Category Archives: Thriller

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen

Pictures or it Didn't Happenby Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah has an enviable reputation as a thriller writer, but this particular book offers very little either psychological or thrilling.

I found the main character, Chloe Daniels frustratingly fickle and unbelievable. The plot had all the makings of an interesting thriller, but it never really got going. 

The whole concept lacked conviction. The chance meeting with her knight in shining armour, the reaction of her best friend and the warnings from another stranger all failed to convince me of the validity of the plot.

Not what I had expected at all. A very disappointing read whos only saving grace is that it is short. 

The Orphan Choir

The Orphan Choirby Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is best known for her psychological thrillers but in this novel, commissioned by the Hammer imprint, she put all her experience to good use as she turns her attention to the world of the supernatural.

The Orpha  Choir is something of a slow burner. Louise Beeston is being tormented by her party-loving neighbour Juston Clay (or, as she likes to call him, Mr Farenheit). For months Louise, along with her husband Stewart, have had to put up with having Clay’s musical choices foisted on them on a regular basis. But it is Louise who suffers the most and is finally driven to breaking point. When she contacts the Environmental Health Department things seem to improve, but not for long.

Louise’s life takes some strange twists over the following months, but it is not just Clay’s musical choices that are behind her troubles. With her son recently accepted as a border at the prestigious Saviour College School, Louise is struggling to cope and lack of sleep is not helping. There are a few interesting twists and it is clear that all is not as it seems. 

Louise and Stewart live ordinary lives in Cambridge, struggling with the usual worries – work, family, neighbours and their own relationship. It is the very ordinariness of their lives that makes the way the plot unfolds so intriguing. 

This is not a classic horror or ghost story. It is an intriguing story of one woman’s battle against forces beyond her control. I enjoyed the plot and the characters and who knows, one day we may see the movie – it is a Hammer Horror book after all.

A Tap On The Window

A Tap On The Windowby Linwood Barclay

There is no denying that Linwood Barclay can write a good thriller. This is the fifth of his books I have read and each one has proven to be a gripping and exciting read. 

There is a sort of formula to his work which I find offers a reliability I find comforting. 

In this story, private investigator Cal Weaver finds himself drawn into a tangled web of deceit, murder and secrets, hidden beneath the thin veneer of the town’s respectability. It all begins when he receives a tap on the window of his car one wet evening. Against his better judgement Cal offers the bedraggled teenage girl a lift home and what follows leaves both of them running for their lives. 

When the girl goes missing Cal finds himself a suspect and going up against a police force that has become renowned for its disregard of procedure and rights. But this is not Cal’s only problem. The recent death of his teenage son has left his marriage on the rocks and his own state of mind in question.

From the very beginning, A Tap On The Window kept me hooked. The story is littered with clues. some of which were more obvious to me than they were poor old Cal who really should have seen what was happening much sooner.

As far as I am concerned, this book just confirms Linwood Barclay’s reputation. 

 

 

 

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.