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Do you all have that list of authors in your head that you’d like to read, when given the moment?  Well, due to a couple strong recommendations (I wish I could elaborate on the source – if it was you please say so!), author Kate Atkinson was always on my radar as someone to pick up.  Serendipitously I stumbled across her novel, CASE HISTORIES, in the bargain bin at B&N (ok, maybe it wasn’t serendipity as much as it was escaping the cold and being a *great* shopper).

So yesterday, my last day of a very long though not-as-relaxing-as-one-may-think Christmas vacation, I sat down to read it and couldn’t put it down. Oh I tried – I had to unpack, clean up, wash dishes, dry my hair – but in between every small task I glanced longingly at book – and quit trying to be productive until I finished it.

Officially classified as a detective/crime novel, I found it more to be a sweeping drama than a mystery.   The flap copy says: “private detective Jackson Brodie—ex-cop, ex-husband and weekend dad—takes on three cases involving past crimes that occurred in and around London…” – but it doesn’t factor in the hints Atkinson drops throughout the novel, and the intertwining of the individual stories and the unanticipated interaction between characters.  I think only a very talented author can successfully write a novel weaving this many story lines together (not to mention the alternating point of views), and she does without missing a beat.

I’ve already ordered her next two novels featuring Jackson Brodie – for which my expectations are very, very high.  I get the feeling Atkinson won’t disappoint!

My second author discovery, who has also been on my TBR list, is another female author based in the mystery/thriller genre: Laura Lippman.

Obviously I love the alliteration of her name and when I came across the shiny jacket of her latest, I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE (my mom used to call me a crow due to my affinity for anything that shimmers in the light), I couldn’t resist.

I had expected I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE to be more action-packed and thrilling, but similar to CASE HISTORIES above, this book had a psychological depth that surprised me.

Told from the perspective of the Eliza Benedict, a wife and mother who overcame her terrifying kidnapping as a teenager.  She was the only victim of Walter to escape his entrapment alive.  Already dealing with a sullen teenager and a young child, a letter from her captor and his approaching execution puts her hidden past back to the forefront.

I’m happy I finally had the opportunity to experience both authors.  Kate Atkinson immediately left me wanting more and I’ll definitely make more room on my bookshelf for Lippman – I’ve been told that many of her books are more traditional thrillers with a repeating character that I’d love to try.

Any authors you recently “met” that you can’t wait to read again?  Or, any shiny covers attract you lately?

Well I guess it’s not technically a genre, and I’m on the tailend of this book buzz, but I’ve only recently read ROOM and STILL MISSING and am all kidnapped-out.

Getting kidnapped has always been an irrational fear of mine – I shudder at the sight of vans without windows (STILL MISSING really reminded me of this issue) and I used to practice lying very still in my childhood bed, hoping the burglar creeping through my window wouldn’t notice my form.  Obviously my fears haven’t happened yet (knocked on wood) though these two novels brought them back to the surface!

Both books were told from unique perspectives:  As I’m sure you’ve gleaned from the many reviews of ROOM, the entire book is told from the perspective of one very intelligent but very sheltered five-year old boy, who has spent his whole life trapped in a single room with his abducted mother.  It really is a story pulled from the headlines – and the fact that it’s fiction doesn’t make it less traumatizing. This was a book I hesitate to say I enjoyed reading because Emma Donoghue is such a talented writer that you actually were inside the head of Jack yet still aware of Ma’s world and knowledge and experience, and it was a tough place to be.  But this was an impactful read that I will definitely continue to recommend.  In fact, I read this on my Kindle and really missed the physical book when all I wanted to do was send it to a friend for a mini-bookclub discussion.

STILL MISSING was the much-buzzed about debut this spring that I found languishing on my boyfriend’s bookshelf where I had left it.  The unique point of view in this story was how it was told mainly through the victim’s (Annie) meeting with her therapist.  I really wanted to like this book, and didn’t hate it… but can’t say I would recommend it.  The language and violence and character’s turned me off, and I found the twist at the end appalling and rather unbelievable. I like flawed characters, but this was a little too much.  I don’t want to spoil it, but I did call my mom just to hear her exclaim “I can’t believe she did that! That’s terrible! This wasn’t a true story right?” which made it all right in the world.   Though I do commend this young author – she made the NYT bestseller list and I’m proud of her even if this effort wasn’t my favorite – I’ll pick up her next and hope the people are nicer!

 Now that I’ve shared my abduction genre I can fully head back to the deep South for my Southern Reading fun! All your suggestions were great and my pile is as long as the kudzu.

Have I mentioned that I enjoy reading about different lifestyles/religions?  Polygamy, harems, leprechauns, eskimos and the like fascinate me (no disrespect intended).  A little closer to home are the Amish.

I grew up in a small town in rural Michigan.  With few stoplights, very little ethnic diversity (no edible sushi or falafel), one high-school (except for the “academy” to which you were sent if kicked out of public school or pregnant), but there was uniqueness since we had an Amish population.  We would pass them driving in their buggys, or visit nearby Indiana for a pie or the spontaneous quilt purchase (thanks, Mom).

It’s always been a fascinating lifestyle to me (when I visited Lancaster, PA with some new friends from NYC, I was determined to interact with the Amish, hence photograph below), and I’ve been searching for some good fiction on the topic.  I tried Mennonite In A Little Black Dress but it wasn’t different enough (the family used a computer!?).  I read the Beverly Lewis series, but they were a little too preachy for me.  Thanks to a review in People magazine and a friend at Macmillan, I arrived at the Kate Burkholder series by Linda Castillo.

As the rain came down yesterday evening, my shopping plans were swept away in the tsunami-like conditions,  so I excitedly pulled the first book in the series, SWORN TO SILENCE, from my overflowing TBR shelf.  This novel introduces the reader to Painters Mill, Ohio; a small, idyllic town with an English and Plain community.  Kate Burkholder is no Kay Scarpetta (though she is  a welcome edition to my fictional female badasses), wielding several advanced degrees as she solves crimes, but the first female Police Chief in the town she grew up in, when she was born Amish.

Me determined to capture the Amish experience while visiting PA

This is an intense thriller in which Castillo successfully weaves several intricate plots without losing the greater thread.  Burkholder is a very likable character, facing her own personal demons from a time, lifestyle and family she left behind, while trying to solve graphic and disturbing murders.  The supporting characters are well developed without overshadowing the protagonist.  The snowy setting and graphic murders remind me of the Finland depicted in James Thompson’s SNOW ANGELS (which I reviewed here), while the tying in of Amish life fascinates me.

I agree with the starred reviews awarded by Kirkus and Booklist when this book was first published, and I’m excited to begin the newly released PRAY FOR SILENCE during the next storm.  This thriller really made me appreciate my pretty lamp and air conditioner (aka use of electricity) as I was absorbed in the world of Painters Mill, Ohio.  I’m really interested in researching a weekend on an Amish farm to experience the lifestyle firsthand, anyone want to join?

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