Archives for posts with tag: thriller

bestdayWhile I was reading BEST DAY EVER by KAIRA ROUDA, I made a Facebook post that said “Only 50 pages in and I want to strangle the narrator.” A friend advised that I was “allowed to put it down” and I realized I couldn’t. Just like when I tackled Flynn’s GONE GIRL, I knew I was going to have to finish this book. I needed to know what happens to the characters. I needed to know that Paul Strom was going to be punished for being truly awful.

Everything about Paul is perfect. He has the perfect life: a high-powered job, a beautiful stay-at-home wife, Mia, and two young sons. And he has planned the perfect weekend getaway with Mia at their second home in an exclusive gated community. He even assembled the perfect playlist as the soundtrack the their weekend. (Paul is prone to repetition; maybe it affected me a little.) But if everything is so wonderful, then why does Mia seem so unhappy? Why are Paul’s thoughts so dark? What are they both hiding?

As the day’s events intensify, Mia seems to know more about Paul’s darker half than he realizes. She asks questions about his work life that make him incredibly nervous. Of course, he thinks he’s too smart to be found out. She’s just a silly housewife, no threat to him whatsoever. But Paul’s overconfidence may end up being his downfall.

Written primarily from Paul’s perspective, this book is very character-driven. He is an intense, brooding, and flawed person. In many ways, he reminded me of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Is Paul a psychopath or just creepy and controlling? Or both? Or is he just an exaggerated character who is created to tell a story?

I think that Paul, while perhaps a bit embellished, is a very realistic character. He’s overly concerned with status and brand (he mentions a least a dozen times that he drives a Ford Flex). Maintaining a picture-perfect life is what he strives for. And maybe that’s what felt over the top about him. If he’s a psychopath, would he care about creating an illusion? Or would he just try not to get discovered? Regardless of these nitpicks, the story is both disturbing and compelling.

Even though I was angry at the narrator, I think that’s the mark of a successful book. Rouda managed to evoke incredibly strong emotions from me. I was filled with disgust for Paul. I rooted for Mia to confront her controlling husband. I wanted answers to all the questions brought up by Paul’s unsettling internal monologue. For the most part, I got those answers. But can you really trust the answers of someone as suspicious as Paul?

Sometimes, it’s fun to explore the scary things in the world. I think I prefer the more impossible side of scary, though. Give me vampires, werewolves, and Ancient Ones any day. Knowing that there are really people like Paul out there made Rouda’s book more unsettling for me. But, if you don’t mind getting inside the head of someone who is, frankly, unlikeable and unreliable, then BEST DAY EVER might be for you.

indexGenerally speaking, I don’t read books that have to do with nature. I’m not a person who’s interested in mountain climbing or caving. So why I picked up THE WHITE ROAD by Sarah Lotz is still a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe something in the description made me think of one of my favorite horror movies, THE DESCENT. Maybe I just wanted to try something different. No matter what the reason, I’m glad I gave this one a chance.

Simon Newman and his friend Thierry run a struggling website. On the hunt for content that will bring in new readers, Thierry discovers the story of Cwm Pot. While exploring a system of caves in Cwm Pot, three men died. Their bodies were unable to be recovered due to the difficulty of the cave. Thierry and Simon decide that Simon will explore the cave to get footage of the dead men.

Simon finds a guide to lead him through the caves, he assumes everything will go well. But Simon and his guide Ed wind up trapped during a flash flood. The guide attacks Simon and dies in the resulting struggle. On his own in unfamiliar territory, Simon must decide whether he will wait for potential rescue or try to find his way out. Unable to stand the thought of being trapped with four dead men, Simon stumbles his way to rescue.

Of course, Simon’s footage goes viral. He and Thierry are on the verge of being rich, which means they need more content for their site. Thierry comes up with the idea of sending Simon to Mt. Everest to capture footage of the dead climbers at the summit. Eager for money, Simon agrees to go.

