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Posts Tagged ‘suspense’

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Slow Horses is the first in series of spy novels by author Mick Herron, all of which feature a team of misfits – MI5 Agents, who the service would love to get rid of but can’t for various reasons, so instead they send them to Slough House to finish out their time in the service doing menial and unimportant work. The leader of this group, who are disliked by MI5 and each other in equal measure, is Jackson Lamb, a lumbering, sometimes rude, but still sharp agent. At the start of the story, young agent Rivert Cartwright is sent to Slough House after a routine operation goes drastically wrong and River gets the blame.

However, the Slow Horses (Slough House/Slow Horses – get it?!) find themselves unexpectedly involved in a major news story when a young Muslim boy is kidnapped by a group of thuggish vigilantes, who threaten to behead him and stream it on the internet. Whatever orders they might get from above, there is no way the Slow Horses are going to sit back and let this atrocity happen, but things are way more complicated than they seem.

Okay, confession time. I don’t like spy novels. They just aren’t my thing and I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to buy this book – but nonetheless I thought I should give it a try…and I’m so glad that I did! Jackson, River and their various colleagues are all brought vividly to life, and if they aren’t always immediately likeable, they are certainly enjoyable to read about, and I couldn’t help rooting for them more or less from the off.

The plot itself is nice and twisty but stays on the right side of over-complicated – there were plenty of surprises along the way, but they never seemed too far fetched as to make the story seem ridiculous. The central theme – would the young kidnapping victim be saved? – trotted along well, and kept me gripped; I particularly liked that there were chapters told from Hassan’s point of view. There was also a lot of dry humour here too.

Overall, a great story with great characters, well told. I have bought the next available books in the series and look forward to reading them.

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This book is set in Dooling, West Virginia, but the events of the story are happening throughout the world.

A new global phenomenon which comes to be known as Aurora is affecting women as they sleep. They become cocooned in a web like structure, and if anyone tries to remove the webbing the women become uncontrollably violent. As women fight to stay away, inevitably they all (almost all anyway) fall asleep and the men are left to run things by themselves. It’s not long before they revert to their primal instincts.

In Dooling Correctional Prison however, there is  a new inmate named Evie Black, who is able to fall asleep and wake up normally, and opinion is divided over whether she needs to be studied in the hope of finding a cure, or whether she is a demon who needs to be killed.

I half wish I hadn’t chosen this book as my first book to read this year – I think it’s going to be hard for other books to live up to it, because quite honestly I LOVED this. It’s not a horror story, it’s more of a dystopian novel – and if there’s one genre guaranteed to get me interested, it’s dystopian fiction. The book raises the question of what the world would be like without the input of women, and while it’s fictional of course, so we cannot really know the answer, in this story at least, it’s not pretty!

As is normal with Stephen King (I’m not familiar with Owen King’s work, but after reading this would like to seek more out), there is a huge cast of characters, but I felt that they were all brought to life admirably and the distinct personalities shone through. There is the age old battle between good and evil, although both sides see themselves as good and the other as evil, and the suspense is maintained throughout.

I would say that this is a thoughtful and intelligent novel. Don’t be put off by the size – at just over 700 pages, it’s a big brick of a book – if this is a genre or theme that interests you, or if you have previously enjoyed Stephen King, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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Listened to as an audiobook narrated by Napoleon Ryan.

Andrew Sumner is having a run of bad luck, but he believes that it is at an end when he meets the beautiful and captivating Charlie. The two of them begin a very intense relationship and are smitten with each other, but Charlie’s irrational jealousy causes problems between them. When things start going missing from Andrew’s flat, and his friends start being attacked – or worse – he starts to wonder if Charlie could be behind it…could the woman he loves really be a murderer….?

I am really in two minds about this book. There was a LOT that annoyed me, and that was before I even got to the ridiculous ending. First of all, there were continuity errors (I guess that is what you would call them; certainly if this was a film that is what they would be). For example near the beginning of the story, two characters go into a cafe in a railway station to have a chat, but halfway through it becomes a pub. In another part, two characters decide to get drunk on two bottles of gin which somehow turn into vodka. Okay, these things don’t impact on the story, but they annoy me and I feel that if I noticed them without looking, any half decent editor should have done as well.

