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Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

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This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, and they just keep getting better and better!

This one dives straight into the story when Strike’s partner Robin has a severed girl’s leg delivered to the office. Strike immediately and correctly deduces that whoever sent it is trying to send him a message and four suspects come to mind. While the police believe they know which one it is and concentrate all their efforts on that person, Strike is convinced it is one of the other three, and he and Robin focus their investigation on those. Meanwhile, the killer – whose identity is not revealed until the end, but who does narrate certain chapters of the book – is committing other horrendous crimes in London, attacking and mutilating women, leaving a trail of bloodshed in his wake.

As Strike and Robin get drawn further into their investigation, they soon find themselves heading towards real danger.

Considering these books were written by the same mind that created the Harry Potter series, Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling, takes the reader to some very dark places. This has been a theme in all of the Strike novels, especially this one and the preceding book ‘Silkworm’. If very gory scenes are not your thing, then be warned that this might not be a book for you. However, she writes a great story, and is very capable of springing surprises on the reader and maintaining tension throughout. The relationship between Strike and Robin kicks up a notch in this book, despite remaining platonic, and Robin is still with the odious Matthew.

Strike himself has always been a fascinating character despite his somewhat questionable social skills, and Robin has always been immensely likeable – this is maintained in this third instalment of their work. I’m reluctant to reveal more about the plot for fear of revealing any spoilers, but if you like thrillers, and/or have enjoyed the previous Strike novels, I would definitely recommend this one.

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I recorded this film months and months ago, because something about it intrigued me. I’m not sure what and it took ages for me to get around to watching it – somehow whenever I was trying to pick a film I fancied, I passed this one by. But finally I settled down to watch it, and wow! It FAR exceeded my expectations (and if you will allow me to be shallow for a moment, it also awakened me to the fact that Viggo Mortensen is a beautiful man!)

The story revolves around Chester McFarland and his wife Colette (Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst), who are holidaying in Athens. They meet up with Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American tour guide, and hire him to show them around. Rydal is something of a con artist, but as the audience quickly learns, so is Chester. This fact catches up with Chester when some disgruntled victims of his hire a private detective to track him down and Chester accidentally kills him. Rydal stumbles upon Chester trying to hide the body (don’t worry, this all happens very early on, so there are no spoilers here) and not realising the other man is actually dead, helps Chester.

The two men are then inextricably bound to one another – both has the means to get the other into trouble, and also the motive – Rydal is clearly attracted to Colette, and the feeling seems mutual.

An uneasy alliance forms as the three of them are forced to stay together – I won’t say more as there are lots of twists and turns and the storyline deserves not to be spoiled for first time viewers.

I really liked this film – it’s basically an old fashioned thriller, done extremely well, with great actors. The main three are all excellent, with Mortensen and Isaac competing for who steals each scene (Dunst is also fantastic, but I think she was given less to work with). Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will like this; I feel sure that if Hitchcock were making movies today, this is the kind of thing he would come up with. It also looks stunning, the locations and the lighting were beautiful, and the music was reminiscent of thrillers from the 50s and 60s.

I was entirely unsurprised to discover after I had finished the film that it is based on a  book by Patricia Highsmith. It is undershot with just the right amount of tension, and you are never quite sure who if anyone will come out on top.

I highly recommend this film, and will also add the book to my reading list.

 

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For my money, Keanu Reeves is one of those actors who it is impossible to dislike. People may say he can’t act (I disagree with this) but I never hear anyone say that they don’t like him. Personally I’m interested in seeing pretty much any of his films – he’s always entertaining, picks interesting roles – and okay; on a shallow basis he’s lovely to look at.

So it’s almost disconcerting to see him playing a cold hearted serial killer here. He’s charismatic and charming, but evil to the core. James Spader is Joel Campbell, the FBI agent, who haunted by his inability to catch the man who has been killing young women in LA, moves to Chicago, where frankly he becomes a mess. Semi conscious half the time, on all kinds of medication and suffering from guilt induced migraines, his purpose is restored when Reeves’s David Griffin follows him to Chicago and continues his killing spree. The two have a symbiotic relationship – Griffin needs Campbell to notice him, and Campbell lives to catch Griffin.

The director of the film is apparently a music video director and it shows. The stylised flashbacks, the slow mo effects – they’re all here. The script too does not really contain anything groundbreaking or shocking, but nonetheless the action moves on at a decent pace, and kept me interested.

If you like thrillers, give this one a try – as long as you go in expecting an hour and a half of decent entertainment and nothing too mind-glowingly brilliant, I think you might enjoy it.

