Category: Thriller Review (page 1 of 2)

John Sandford’s Golden Prey

Let’s take a look at Golden Prey, one of the latest in the Prey Series by John Sandford (link to author post).

Golden Prey by John Sandford

I had read that Golden Prey might be a good starting place if you hadn’t seen this series before and were reluctant to start at the first.  I agree with that assessment because this novel breaks many of the ties of the past books. Lucas Davenport has taken a new job with the U. S. Marshals and he’s out of his depth. He knows his home state of Minnesota and has numerous connections there. Now his beat is the entire country. He’s gone from a small pond to a huge one. Will he be able to keep up with the big fish or will he get swallowed up?

Genre:  Thriller

Once again, this novel follows the thriller road map. We learn what the bad guys are up to early on and the question becomes will Lucas be able to catch them. Also, the ending isn’t tied up completely in a nice neat bow, which makes reading more suspenseful.  You never know who is going to get away with what. Sometimes the bad guys are victims.

Setting:

The U.S. Marshals have wide ranging jurisdiction, so Lucas is free to follow the criminals wherever they go. He’s no longer stuck in Minnesota. Sandford takes full advantage of this, sending him to Tennessee and Texas for much of the book.

Theme:

If readers missed it, Sandford isn’t shy about letting us know that an overarching theme is how dependent we are on cell phones and how they make us vulnerable to being spied on.

“They’re  so great, these little machines are, that we all agree to be spied on for the privilege of carrying them.”

I like how he shows that the criminals are fully as able to track cell phones as law enforcement is.

Conclusion:

Although it must be difficult to maintain momentum without becoming stale, Sandford throws his main character into new situations to keep the stories fresh. As with others in the series, Golden Prey was impossible to put down until the very end.

 

#BookBeginnings The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz

We have the newest Jane Hawk thriller, The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-crooked-staircase

The Crooked Staircase* by Dean Koontz


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In the third novel of the series, Jane Hawk is still hunting the secret organization responsible for her husband’s death as well as the deaths countless other innocent victims. Previously an FBI agent, her pursuit of the villains has turned her former employers against her, so now she is running from both former friends and enemies. Will she be able to stop the man behind it all before her pursuers catch her?

First Sentence of The Crooked Staircase:

At seven o’clock on that night in March, during a thunderless but heavy rain pounding as loud as an orchestra of kettledrums, Sara Holdsteck finally left the offices of Paradise Real Estate, carrying her briefcase in her left hand, open purse slung over her left shoulder, right hand free for a cross-body draw of the gun in the purse.

Discussion:

What a lot of information in one sentence! We have the who, when, and where as well as a set up that leaves the reader wondering what is going to happen next.

Conventional wisdom says not to start a novel with a reference to the weather, but since this sentence includes so much else in addition to the rain, I think it works.

What do you think? Have you read any of Koontz’s Jane Hawk thrillers?

Hope you are having a wonderful Friday!

#amreading Thriller Fade to Black by David Rosenfelt

Let’s take a look at the new thriller Fade to Black by David Rosenfelt.

Note:  One potential spoiler (sentence labelled as such).

Fade to Black* by David Rosenfelt


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel is a sequel to the 2016 novel, Blackout.

The blurb:  After getting shot in the line of duty, New Jersey state police officer Doug Brock has been busy rebuilding his life. His fiancé suggests he attend an amnesia support group where he meets Sean Conner. Conner approaches Doug with a scrapbook that he says he found in his attic, which consists of news clippings about a woman who had been killed three years before. Conner, who also has amnesia, has no idea who the girl is or why he might have made the scrapbook. Doug agrees to help and convinces his captain to open the cold case. When he discovers that he has a personal connection to the investigation, suddenly he’s questioning everything he thought he knew about Sean and wondering if he put an innocent man in prison.

Highlights:

Author David Rosenfelt started his career in the movie industry and eventually moved into writing for TV and movies. The best parts of this novel reflect his screenwriting expertise. For example, the scenes are short and tightly written. There is a minimum of setting or even action. Much of the novel consists of fast-paced dialogue.

The dialogue is excellent. It is complex and nuanced, with plenty of underlying conflict and subtext. When the protagonist Doug Brock talks to his partner or girlfriend, he uses shorthand and banter, whereas when he’s interviewing someone, he’s much more formal. The author uses the barest of dialogue tags, but it is always easy to know who is speaking.

Here is Doug bantering with his girlfriend:

“Can I tell you something privately? Off the record?”
“Doug, we’re engaged…in a manner of speaking. We’re going to be married… at some point.”
“You’re really going out on a limb there,” I say.
She nods. “I’m a risk taker…”

Notice all the contractions?