This half of the book is told from the viewpoints of Simon and a climber named Juliet. Juliet was a climber who was attempting to climb Mt. Everest with her partner Walter. Walter dies during the climb, leaving Juliet alone. She begins to see something along the way. A phantom climber that haunts her day and night. What – or who – is this entity?

Simon climbs ever closer to the summit, befriending his fellow climbers. As they get closer to the summit, he discovers that one of the other climbers, Mark, is actually the son of the lost Juliet. Mark wants to climb only to find his mother’s body. Simon is conflicted. Does he want footage for the site or to respect the journey of his new friend?

At the summit, Simon loses his grasp on reality and removes his glove. Because of the extreme environment, his hand is frozen. The guide who was leading him to the summit rescues Simon, but Mark is lost. Simon loses part of his hand to frostbite. But the footage of the climb skyrockets the website’s popularity. Despite this, Simon sinks into a deep depression and is haunted by the ghost of Ed. Discussing too much more of the plot would spoil the ending, but I will say that Simon goes on a quest to both rid himself of Ed and discover what haunted Juliet on Everest.

 More than anything, Lotz’s writing captures the extremes of the environments she writes about. The crushing depths of the cave and numbing cold of Everest are described so well that reading them was uncomfortable. The description of going through the tight spaces of Cwm Pot made me pretty sure I don’t ever want to go caving. This wasn’t quite the horror story I thought it would be, but if you’re looking for a different take on both scary situations and nature writing, THE WHITE ROAD is worth your while.

Teen Fiction

Adam and his girlfriend Lizzie have pretty good seats to the concert that sets off a chain of events only the revolutionary Zealots could have predicted. Jimmy Earle, a rock star at the height of his career and popularity, has taken the drug Death. Jimmy has accomplished his elaborate and very public bucket list and is putting on one last concert before the best, drug-induced week of his life ends in his equally public death.

Because that’s what this new drug, Death, does. You take a little white pill, have the most fantastic week-long high, and then die. Very simple. Once the drug has bonded with your brain, there’s no going back. There’s no antidote. No cure for Death. Once you’ve taken it, you’re dead after seven days.

After Jimmy dies on stage in front of thousands of fans, the riots begin. The undercurrent of tension between the haves and the have-nots in Manchester suddenly boil to the surface. Adam and Lizzie get to watch it all unfold making Adam feel like he and Lizzie are bound together by this night. Nothing could be better.

Then Adam’s life begins to unravel. His parents get a mysterious letter from the Zealots telling them his brother, Jess, is dead. Lizzie seems disinterested and angry with him. Suddenly, Adam’s view on his life is much less positive. In a moment of self-loathing and despair, Adam decides to take Death.

Now he’s got a week left to do as much living as a teenage boy can. Like Jimmy Earle, he begins with an extraordinarily complicated and elaborate bucket list. To accomplish this list, his first task has to be to make up with Lizzie and spend his last days with her.

After he and Lizzie reconcile, they become enmeshed with a dangerous drug-dealer’s even more dangerous son. Lizzie gets kidnapped and Adam has to decide whether to use his remaining days to help her or to accomplish his bucket list.

Burgess has created a near future dystopian adventure in “The Hit.” The gap between rich and poor is so insurmountable that home-grown terrorist groups like the Zealots find strongholds with Manchester’s young people and, for some, taking Death seems like a viable option.

Adam and Lizzie deal with a lot of heavy issues in “The Hit.” Burgess does a good job of focusing on the issues his characters face without being too heavy-handed or preachy. The action scenes make you sit forward in your seat. The twists and turns the plot takes are realistic as are the characters.

Every characters’ flaws are exposed and explored to a degree that makes you wonder whether you really like these people. Ultimately, the selfishness and insecurities revealed by Adam are so uncomfortable because they are so true-to-life. Adam behaves exactly as a teenager would–he is at times self-absorbed, reckless, heroic, kind, a genius and a complete idiot.