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Year of release: 200

Director: Joe Charbanic

Writers: Darcy Meyers, David Elliot, Clay Ayers

Main cast: James Spader, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei, Chris Ellis

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Genre: Thriller

Highlights: The delectable Keanu Reeves, always

Lowlights: Slightly over stylised

Overall: A pretty decent thriller and a good way to pass 90 minutes of your time

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The Blurb

You wake. Confused. Disorientated.
A noose is round your neck.
You are bound, standing on a chair.
All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope.
You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable. Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour.
He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now. But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

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My Thoughts

I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Luke Thompson who did a great job. The narrative hits the ground running – rather than any introductory back story, it starts slap bang in the middle of an attempted murder. When photographer John Wallace is attacked in his apartment, he feels sure that he is about to die, but manages to escape by the skin of his teeth. However, his attacker is relentless and seemingly able to track John, no matter where he hides. John has to find out who is trying to kill him, and more importantly why – but his journey will take him across an ocean and down some very dark paths.

I really liked the first part of the book – the action was fast moving and the characters were well fleshed out. However, when the story moved to New York, it faltered somewhat for me, as it began to include elements of cyber terrorism (don’t worry – no spoilers here) and it became unbelievable as Wallace seemed to be able to somehow defy numerous attempts on his life, while around him the body count continued to rise.

Hamdy definitely knows how to write an action sequence, and Luke Thompson’s narration matched the pace of the storyline. However, the second half of the story was something of a slog for me. This book is the first in a series, and although it’s easy to see where the set up for the next book comes in, there was enough closure here for anyone who didn’t want to read any more. I fall into that category – this wasn’t awful, but didn’t interest me enough to want to read any more about the Pendulum case.

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Thriller, action, mystery

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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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Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck) is in bed with illness when she overhears a telephone conversation between two men planning a murder. Gradually she comes to believe that she is the person they are going to kill and that her husband Henry (Burt Lancaster) is involved.

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Year of release: 1948

Director: Anatole Litvak

Writer: Lucille Fletcher (original radio play and screenplay)

Main cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea, Leif Erickson, Jimmy Hunt

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Genre: Mystery, thriller, film noir

Highlights: Barbara Stanwyck is fabulous in the main part. I liked the claustrophobic atmosphere of her confinement

Lowlights: The flashback story surrounding Henry is a bit convoluted. I preferred the relationship aspect to the criminal aspect

Overall: An enjoyable film noir, which was a bit convoluted in places, but Stanwyck’s performance is fantastic as always

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This 1998 film was a remake of a 1949 film of the same name, although only the name and the overall premise remain the same. I have seen both before (the last time I watched the 1998 film was – and yes, I feel old – over 25 years ago) and I honestly think that the later film is the far superior one.

Dennis Quaid is Dexter Cornell, an English Professor. The film begins with him staggering into a police station to report his own murder (shot in black and white, this is an homage to the 1949 film which opened much the same way). He then sits down to reveal his account of events and the film flicks back a couple of days earlier. During the intervening hours, Cornell is poisoned, faces his own mortality and has to find out who has killed him and why.

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Year of release: 1988

Directors: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton

Writers: Charles Edward Pogue, Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene

Main cast: Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Stern, Jane Kaczmarek, Christopher Neame, Robin Johnson

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Genre: Drama, thriller

Highlights: Dennis Quaid;  the scene after Cornell is diagnosed – he runs outside and there is a fantastic scene set to The Waterboys’ ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’. I remember this scene from when I first saw this film over a quarter of a century ago

Lowlights: Some hammy acting from Robin Johnson, Christopher Neame

Overall: Enjoyable thriller

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In this first book in the series set in Southampton, and featuring DI Helen Grace, a sadistic killer is on the loose – one who gets her victims to do the dirty work for her. Two people are kidnapped, and trapped in a remote location with no chance of escape. There is a gun – and a deadly choice. One of them will have to either kill the other or kill themselves, and whoever survives is released. Grace and her team are on a race against time to find the connection between the victims and the person behind them all.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it did keep me fairly hooked throughout. I thought the narrator Elizabeth Gower did an excellent job – one of the best narrators out of all the audiobooks I have listened to so far. Under close examination, the story itself is quite preposterous – the level of planning that would have had to be done to effect some of the kidnappings would be virtually impossible, and I am honestly not sure how long someone could get away with it the amount of times that the perpetrator here did. Nonetheless as a piece of sheer entertainment, it certainly did it’s job.

I am unsure what I think about Helen Grace – she is not an easy character to warm to, but I think that that is probably deliberate. Her team respect her, but don’t necessarily like her, and the things that make her hard for her colleagues to like are the same things that make it hard for the reader/listener to like. She is interesting though, which is my main requirement for a lead character. Out of the rest of her team, only two are really fleshed out but maybe we will get to know others better later in the series.

I would certainly listen to more books in this series; having said that, this book took the reader/listener to some dark places and I do feel that I need to cleanse my palate with something a bit lighter first.

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

Main cast: John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

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Genre: Horror, thriller, mystery

Highlights: The acting for all three of the main cast (and for the most part, this is a three-hander) is superb throughout. The first 90 minutes of the film is full of tension, atmosphere and an underlying sinister tone and I loved it

Lowlights: The last ten minutes. WTF?

Overall: Brilliant – if it had finished ten minutes earlier!

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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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