Now Doug is talking with an informant:

“We’ve been through this twice, Mitchell.”
“I don’t care. I’ll deny everything, and I’ll never testify. You need to make the promise again.”
“I won’t reveal your name. Now who are the people that could have killed Rita Carlisle?”

The scenes with Doug narrating are written in the first person and present tense, whereas those with bad guys or victims narrating are from the third person and past tense. It might take a reader a few minutes to get used to the switches, but once the pattern is established it helps the reader orient quickly to each new scene.

Rosenfelt also knows how to plot. He draws the reader off in one direction and then makes an 180 degree turn without missing a beat.

Thriller or Not?

Which leads to the question, is this really a thriller?

Traditionally, in a thriller the reader knows who the bad guy is and what he or she is doing. The tension comes from waiting to see if the protagonist can stop the bad guy.

(Possible spoiler alert) Although this novel does show us bad guys towards the beginning, we’re not really sure what they are up to and soon we find out that the bad guys might not know what is going on either.

Rather than a traditional hardcore thriller, the novel wanders between thriller and mystery. That doesn’t detract from the fact that it is paced well and does have an interesting plot.

Bottom Line:

The bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was a fast and easy read, but still had some substance to it. I would be willing to read other novels by this author.

#BookBeginnings Fade to Black by David Rosenfelt

This week I found the thriller Fade to Black by David Rosenfelt at our local library. Let’s take a look at it for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

Fade to Black* by David Rosenfelt


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:

After getting shot in the line of duty, New Jersey state police officer Doug Brock has been busy rebuilding his life. His fiancé suggests he attend an amnesia support group where he meets Sean Conner.  Sean approaches him after a meeting with a scrapbook of a murder victim that he found in his attic. Conner, who also has amnesia, has no idea who the girl is or why he might have made the scrapbook. Doug agrees to help and convinces his captain to open the cold case. When he discovers that he had a personal connection, suddenly he’s questioning everything he thought he knew about Sean and about his own past.

First Sentence:

His name was William Simmons, but no one he knew really cared about that. Social workers asked him for his name when they gave him a meal, or if he checked in for a cot on a particularly cold night, but they wrote it down without paying much attention.

Discussion:

It’s not really clear who this character is and how he fits into the story. We meet the protagonist, Doug Brock, in the second chapter.

What do you think? Have you ever read any of David Rosenfelt’s novels?

Thriller Set In Arizona: Blood’s Echo by Isabella Maldonado

After looking at three mystery series set in Arizona last week, let’s take a look at a thriller/police procedural set in Phoenix, Blood’s Echo by Isabella Maldonado.

Blood’s Echo* by Isabella Maldonado

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  The leading force behind the Phoenix Police Drug Enforcement Bureau’s campaign against a powerful drug cartel, Detective Veranda Cruz is on the brink of finally bringing in a powerful drug lord. When the operation goes wrong, however, Cruz finds herself battling her own bosses as well as the cartel. Will her secrets prevent her from getting the upper hand?

This is Isabella Maldonado’s debut novel in a planned series.  Although it has some of the rough edges one might expect in a debut novel, it also has some bright spots.

Bright Spots:

Maldonado is a retired police captain, and her experiences give the police procedure portions real depth and authenticity. Aspiring mystery authors should pick up a copy just to see how she uses police jargon and vocabulary. I found myself underlining terms, especially in the first scene or two. How the various organizations within the police departments fit together is also enlightening.

In addition to police procedural, this novel is a clear thriller. The bad guys are revealed right up front and the question isn’t who did it, but will they win. Maldonado’s plotting is tight, which isn’t always easy to do. She also spends time with her villains, showing scenes from their point of view. This makes the stakes even higher, because we can see them as fleshed-out characters with goals and motivations.

Even though it is part of a planned series (with threads set up for the next book), the ending was satisfying and clean.

Needs More Polish:

The place where the novel falls down is a common one. Even experienced authors tend to write clichés, or overused ideas and phrases in their first drafts. The trick is to find the tired old phrases and rework them to make the ideas and words fresh for the reader. For example, “stomach churning,” “eyes cutting,” and “sweat running in rivulets” are commonly-used phrases that could have been upgraded.

Conclusion

Overall, Blood’s Echo is a tightly-drawn thriller with a strong female protagonist and well-crafted setting. It was a fast and enjoyable read. I will definitely check out the next one as well.

 

The second novel in the Veranda Cruz series:

Phoenix Burning* by Isabella Maldonado

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

#BestsellerCode100: Number 67. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, 67. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Amy Redwing has devoted her life to rescuing golden retrievers. When she puts herself in danger to save Nickie, she develops a special bond with the dog. But now someone is after Amy. Who is going to rescue whom?