The premise of “The Hit” is intriguing–what kind of mental process would you go through if you knew in 7 days you were going to die? Especially if the world is about to change and you realize you won’t be around to see or help the change happen. Would the self-loathing and hopelessness you felt when you first took the pill last through your 7 days or would you find a reason to regret that choice?

With sexual content, drug use, and mature themes, this is a good choice for mature teens and adults who like near-future dystopians and flawed characters wrestling with Life’s big questions.

“Die Again” is the eleventh installment in the excellent Rizzoli and Isles popular crime/thriller series by Tess Gerritsen, featuring medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles and Boston police Detective Jane Rizzoli. It has been approximately two years since the previous novel in the series, “Last to Die,” was published, so I have been eagerly awaiting this latest installment.

A postman spots a dog in the window of a house with a human finger in his mouth and calls 911. Maura and Jane are summoned to a grisly crime scene where they discover the victim, famous hunter and taxidermist Leon Gott. The man is unrecognizable in his present condition.

Gott had been gutted and mauled and was hanging from his feet in his house among the animal trophy heads that lined his walls. Jane and Maura determined that the man had been dead for several days. Gott had been commissioned to stuff a local zoo’s rare snow leopard that had to be euthanized. Gott was preserving the pelt of the snow leopard, but that valuable pelt is missing.

Rizzoli and Isles learn that local shock jock Jerry O’Brien, who frequently brags about his hunting trips to Africa, had contacted the zoo when he heard the snow leopard was going to be euthanized. He offered a huge sum of money for the pelt on the condition the transaction is kept quiet.

The case gets even stranger when at the same zoo, a worker is killed by another big cat. Then another victim is discovered with similar parallels to the first case. Can the deaths be connected? Is there a serial killer on the loose?

The novel alternates between the present investigation in Boston and a past seven-day safari in Botswana, Africa. Six years ago eight persons met to go on the safari. Thriller writer Richard persuaded his girlfriend, Millie, to accompany him on the safari. Millie had no idea what she was in for when she agreed to go on the trip. She only went to please Richard in hopes of rekindling the romance they once had.

Millie was not enjoying the experience at all. Just a couple of days into the trip, things started to go horribly wrong. When their vehicle broke down the group became stranded in the bush with no means of communication with the outside world.

Millie begins to wonder if they will even survive as members of the safari start vanishing. Is it wild animals, or is a human behind the disappearances?

Meanwhile, back in Boston Jane and Maura are beginning to believe the murders in Boston are linked somehow to the disappearances in Africa. There’s a killer out there, and one of them must travel to Africa to uncover the truth.

I enjoy the way the novel alternates between Boston and Africa, with Millie narrating the chapters set in Africa. Gerritsen’s descriptions of Africa, the natural beauty together with the dangerous elements, are superb.

The crime thriller has a brilliant storyline with its intricate and compelling plot twists. Gerritsen’s character development is always great, and this novel is no exception. If you are a fan of the series, you already know Jane and Maura and their fantastic interaction. Millie and Johnny, the safari guide, are powerful characters as well in this novel.

Tess Gerritsen’s novel was definitely worth the wait; it’s her best, in my opinion. Despite being part of a series, “Die Again” can be read as a stand-a-lone. This novel is available in regular print and MP3 sound recording at the Joplin Public Library.

Pirio Kasparov is a miracle, remarkable, or an anomaly depending on who is describing her – fishermen, her rescuers, or the U.S. Navy. Pirio was on a lobster boat that sank in the foggy North Atlantic after being rammed by a tanker. She spent 4 hours in 48 degree water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. Boat owner and friend, Ned Rizzo, did not survive.

As you read Pirio’s story in  Elisabeth Elo’s novel North of Boston you find a character more complex than a one word description. The only child of Russian immigrants she is a little damaged, smart, tough, courageous, and proud she is American.

As she tells her doubting father, in America the authorities will find the tanker that destroyed the lobster boat and killed her friend. But finding the tanker proves problematic for the Coast Guard. Pirio can only provide the color and according to the logs no boats of that color were out of the harbor that day.