Additionally, Andrew as a protagonist was just…blah. I couldn’t understand why any woman would become obsessed with him, although there’s no accounting for taste. More than anything he just seemed unbelievably stupid for putting up with so much of Charlie’s irrational behaviour, and largely (it seemed) because she was adventurous in bed. The ending was the biggest let-down. I don’t mind a good twist, but this was so mad as to be just plain stupid, and asked the reader to discount everything that had gone beforehand.

As a narrator Napoleon Ryan was fine when he was being Andrew – and as the book is narrated by Andrew, that was most of the time. But female voices are NOT his forte. In particular, Charlie’s voice just made her sound like a caricature out of a bad sitcom.

Yet – despite all this, I did find that the story rattled along at a good pace, and at one point I even found myself wanting to extend a long run so I could see how one particular subplot played out. So I do believe that Mark Edwards is capable of creating solid tension and mystery, even if his way of resolving things seemed to have come completely out of left field.

Would I listen to or read another book by this author? Well yes, I probably would. But I liken this one to eating junk food. It’s pretty enjoyable at the time but even while you’re consuming it, you know it’s not really that great, so it’s not something I would probably recommend to a friend.

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Paul Morris is a compulsive liar – he lies about his success as a writer, the flat he lives in, his prowess with women; he lies to the people he meets, he lies to himself; he lies about his past, he lies about his future. And he manages to lie his way into a crowd of friends who he once knew briefly, starts a romance with the enigmatic Alice, and wangles his way into joining them for a holiday in Greece. But there are secrets lingering below the surface with these friends – a decade old mystery about a missing girl, and further events which take place during the holiday, all of which cause more trouble for Paul as his lies entangle him further and further into a web of deceit bigger than his own.

I really enjoyed this book, but unfortunately it’s really hard to review without giving away any spoilers. And I REALLY do not want to give away any spoilers, because this is a story with the power to really shock, if you do not know what’s coming.

The narrator is Paul himself, who is actually largely honest with the reader; he openly shares the fact that he lies to everyone else. It’s true that he isn’t very likeable, but it’s fair to say that none of the other characters are particularly likeable either. Alice is somewhat distant, and hard to read, and I was never able to warm to her. Paul’s old friend Andrew is frankly unbearable, and Andrew’s wife Tina, while nicer than the others, is basically a side character with very little to say for herself.

The build up to the climax of the story is fairly slow, but this didn’t bother me. It was well written and I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen. Small and seemingly inconsequential parts of the story did turn out to have a greater significance at the end, and I thought the ending itself was very cleverly done.

If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, and don’t mind a protagonist who you probably won’t want to root for, I would highly recommend this book.

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This was another audiobook to keep me company while running. It is only this year that I have really got into audiobooks and I have discovered a curious thing – even if I don’t particularly like an audiobook, somehow it seems to keep my attention, in a way that a physical book which I wasn’t enjoying, would not be able to do. This book kind of falls into that category.

The story is told from multiple points of view, but it kind of feels like Ella Longfield’s story, as hers is the only point of view narrated in the first person. Ella is on a train journey when she overhears two young men chatting up two girls. When it becomes apparent that the two men have just been released from prison, Ella becomes alarmed and considers intervening but decides not to. However, the next morning one of the girls, Anna Ballard, has gone missing and Ella feels guilty that she did not step in.

Cut to a year later – Anna has still not been found, and Ella is full of guilt. She starts receiving threatening postcards from an anonymous sender, which tell her that she is being watched. Meantime, the investigation into Anna’s disappearance rumbles on, with chapters told by Ella herself (‘The Witness), Anna’s father (‘The Father’), Anna’s friend Sarah who was with her on the train (‘The Sister’) and Matt, a private detective who Ella employs to find out who is sending the postcards (‘The Private Detective’). There are also very occasional chapters narrated by ‘Watcher’ whose identity for obvious reasons, is not revealed. It soon becomes obvious that everyone connected to Anna has secrets and throughout the story it seems that any one of them could be guilty.

So far, so interesting. The premise is great – what would you have done? Would you have intervened? Would you have left well alone? Would you feel guilty in Ella’s position? And of course there is the whodunnit angle…who is sending the postcards? And what really happened to Anna?