Have you read The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 66. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002) – Discussion begins February 19, 2018
Mix of genres

#BestsellerCode100: Number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Bourne Betrayal* by Eric Van Lustbader

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Jason Bourne is a spy who has lost his memory. Now he fights to stay alive while he figures out his real identity and pieces together his past.

Robert Ludlum wrote the first three novels in the Jason Bourne series:

  1. The Bourne Identity (1980)
  2. The Bourne Supremacy (1986)
  3. The Bourne Ultimatum (1990)

After Ludlum passed away, Eric Van Lustbader continued the series, starting with The Bourne Legacy (2004). The Bourne Betrayal is the second novel written by Van Lustbader.  The novels have also been made into a popular movie series starring Matt Damon.

Summary:  In this novel Jason Bourne goes to rescue his friend, a CIA deputy director, who has been kidnapped. The chase takes him to Africa where he discovers he might be a pawn in a plot to destroy America.

Have you read The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 70. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (2007) – Discussion begins December 26, 2017. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

The Last Train by Michael Pronko

I loved Barry Eisler’s thriller set in Tokyo, so when the offer to review The Last Train:  A Tokyo Mystery  by Michael Pronko came into my mail, I was intrigued.

 

Blurb:

An American falls in front of an express train and main character Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is called in — even though he’s supposed to investigate only white collar crime — because his boss wants someone who is fluent in English on the case. Questions begin to pile up. Was it a suicide or murder? What was the role of the mysterious woman seen on the security footage? It will take all of Detective Shimizu’s stamina to find out.

Review:

Although the cover says it is a mystery, this book is technically a thriller because the killer is revealed early in the story. Unlike the typical thriller, however, the pace is relatively leisurely as Detective Shimizu journeys around Tokyo gathering clues.

This is not a bad thing. You want Detective Shimisu to wander around Tokyo, because Pronko has a talent for describing all things Japanese in a unique way.

Roppingi pulsed and glowed. Lighted signs listing the clubs inside zipped up the sides of buildings from sidewalk to rooftop. The names shouted over each other — Black Moon, Abrazos, Kingdom Come, Patpong Alibi, ManZokku, Balibago Den… Light cascaded out of these mini-marquees that climbed the buildings like electric ivy.

I’ve seen the neon signs in Las Vegas, and “electric ivy” seems like an apt description.

These sort of clever turns of phrase are sprinkled like gems throughout the book. Take this quote about Hiroshi’s AWOL girlfriend:

Hiroshi could understand now how her loneliness piled up with boredom at teaching and the pressure of adapting to a new culture…– so much so that the pressure pushed her into action and she left. When she did, she handed the loneliness to him.

She handed his loneliness back to him? Incredible imagery.

That is not to say the novel is perfect. It took me some time to get used to the unusual rhythm of Pronko’s voice. It seemed to come in fits and starts, and at times I wanted to pull out my editor’s pen and smooth it out. My guess is it may be because he lives in Japan and he’s subconsciously adopted some of the rhythm of the Japanese language. Anyway it is not a severe issue and many readers probably won’t even notice it.

If you like thrillers/mysteries and have traveled to Tokyo, want to travel to Tokyo, or are interested in learning more about Tokyo, then this book is for you. The Last Train may be Michael Pronko’s first foray into fiction, but it deserves a second look.

 

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  This novel is categorized as a Psychological Thriller.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

The Silent Wife: A Novel* by A. S. A. Harrison


*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

In The Silent Wife, we are introduced to Todd and Jodi, a couple who appear to have it all. Todd is a building contractor in Chicago and Jodi is a psychotherapist that sees a few carefully selected clients (no difficult cases or life-threatening issues) from her home. They’ve been a couple for over twenty years and live in a beautiful twenty-seventh floor condo overlooking the lake. Jodi takes great care and pride in keeping herself in good physical shape, careful grooming, and providing the perfect home atmosphere for Todd – fresh flowers, hors d’oeuvre and wine as soon as he gets home. And yet, all is not perfect. Todd often doesn’t come home and Jodi knows the reasons why, but carefully ignores the affairs. Todd’s business dealings are always on a knife’s edge, threatening to implode, but he never tells Jodi about any financial problems. Silence is the name of the game.

It’s The Title, Again

In my review of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, I wrote about the importance that The Bestseller Code algorithm attributes to the title of a book. In Chapter 5 of The Bestseller Code the authors explain that book titles beginning with “The” are much more common on the bestseller list than those that begin with “A.”

