Category Archives: Thriller

The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Meby Ian Fleming

I am not sure why but when I read the James Bond series back in my youth, this particular episode eluded me. Anyway, a bit late but I have now rectified that and can happily say that I have now read them all – the Fleming novels at least. So far I have only managed one on the newer novels (Colonel Sun) and was not impressed.

Back to The Spy Who Loved Me. As with all but a couple of the Bond stories, the book and its film adaptation are about as alike as Blue Cheese and black puddings. I don’t even want to think about the film version of this which is, if memory serves me right, appaling. 

James Bond is probably one of literature’s most well known and enduring characters. But the books, particularly Fleming’s original series, portray a man far removed from the screen Bond we see today. 

In a deviation from his usual style, this particular adventure is told in the first person, but not by Bond. Instead, this is very much Vivienne Michel’s story, with Bond not making an appearance until page 108 (of 172). By then Vivienne has told us her life story and found herself, through no fault of her own, at the mercy of two thugs whos intentions are all not too clear. 

Bond, as expected, saves the day, but even then he is on the periphery. There are no spies and actually very little in the way of adventure. This is primarily the story of a young Canadian woman and her failed romantic and career choices. It is very much the odd book out as far as I can see, and although I enjoyed the story itself, I can’t consider it to be a serious part of the Bond canon.

 

House of Shadows

House of Shadowsby Pamela Hartshorne

House of Shadows is a story of possession, betrayal, discovery, love and redemption. It is a ghost story without ghosts – or at least not in the way you might expect. This is possession, but not in the Exorcist, spinning head and strange voices way. The supernatural element of this compelling tale is much more subtle than that.

It is really the story of two women, separated by four centuries but united by their love and need to reconnect with their sons. Both women find themselves being manipulated by those they trust with dramatic and tragic results. 

When Kate Vavasour wakes in the hospital she remembers nothing of her life, her family or her friends. Everyone around her is a stranger. She doesn’t even know why she is in the hospital and no one seems in a hurry to explain it to her. When her memories do begin to come back it is very quickly obvious that that can’t be hers. In fact, they are the memories if Isabel Vavasour who had lived and died four hundred years before.

Kate now has to not only reconnect with her own memories, rebuilding her relationships with those closest to her but also try to make some sense of her visions of Isabel’s ultimately tragic life. 

As I said, this is not a ghost story as such Isabel’s presence in Kate’s life is a plea for help and as Kate begins to understand this, her fear is replaced by a dogged determination to find out all she can to answer Isabel’s questions about her son. What she doesn’t know is it was that very singlemindedness that landed her in hospital in the first place.

House of Shadows is a tense and thrilling novel that kept me gripped right from the start. It was easy to piece together what was really going on with all the characters. At the heart of the book are two young mothers, both married into the Vavasour family, and both driven by a deep and enduring love for their husbands and sons. But ultimately, both are blinded by unquestioning loyalty to friends who have their own agendas.

An excellent story very well told. 

Origin (Robert Langdon #5)

Origin

by Dan Brown

Once again, Harvard professor Robert Langdon finds himself at the epicentre of an event that could change the course of human history forever, or at the very least, kill him. You would think that by now after all that has happened in the previous four books, he would have learned to stay at home and keep the phone off the hook.

Mind you, while the action may be short-lived, for the duration of each of his extracurricular adventures he gets to spend the time with a new and always very attractive young lady. 

There is predictability to the Langdon series that tells me it is high time he retired from the lecturing and let Dan Brown move onto someone new. 

That aside though, Origin is the best of Professor Langdon’s adventures since his run-in with the Catholic Church in the Davinci Code. Once again it is the church that plays a big part in this very action-packed tale, but it is not the main focus of the story. Art, architecture and computer science takes centre stage this time around. 

For me, Origin is something of a return to the form that made Dan Brown and his favourite symbologist household names. There is plenty of action and more twists and turns than a motor racing circuit. The bulk of the action is split between Barcelona and Bilbao with a cast of characters that include the Spanish royal family, a former naval officer with his own personal agenda, a billionaire computer geek with a hatred of all religions and the mysterious Winston, without whose help Professor Langdon and his beautiful assistant would not have made it past page 125.

An immense amount of research has gone into writing this book and Dan Brown has made sure that none of it has been wasted. There are times when the text begins to read more like a history lecture, and I sometimes felt a little like the dunce at the back of the class who had to have everything spelt out for him. But having said that, I do felt I learnt a lot from the book, as well as being thoroughly entertained.

An really gripping and well plotted take that kept me hooked – and guessing – right too the very end. 

The Silence

The Silenceby Tim Lebbon

Every now and again I pick up a book by someone I have never read before and Know almost straight away that I have found something special. What attracted me to the book I do not know – it was probably recommended – but I am so glad it did.

From the very first page, I was totally gripped by the intriguing plot, engaging characters and the wonderful storytelling. Told in both first and third person, the readers’ viewpoint switches rapidly as the apocalyptic events unfold. 

