cathy of 2004 and the warrior Cathy of 2007, and the common thread of strength in both.

If the tension wasn’t enough, the subject matter made the story even more powerful. As I read, all I could think of was that this would be one of my worst nightmares: to be in a mentally and physically abusive relationship with a controlling psychopath who has managed to turn all of my friends against me, leaving me completely alone. Cathy’s situation is very real, yet in a departure from similar stories, she points out something that really struck me: before Lee, she regarded battered women with scorn for not leaving at the first sign of abuse, but in hindsight, it’s not at all that simple, because part of you wants to hold on to the tender moments, and part of you is afraid of what will happen if you try to leave.

The psychological elements were also extremely fascinating. It’s clear that the author did a lot of research into how OCD develops, why the habits persist, and the various forms of therapy; it all resulted in a very authentic recovery for Cathy, complete with backslides and anxiety attacks, not to mention the fact that she’s not necessarily cured of her disorder, rather she’s found an effective way to manage it.

Into the Darkest Corner is easily up there with Gone Girl as one of the best thrillers of summer, if not the year. Thanks to the fabulous Maggie from Lemuria Books for recommending it to me, and to the equally fabulous folks at Harper Books for sending me an ARC!

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Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Summary from the publisher:
‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’ Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

Holy crap, readers.

This was one of the most twisted books I’ve read in a long time.

Imagine that you wake up every day not knowing who or where you are, and you have to trust that the person you’re living with is giving you the correct details about your life. Frightening concept, no? I thought so, and S.J. Watson exploits those fears thoroughly in this incredible debut thriller.

Ten years ago, Christine suffered a terrible trauma that left her with a form of amnesia that prevents her from retaining memories. When she starts to see a new doctor, he advises her to keep a journal, and by studying the journal every day, she realizes that her husband, Ben, is keeping things from her, things that she wants to remember. It’s Christine’s journey to break free that really makes this book. The more she learned about herself, the quicker I turned the pages.

This is also one of those books that keeps you guessing. I knew that something was wrong with Christine’s situation from the beginning, and different theories emerged as I read, including one that very closely resembled the final twist. Even so, the tension was so high by the time I got to the end that I was completely gobsmacked, not to mention creeped out.

Reading Before I Go to Sleep was like watching a Hitchcock film. If you’re in the mood for a nail biter, this is definitely for you.

(And, very conveniently, Before I Go to Sleep was released in paperback today.)

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In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French

Dear Tana French,

Thank you for making it impossible for me to pick up any of the other books on my to-be-read shelf because I have to get through all three books in your Dublin Murder Squad series.

Sincerely,
Farin
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The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

When I started interning, I promised not to review books that I read for work, but I have to break the rule with this one because it was so excellent and I want everyone to pick up a copy.

Carl Morck is a homicide detective with the Copenhagen police. When he and his partners are involved in a shooting, Carl is the only one who comes out physically unscathed–one partner dies and the other is left paralyzed–and the guilt gnaws at him and makes returning to work difficult. As a solution, the chief of police moves Carl to the new Department Q, which handles cold cases. The move is couched as a promotion, but it’s clear when Carl arrives in his new basement office that it’s anything but. Slowly, he settles into what he thinks are going to be days of surfing the internet and dealing with his eccentric assistant, Assad, but curiosity over the files on his desk gets the better of him, and he and Assad end up investigating the five-year-old disappearance of a government official, Merete Lynggard. In spite of himself, Carl gets more and more involved in the case, and as the pieces start to fit together, he realizes that Merete may still be alive.

I read another review comparing this book to an episode of the T.V. show Cold Case, and I agree. The book moves from Carl’s perspective to Merete’s, so, like Cold Case, you get a sense of the past and how all the incidents affect today’s investigation. The change in perspective also leaked out the story slowly, which really held my interest and kept the stakes very high.

Carl Morck and Assad are great characters–I loved that both are flawed and have their secrets. Some might find Carl a little too surly, but his frustration over the bureaucracy of the police department and his residual issues with the shooting and his problems at home all explained it pretty well for me (and I’ve seen characters like him on all the major cop shows on T.V., so he’s not that unusual). I look forward to charting their journey and seeing how they and Department Q develop. I’m particularly interested in learning about Assad’s past, which is the only sore point with this optimistic, smart, and fiercly loyal character.