Pirio wants answers, not only for herself but for Ned’s son, Noah. Noah’s mother, Thomasina, and Pirio have been friends since they were both banished to boarding school. They were rule breakers and drinking buddies. Pirio changed her lifestyle but Thomasina can’t and counts her sobriety in days.

Noah and Pirio share a special bond. Noah is a pal and because of circumstances sometimes Pirio’s responsibility. So for him as well as herself she wants to find who is responsible for Ned’s death.

Also the Navy is eager to study her. They want to know how she could survive for 4 hours in water that would kill most people in minutes. She feels a duty to help but the base in Florida is a long way from Boston and the answers she seeks.

She begins by questioning Ned’s former co-workers. He worked for years at a commercial fishing company, Ocean Catch. His acquisition of the lobster boat was recent. In fact its last voyage was also its first.

Someone else is raising questions about Ned. “Larry” says he is Ned’s friend but no one knows him. Pirio then suspects he is an insurance investigator but his real identity is reporter Russ Parnell. Russ’s prime interest is not the accident but in Ocean Catch and the voyages the fishing trawler Sea Wolf takes.

At first Pirio’s sleuthing is done around her hours at Inessa Mark, the perfume company her parents founded. But as she uncovers more evidence her search to find out what happened consumes her.

She soon begins to believe that there was nothing accidental about the tanker ramming the lobster boat. When clues point to Ocean Catch and the Sea Wolf she joins forces with Russ Parnell to find Ned’s killer and uncover the truth.

Following clues, and sometimes ignoring her instincts, Pirio finds herself in the far north and running for her life. Can she and Russ uncover the truth while evading ruthless killers who will go to any length to keep their secret?

This is Elo’s first novel. It took me a few pages to get accustomed to the author’s style but once into the story it was easy to get lost in the telling. Cold water survival, the perfume industry, Russian immigrants, commercial fishing, and whales are woven into a compelling story of suspense.

Pirio is an interesting character and indications are she will reappear in future novels. She has a difficult relationship with her father and she still misses her mother who died when Pirio was 10 years old. You get glimpses of their story throughout the novel. If there are additional Pirio novels, it will be interesting to see if we learn more.

If you are a Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, and/or Lisa Gardner fan this will be right up your reading alley. However, I recommend it to anyone who likes suspense.

If you are a Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, and/or Lisa Gardner fan this will be right up your reading alley. However, I recommend it to anyone who likes suspense.

Jack Reacher, Lee Child’s superhero-action character, returns to beat up the bad guys in the 18th installment of the Reacher series, “Never Go Back.” Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop and a one-man wrecking crew, and people who try messing with him usually end up maimed or dead.

Readers familiar with the series know that Reacher has few possessions–no cell phone, credit card, carries no ID and hasn’t had an address in years. He carries a folding toothbrush, and when his clothes get dirty, he gets new ones and discards the old ones. He eats in cheap diners, hitchhikes around the country solving problems, and getting in and out of trouble.

In this thriller, Reacher’s curiosity has finally led him back to the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP in northeastern Virginia. Reacher first talked to Major Susan Turner in the novel, “61 Hours,” and they have flirted several times on the phone since. He likes her voice. He decides that it is time to meet the person behind the intriguing voice to see if his mental image is anything close to reality, so he travels from South Dakota to Virginia.

When Reacher arrives at the 110th and asks for Major Turner, he has some surprises awaiting him. Major Turner is in prison on charges of taking a bribe. Then the new CO hits Reacher with the news that he has been recalled to duty.  A technicality in Reacher’s discharge papers reveals that he can be recalled and that he faces charges of rape and murder.  One of the charges involves the murder of a gangbanger in Los Angeles that he does recall thinking about killing, but didn’t.  The army brass also informs him that a woman that he does not remember, with whom he supposedly has a daughter, has slapped him with a paternity suit.