Telling the story from her own point of view is young Alley, a deaf teenager. Used to a world of silence, Alley is almost uniquely skilled to help her family survive when their world is threatened by the emergence of what become commonly known as vesps, creatures that have evolved in the darkness of a vast cave system and hunt by sound. 

I have read plenty of end-of-the-world type books over the years, with humanity coming close to extinction more times than I can remember. So the premise of the book is nothing new as such, but the way it is told and the form of the threat very different from anything I have come across before. 

At the heart of the story are Alley and her family. Alley’s deafness gives them a distinct advantage over their peers. They have developed their own family sign language that allows them to communicate in a world when the smallest of sounds can bring death in the form of these ravenous batlike creatures. Death is never far away and sacrifice often the only means of escape. 

As the family move from their home and make their way north, they have to deal with not only their own fears but also the outward effects of fear on the people they meet. As mankind fights for its survival Alley sees first hand just how far others are willing to go to save the ones they love. And in the figure of the Reverand, one of the creepiest characters I have read for a while.

From beginning to end, The Silence is a great mix of horror and thriller. The characters are as well formed as any and the story itself compelling. A great book.

The Fate of Mercy Alban

by Wendy Webb

The Fate of Mercy AlbanEvery now and again there comes a book that takes me very much by surprise and this is definitely one of them. The Fate of Mercy Alban is written in the fine old tradition of Gothic Horror. There are dark secrets, unexplained happenings and more than a hint of the supernatural. Combine these elements with a smooth and easy writing style and clever plot twists and you have the makings of an exceptional book.

The story itself centres around the Alban family, [articuarly Grace Alban who has returned to the family home after twenty years and is almost immediately drawn into a mystery spanning back to the 1950s. Following the sudden death of her mother, Grace returns to the family home on the banks of Lake Superior to arrange the funeral and settle the estate. But what she discovers very quickly leads Grace to face not only events from her own past that have kept her away but also the darker secrets that surround events of the summer of 1956.

Alban Househas stod on the banks of Lake Superior for over 100 years and in that time there have been enough tragedy to have led to talk of the Alban Curse. Whilst Grace may not believe in such things, events at the house soon begin to make her wonder.

Uncovering a bundle of old letters sets Grace on a course that brings her face-to-face with a secret that has been kept by her family for over 50 years. but she is not the only one trying to uncover the truth about that fateful summer night.

There is an underlying sense of terror that runs throughout this book that makes it one of the most compelling books I have read for some time. The interplay between the characters and the truth is painstakingly revealed make it almost impossible to put the book down. Whilst it does not have the same pace as the likes of King or Herbert, there is no let up in the drive to find the answers. A really good read from an author I am very pleased to have been introduced to. 

The Lie

The Lieby C L Taylor

Captivating and engaging with a plot that moves at just the right pace: slow enough to give the reader a chance to reflect and the events, but quick enough to keep the reader’s interest. Like a number of books I have read recently, The Lie relies on a dual narrative, weaving the story’s twin timelines with precision. Nothing from the present gives you too much insight into the events of five years previous. If anything, they are a teaser.

Jane Hughes has, on the face of it, a very settled and happy life. She loves her job and her new boyfriend, but there is a secret behind the mask she wears. Then an anonymous letter threatens to shatter her happiness and the life she has built for herself in rural Wales. Five years earlier she had set out on what was to be the trip of a lifetime with three of her closest friends, but it very soon turned into a nightmare that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Jane’ past and present are all based on lies some bigger and more dangerous than others. There are certainly times when hiding the truth is a necessary evil, but some lies can only lead to disaster. For the four friends, the web of lies and deceptions that have held them together begin to bubble to the surface and threaten their very lives.

As the story weaves seamlessly between the parallel timelines, Jane proves to herself and those around her just how strong and resilient she can be. The character is well defined and provides a very believable vehicle for the plot.

I really enjoyed the story, the style and the characters. A great modern thriller. 

 

Day Four (The Three #2)

Day Fourby Sarah Lotz

Day Four is the second part of Sarah Lotz’s “The Three” trilogy. 

The story is set aboard a ship cruising the Gulf of Mexico. For three days, everything goes according to plan. Passengers enjoy the facilities and the sun; the crew deal with their usual mix of awkward, obnoxious and drunken holidaymakers. Just another cruise. Until day four.

That is when things start to go very wrong, and when events onboard the Beautiful Dreamer take a mysterious and sinister turn.

Although part of a series, you do not need to have read the first book (The Three) to enjoy it. There are obvious links and references to the first story, but on the whole, it stands alone very well.  

Each “chapter” tells the ongoing story from the perspective of the book’s main characters. Each has their own reasons for being aboard the ship. Each has a secret they want to keep hidden, but for all of them, events aboard the stricken ship force them to face fears and their own past. 

With no power, food and supplies dwindling and a virus beginning to take hold, tempers aboard the Beautiful Dreamer become increasingly short. And when people begin to see “ghosts”, things just from bad to worse. 