So – there was plenty about this book that kept me listening. However, there were also things that annoyed me. Ella was not a particularly interesting narrator or main character. Can I go so far as to call her dull? (Yes, is the answer.) And considering that actually, she didn’t do anything wrong, she carries a tremendous amount of guilt, almost making the case all about her. I didn’t mind the multiple points of view that narrated the different chapters, and in fact I did particularly like Matt the private detective, albeit a lot of his personal story (his wife had a baby and he learns to adjust to fatherhood) was irrelevant. However, each chapter had a cliffhanger which was obviously a ploy to keep the reader/listener interested, but just ended up being a bit annoying and felt contrived.

The other problem was the ending. Okay, so I didn’t guess who the culprit was, but the things is that I don’t believe anyone guessed, because there was absolutely nothing – no clues, no hints – given earlier on. It seems slightly unfair to keep readers guessing and then to spring a culprit on them out of left-field. The best mysteries to me are when you are surprised by the identity of the culprit but then realise that the clues were there all along.

Overall, I would say that if, like me, you are listening to this in an effort to distract you from something else, it does the trick, but otherwise I probably would not recommend it. Fans of psychological thrillers or whodunnits can find similar stories done much better.

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This book – along with every other psychological thriller written in the last couple of years, or so it seems – has drawn numerous comparisons with Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, Gone Girl. Full disclosure here – I loved Gone Girl while I was reading it, but after I had finished and thought about it, it all seemed a bit daft, and the more I thought about it, the more I decided it wasn’t as good as I had initially thought – so what I would make of Disclaimer, I wasn’t sure.

The story revolves around Catherine, a high powered, happily married woman, who finds a novel in her and her husband Robert’s new house – only when she starts reading it, she realises that the story is based on an incident from her own life some 15 years earlier, and one which she had hoped to put behind her forever.

The chapters alternate between those concentrating on Catherine – told in the third person – and the story of a lonely old man widower named Stephen Brigstocke. The connection between these two characters is revealed about a third of the way through, but I had already guessed at it beforehand.

With Catherine desperate to find out how the secret from her past has come to light, and Stephen bent on seeking revenge for what he believes are injustices that he has suffered, the two stories eventually converge and secrets are revealed. There is a huge twist towards the end, which I had not guessed – but I did guess that a twist was on the way.

This book is certainly a page turner – the writing flows easily and it’s an undemanding read. However, what let it down for me was the sheer implausibility of the characters’ actions – yes, characters plural. I can’t say too much without giving spoilers, which I am reluctant to do, but almost every character seemed to do something which didn’t make sense, and which was clearly only included to move the story along. Also, none of the characters were particularly likeable, although that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

Overall, this is what I call a ‘cheap chocolate’ book – it’s fine while you’re consuming it, but you know it’s not that good and when it’s over, you probably won’t feel satisfied. I’m giving it 3 out of 5 for it’s page turning pace, but I don’t think I’d be in a hurry to seek out more by this author.

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Ten strangers are invited to a remote island off the Devon Coast. with no sign of their mysterious host, U.N. Owen, they are all shocked when on their first night there, they are all accused of heinous crimes. And then the killings start…one by one, each of the ten is killed and with no-one else on the entire island, the horrifying truth becomes clear – the murderer is one of them. As the body count mounts, those who remain start to grow paranoid and suspicious of each other.

Full disclosure – I knew who the murderer was before I read the book, because I had seen the excellent 2015 BBC adaptation (in fact, that adaptation was the whole reason I wanted to read the book in the first place). With that in mind, I did wonder if my enjoyment of the book might be somewhat hampered, and I did try and work out if I could have guessed who the murderer was if I had not already been aware.

To answer both questions – my prior knowledge did not detract from my enjoyment at all, and I honestly don’t think I could have guessed who was the guilty party if I did not already know. This book was recently voted as the favourite Agatha Christie book among her readers, and although it is the first Christie I have read, I can certainly see why it is so popular.

The mystery is told very skilfully with plenty of reasons to suspect almost every character (the first person to die is of course exempt from any suspicion!) It is a very quick and easy read – I found myself reading huge chunks of the story in one go – and the denouement is extremely satisfying; I actually preferred the ending of the novel to the ending in the recent adaptation.

This is one of those rare books – a mystery where I honestly believe the murderer is practically unguessable and would be a total surprise to anyone who did not know what was coming from prior information. This may be the most popular Christie, but it certainly won’t be the only one I will be reading.

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