Two lawyers are assigned to Reacher after he is jailed. In typical Reacher fashion, he manages to escape, breaks Susan Turner out of her cell (…and yes, she is everything he had hoped she would be and more!) and the two are on the run. They head for Los Angeles, each with their folding toothbrushes, in order to discover if the charges against him are real or just a means to get them out of the way.

Their journey involves a clash with redneck drug dealers. Reacher fights them with his hands behind his back. He breaks a bad guy’s fingers and another guy’s arm on a crowded flight from Pittsburgh to LA without anyone on the crowded plane noticing.

Two men with code names of Romeo and Juliet are tracking Reacher’s and Turner’s every move. The have walked into a conspiracy and very powerful people want him and Turner out of their way.

Despite their frantic journey in which they try to stay ahead of the bad guys, the D.C. police, the FBI, and the army, Reacher and Turner find time for some intimacy and grow to know and respect each other. The two make a formidable team in their quest to clear their names and to find out if Reacher has a child.

This novel is full of excitement, confrontations and evil characters. It is an intricate, tightly plotted, fast-paced mystery with the usual elements of classic Reacher violence and humor. The author also shows us a slightly softer side of Reacher in this story. For fans of thrillers, the Jack Reacher series can become addictive.

“Never Go Back” is available in print and audiobook formats at the Joplin Public Library.

Robert Crais has been one of my favorite authors for years. Since I am a huge fan of the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, I was anxious to begin reading “Suspect.” I hadn’t read anything about the novel beforehand, so I didn’t realize it wasn’t part of that series. I quickly got over that disappointment as I continued with the novel.

The story begins in Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber kills Pete, a soldier and the handler of Maggie, a three-year-old German shepherd specially trained to sniff out explosives. When a sniper shoots Maggie, her career as a military dog ends, as does her tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The story picks up several months later with Los Angeles police officer Scott James. Months have passed since Scott’s partner Stephanie was killed in a brutal nighttime shooting that left Scott critically injured. He continues to suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pain from injuries sustained in the shooting. Scott sees a psychiatrist in hopes that his flashbacks will reveal clues about the persons responsible for the crime.

Scott joins the LAPD canine department, where he is paired with Maggie, who also suffers from PTSD and depression. Scott and Maggie are both considered too physically and psychologically damaged to be in law enforcement, but Scott is determined to find Stephanie’s killers and refuses to give up the search.

Scott has no experience with dogs, but as he and Maggie work together, the two form a strong bond, just as Pete and Maggie had shared a close bond in Afghanistan. Scott and Maggie become “pack,” with Scott being the alpha.

Scott, aided by police detective Joyce Cowly, investigates the crime that led to Stephanie’s death. The crime unit assigned to the case has made little progress in solving the case, but the help he receives from certain other members of the unit has unexpected results that lead to deadly consequences.

Robert Crais is a master with character development and character relationships. The focus of the novel is the relationship that develops between Scott and Maggie, who both recently lost their partners and need each other to heal. Other characters central to the novel are Joyce Cowly, the detective who befriends Scott and helps him find the killer. Sergeant Dominick Leland is the “dog man,” an expert in the handler/dog relationship who is quite vocal regarding the importance of the work of police dogs.

The author tells parts of the story from Maggie’s perspective in a way that is unusually compelling and fascinating. He creates a truly unique and caring character in Maggie, but she still comes across as a dog, not a human character.

Crais explains in detail how a dog uses its extremely sensitive nose to distinguish different smells. It is easy to tell that the author has done tons of research on dog behavior and psychology, particularly on military and police dogs.

When I started the novel and discovered that a dog was one of the two main characters, I was hesitant to continue the story. I usually don’t read novels about animals, especially dogs, since so many of these books end sadly. However, this book is different.

“Suspect” is an excellent novel by Robert Crais, especially if you are a dog lover—and even if you are not. It is my favorite so far, and I hope to see more of Maggie and Scott and the other characters in future novels.

In the audiobook version, MacLeod Andrews delivers an excellent narration, lending each character a unique voice.

The novel is available at the Joplin Public Library in regular print, large print and audiobook formats.