The only person not adversely affected by the changing circumstances is Celine del Ray, celebrity psychic, who seems to thrive on the mysterious events. Is she in some way responsible for what is happening? How does she know so much about her fellow travellers and their pasts?

Day Four is a gripping and intense thriller which questions our view of reality and ourselves. It is every bit as good as The Three with a great mix of wonderful characters, intense plot and skilled storytelling. 

I can’t wait t read the next. 

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)

The City of MirrorsThe epic Passage trilogy comes to a dramatic and conclusive end in this thrilling final instalment. At over 800 pages, it is quite a read, but well worth the investment in time and the wait. Unlike the first two books, City of Mirrors has more than one narrator and doesn’t follow a single timeline.

The action begins 20 years after the climactic events of book two. With the virals gone it is a whole new chapter for mankind. Just when what’s left of North America’s population begin to believe it is safe to turn off the lights and venture beyond the safety of their Texan compound, the old enemy creeps back. For a new generation of American’s, the virals have become something of a myth, the bogeymen from their parents past. But all legends and myths have are rooted in a truth, and they are just about to find out just how real these particular myths are.

One loose end from the previous two books that I felt needed resolving, was what was happening in the rest of the world whilst North America was being overrun by flesh eating virals. After all, the continent was quarantined at the virals themselves contained within its borders. Thankfully, this and other loose ends are neatly tied up.

After two books bursting with action, City of Mirrors feels a little slow at the start as we are introduced to a new narrator whose tale brings some clarity to the origins of the virals and their actions. It is the story of a man whose obsessions and decisions will bring humanity to the very edge of extinction. But his actions are not born out of hatred but love. Despite the body count and impressive stash of weapons, City of Mirrors is centred around a love story.

Unrequited love, maternal love and all-consuming passions direct the actions of each of the story’s main characters. Justin Cronin has proven himself to be a talented storyteller with a real vision. Bringing this incredible trilogy to a climactic and touching conclusion, City of Mirrors is a captivating and compelling read.

Impact (Outer Earth #3)

Impactby Rob Boffard

The final part of Rob Boffard’s “Outer Earth” trilogy packs just as munch punch as the previous two books. Impact picks up the story immediately after Zero-G’s cliff-hanger ending, with our hero, Riley Hale and he companions drifting away from the Outer Earth space station.

The bulk of the action in the final instalment takes place on a cold and almost barren Earth. Raveg by a nuclear holocaust, the whole planet is swathed in an eternal winter; except for one area centred on Anchorage, where things have started to change.

The pace of Impact is relentless, and the body count just as high as in the previous two books. But now Riley is no longer trying to save the station – that is beyond saving now – this time she is after revenge. There is definitely going to be reckoning, and she knows who is going to come out on top. She also needs to decide who she wants to be with.

Back on Outer Earth things are going from bad to worse. The damage inflicted by the fire fight at the end of the second book has forced the remaining residents into the lonely intact section of the station, but time is running out and there are not enough escape pods for everyone. Who lives and who dies is to be decided by lottery. 

The race to escape the station and Riley’s personal race for revenge and answers can only be won by the kind of daredevil escapades that have become the hallmark of this series. If you like your thrillers full of action then this is definitely a must. A great read that kept me hooked from the very beginning to the climactic end.

Zero-G (Outer Earth #2)

Zero-Gby Rob Boffard 

This is the second part of Rob Boffard’s debut Outer Earth trilogy. In the first book (Tracer) we were introduced to the Outer Earth space station and the storey’s central character, Riley Hale, the tough, independent and resourceful Tracer. 

Whilst I was convinced by the first book of Rob Boffard’s skills as a storyteller, I was a little concerned that the pace and intensity might be slowed down a little. I needn’t have worried. Picking up the story six months after the events if Tracer, Zero-G starts on a high with a hostage situation that tests Riley to the limit, and it doesn’t let up until the cliff-hanger ending 450 pages later.

Riley is now a “stomper” – part of the stations security force and her team get embroiled in a conspiracy that ponce again threatens the future of then whole station, where personal animosities become a danger to everyone.

Riley once again finds herself having to make impossibly tough decisions, but her resourcefulness may be the only hope the residents of humanity’s last outpost have to survive.
Outer Earth is not just any orbiting space station. It is the home of the last of humanity after a cataclysmic nuclear war made Earth itself uninhabitable and wiped out all life on Earth. Or did it?

But it is not just the relentless pace that keeps the reader gripped. Rob Boffard’s characters are both larger than life but also comfortingly vulnerable. Each is faced with conflicting loyalties, their decisions impacting on the lives of those closest to them. As Riley Hale is the driving force behind the plot twists and turns, she is not the only one who’s actions ricochet through the station’s population. Greed for power, desperation over resources and blind revenge all play their part on bringing Outer Earth to the very edge of destruction.

I was as gripped by the story as I was by the first. The dual narrative works well and I love the mix of thriller and science fiction.