The specificity of the word “The” asks us to trust that this goldfinch has more relevance – enough to hold an entire story symbolically, emotionally, or structurally – for more than three hundred pages.

“The” remains the most successful way to begin a title because it is a word that implies agency focused somewhere, be that focus on a place, on an event, on an object, or somewhere else. The title gives us a clue about how to relate to the story that follows.

In addition to the title beginning with “The,” this title also includes a sociocultural role:

When it comes to sociocultural roles, the word “wife” is popular in bestselling titles, but it is always qualified. The title is not just The Wife. She has more to contend with than this. Titles about a woman in marriage that hit the lists are titles such as The Silent Wife, The Paris Wife, A Reliable Wife. The names of these novels are meant to make us wonder what happens to this woman when put in relationship to Paris, to silence, to reliability as well as, given what “wife” implies, to her husband. How do her options and her likely conflicts change?

…any quick look at the bestseller list will tell you that troubled marriage appears to be a big hook for the reading market at the moment. The books making the lists are evidence of our contemporary fascination with the roles of women in their place in the family, in marriage, and in the public sphere.

The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer & Matthew L. Jockers. Chapter 5. Pages 150 – 154

Silent AND Wife

So here we have The Silent Wife and both words – silent, wife – have major implications in the novel. Jodi is silent, prides herself on her silence, whether it be about events and issues from her childhood or dealing with Todd’s recurring infidelities. Silence means she can ignore the issue. If it’s not talked about, it doesn’t exist. Both Jodi and Todd view silence as power and it’s been a sustaining feature of their relationship.

He breaks the connection and it dawns on him that this is typical of his and Jodi’s life together: the stubborn pretense, the chasms of silence, the blind forging ahead. He must have known this, but the weirdness of it, the aberrance, has somehow never struck him. Other couples are loud, vocal, off and on again, working things out, but with Jodi and him it’s all dissimulation. Put up a front, go through the motions, don’t say a word. Act as if all is well and all will be well. Jodi’s great gift is her silence, and he has always loved this about her, that she knows how to mind her own business, keep her own counsel, but silence is also her weapon. The woman who refuses to object, who doesn’t yell and scream – there’s strength in that, and power.

Jodi considers herself to be Todd’s wife and passes herself off publicly as Mrs. Gilbert, but she never actually married Todd, even though he proposed to her several times. The lack of a marriage certificate is a major contributor to the complete breakdown of their relationship and, ultimately, murder, and we learn in the second paragraph of the book who will be murdered and who will be the murderer.

Psychological thriller

I don’t consider this novel to be a “thriller” as much as it is suspenseful. As stated above, we are told right off who will be killed and who will do the killing. The questions to be answered are why and how. The suspense comes in watching the disintegration of the “marriage” – Jodi’s carefully structured world and Todd’s lifetime of self-delusion shatter in pieces – and in seeing just how far a person can be backed into a corner before self-preservation takes over. While neither Jodi or Todd are particularly lovable, they are believable and it doesn’t take too much of a leap to understand how any one of us might act similarly, given similar circumstances.

Author A. S. A. Harrison was a psychotherapist, in addition to writer, so Jodi is a believable psychotherapist, at least to one who has never gone through any type of therapy. Sometimes the technical descriptions of psychoanalytical theories is a little heavy, but overall, they play well into the story line and provide insight into both Todd and Jodi’s characters. Both Todd and Jodi had deeply flawed childhoods that impacted who they became as adults and how they view marriage and life, although Jodi is able to gloss over and “forget” the worst of her experiences. Jodi naming her dog “Freud” is a not-so-subtle reminder, though, that no experiences are ever truly forgotten.  They dwell in our unconscious mind and govern our behavior throughout our lives. Harrison’s message in The Silent Wife seems to be that, instead of using silence as an avoidance technique, Jodi and Todd (and maybe each and every one of us?) would have benefited by bringing issues and experiences to the light of day, examining them, and coming to some sort of resolution. Considering the end resolution for Todd in this novel, who can argue with that message?

 

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after its start date.

The next book is number 81. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (2008) – Discussion begins August 7, 2017
Literary fiction told from a dog’s point of view

#BestsellerCode100: Number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

The Silent Wife: A Novel* by A. S. A. Harrison

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Sadly, this psychological thriller is both A. S. A. (Angela Susan Ann) Harrison’s first and last novel. She passed away shortly after it came out.

Summary: The Silent Wife is explores the dynamics of a marriage on the rocks.

 

Have you read The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison? Feel free to add a link to the comments below.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after its start date.

The next book is number 81. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (2008) – Discussion begins August 7, 2017
Literary fiction told from a dog’s point of view

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