I have the highest hopes that Jussi Adler-Olsen will have huge success with his U.S. debut. This novel is certainly worthy!

NOTE: This book is called Mercy in the UK. It had a May release and is available from Amazon UK.

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India Black by Carol K. Carr

India BlackIndia Black by Carol K. Carr

Where to start with India Black?

If you’re expecting a very correct Victorian novel, do not pick this up. You will be disappointed and annoyed. The language, in particular, is not true to the period and will drive purists crazy.

That said, I absolutely loved this book, which, I’m excited to find, is the first in a series!

The novel begins with the fabulous sentence “My name is India Black. I am a whore.” Actually, she’s the madame of Lotus House, and she’s thoroughly comfortable with her lifestyle. But her world is turned upside down when a government minister dies at her house–a government minister who was carrying some very sensitive documents that would disgrace the British government and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. With the future of Lotus House in jeopardy, India has no choice but to help the government and retrieve the case filled with memoranda. An adventure in espionage ensues as India and Disraeli’s right hand man French follow the documents from the Russian Embassy, to Claridges Hotel, to the coast.

One of the blurbs at the back of the book called India Black a mix of Fanny Hill and Nancy Drew, and that pretty much hits the nail on the head. India is a heroine who doesn’t beat around the bush, and the thrilling story is perfectly punctuated by India’s observations and asides. I also liked that India didn’t come into the case as a ready-made spy; she used her street smarts to get through many a tough situation, but she still had to learn the subtleties of spying. And the twists and turns of the story kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

This is a really well done debut by Carol K. Carr. I can’t wait for the next one!

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Vienna Twilight by Frank Tallis

Vienna Twilight by Frank Tallis

I love the Max Liebermann series. It’s the perfect mix of mystery, thriller, and psychology lesson, set against the beautiful backdrop of 19th century Vienna. Frank Tallis also achieves something incredible: he, like his protagonist, is a psychologist, but he never gets so wrapped up in the terminology that the reader tunes out. Instead, Mr. Tallis gives a real sense of how this new area of medicine developed, and as Max hashes out theories with his mentor, Dr. Sigmund Freud himself, and with friend and colleague Inspector Reinhardt, we also learn the new ideas, and the findings get richer with every new installment.

Vienna Twilight is the most twisted case yet. Inspector Reinhardt is called to the Volksgarten where a young woman has been found dead and possibly violated. As the woman has no marks on her, the police assume she has died of natural causes, until a visit to the pathologist unearths two surprising truths: whatever sex she had was consensual, and she did not die of natural causes but was murdered with a tiny and stretegically placed hatpin. When the bodies of other women begin to turn up, Reinhardt enlists the help of Dr. Max Liebermann to unearth the identity of the killer.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, Max is treating a man who is sure that he is going to die because he has seen his doppelganger. And Max himself is still trying to understand his feelings for his former patient, the brilliant Amelia Lydgate. The analysis of dreams, the Oedipus complex, and necrophilia and thanatophilia (sexual fulfillment at the moment of death) all come out as Max poses the ultimate question: why are the Viennese obsessed with sex and death?

What was especially fascinating about Vienna Twilight was that the narrative was broken up with bits and pieces of the murderer’s confession. I got a true sense of how the killer evolved and how he came upon his chosen method. It was fascinating and disturbing all at once.

As with any great series, it was also fun to see how the primary characters have grown from the last book. I love Max and Inspector Reinhardt’s relationship; they work hard to understand each other in a professional capacity, but then they have these relaxing musical evenings. It was also great to watch Amelia come further into her own as an apprentice to the medical examiner. The atmosphere of old Vienna continues to shine through beautifully, particularly the scenes at the opera and in the coffeehouse. Because Mr. Tallis was examining the question of why the Viennese are the way they are, I felt that we got a really great sense of the different walks of life in society at that period and the different levels of necessity and depravity.

I eagerly await the sixth book!

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