Nicely twisted: Review of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient (by Alex Michaelides) had been on my TBR pile for a while, and when I saw that it was in contention for Goodreads’ Choice Awards 2019 – Mystery and Thriller + Debut – I brought it up to the top and delved right in.

Does it meet the hype and expectations? Keep reading to find out.

Alex Michaelides The Silent Patient
Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

323 pages

Blurb:

Alicia Berenson was a famous painter, happily married to Gabriel Berenson, an equally famous fashion photographer. Until the day that she shot her husband five times in the face. Since that fateful day, six years ago, Alicia hasn’t spoken a word. The silence turns the crime into a sensational mystery, and Alicia becomes one of the most intriguing cases for criminal psychotherapists around the country. Theo Faber believes he can be the one that gets her to speak up, to reveal what happened that night, and to save her. But soon he finds that the case begins to reveal his own demons, long since buried. Theo may or may not save Alicia; but can he save himself?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its mystery; 6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The major plot twists. You’d expect twists from a mystery/thriller, but you do not see these coming in the least.

What I Liked:

The book begins similar to Tell Me A Secret by Samantha Hayes (review here). It also has a bit of the, “I know I’m a psychotherapist but…” justification that Hayes’ book had in abundance. I had really disliked Tell Me A Secret and that justification. But, The Silent Patient does not use those words as a justification. Neither does it go down the self-pity path you’d expect from the first few pages. It actually walks that fine line between justification and self-awareness really well, and that aspect contributes to the story rather than giving an excuse for it. As it turns out, done well, that kind of first-person and self-aware narrative can add great perspective to a story, as it does for The Silent Patient.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing that would actively dissuade you from reading the book.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t enjoy books based on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Read It For:

An interesting mystery with an unexpected plot twist. The Silent Patient is a good read that moves fast and has some really intriguing angles; it’s just not a read that I would classify as, “Oh my God, this is the best thing ever written!” If you enjoy mystery and thrillers, though, go for it. And I have to mention here that, at no point, does it seem like a debut novel. I would definitely read more works by Alex Michaelides.

Got something to add about The Silent Patient? Drop a comment below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my review! 🙂

– Rishika

Compelling: Review of Their Last Breath by Sibel Hodge

Sibel Hodge is another author I discovered through NetGalley (much like Mark Edwards, I had one of her books on my list but got a chance to read another one through NetGalley). When I read Into the Darkness, I absolutely got hooked onto her writing style, settings, and characters. And when I saw that an ARC of Their Last Breath was up for review, I (obviously) grabbed it. The fact that it featured Warren Carter from Into the Darkness was a happy bonus. Keep reading to know if Their Last Breath met expectations.

Sibel Hodge Their Last Breath
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery

Length:

380 pages

Blurb:

It took just a few short months for Warren Carter to realize that retirement didn’t suit him too well, especially with the memories of his last case and the ensuing bloodbath still fresh in his mind. Then, six women die in a fire that claims an abandoned building – six women who were chained to their beds with no means of escape. Carter is called back into the system to investigate members of the police force itself, and find the corrupt officer involved in the heinous crime that claimed six lives. As the case unfolds, Carter finds himself relying on an old, unexpected friend. But will he find the culprits in time? Or will he trust the wrong person and let more people die?

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Their Last Breath features Warren Carter and other characters who were part of Into The Darkness.  Warren Carter also makes an appearance in an earlier book. For the most part, though, this can be read as a standalone. References to Into The Darkness are minimal and easily understandable.

Highlighted Takeaway:

There are chapters of the story told from the victim’s perspective. This was surprising in the beginning because it seemed like it would give away a lot of the suspense. But Hodge manages to showcase the victim’s side of things without really disclosing anything about the mystery, while also evoking stronger association for the victim, consequently making you associate with the fight for justice even more.

What I Liked:

The book and story are very well-rounded, right from the characters to the unfolding of the mystery. In a world where cryptic endings are becoming increasingly common (and are often done well), reading a well-rounded book felt extremely satisfying.

What I Didn’t Like:

Can’t think of a single thing that adversely affected the reading experience.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery or thriller, but with a touch of real-world ugliness.

Who Should Avoid:

Sibel Hodge is a great writer who is unafraid to dabble in very real events. This may make Their Last Breath a bit too realistic at its essence for some to take. I would still recommend it to all mystery and thriller lovers though – its dark side really adds to the reading experience (which, I suppose, is the intention).

Read It For:

Warren Carter – a great character who knows that things are either good or bad, but that sometimes you have to be both.

Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for a free ARC of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can safely say that, after Their Last Breath, Sibel Hodge is one of my favorite mystery and thriller authors.

Their Last Breath was released on 24 September 2019 and is now available for sale.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading my book reviews!

– Rishika

Surprisingly disappointing: Review of The Revenant by Michael Punke

I haven’t seen the movie, The Revenant. I had wanted to read the book first. The blurb made it sound like an incredible story so I went into this with a lot of expectations. Surprisingly, though, it didn’t live up to those expectations.

I have to mention that I didn’t know that the characters and events in the book have been so heavily inspired by, and in cases even based upon, real ones. In that regard, the book does a great job of offering a relatively fictionalized tale of what is supposed to be a real story of survival.

But, as a piece of fiction, it does have its flaws. Read on to know more.

The Revenant Michael Punke
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Historical fiction, Adventure

Length: 

308 pages

Blurb:

When expert tracker Hugh Glass is viciously attacked by a bear, his fellow-trappers know that he won’t survive. They do what they can to keep him comfortable. Until they are forced to face a terrain over which they can no longer carry him. Two men are left behind with him, to give him a decent burial when he dies. But they abandon him, taking his rifle and hatchet, and leaving him with nothing to defend himself… leaving him to die alone. But Glass is not ready to die yet. He has a new reason to live…

Revenge.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its historical depth and accuracy; 5 out of 10 for its adventure

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Hugh Glass. Even with so many other characters that play pivotal roles, Glass steals the show with his shades-of-gray character.

What I Liked:

The book delves into a lot of history, which I hadn’t expected, but that I quite enjoyed reading about.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story arc. It starts off really well, but its end falls a bit flat, especially when you consider the buildup. It sort of felt like Punke just got tired of writing and wrapped up the story super fast to get done with it.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Even if you don’t love the premise and the way it plays out, you’ll enjoy the historical details.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who can’t handle violence. There are just so many things that die in this book, and every single aspect of hunting, trapping, and wilderness-living is highlighted. If you aren’t used to gore, this won’t go down easy.

Read It For:

A character that will remain incredibly memorable in both, fiction and real life.

The fact that Hugh Glass was a real person who (probably) actually faced these things is pretty incredible. But it also makes it sadder that the book had such a flat ending. Now, I’m just hoping the movie is better (going to watch it soon).

Got thoughts on Michael Punke’s The Revenant? Share them in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

 

A unique thriller: Review of Here to Stay by Mark Edwards

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of Here To Stay by Mark Edwards. I discovered Mark Edwards on NetGalley with The Lucky Ones, and have really enjoyed his work since. The Retreat, I thought, was even better than the former. So when I saw Here to Stay up for grabs, I absolutely had to give it a read.

Did it meet expectations? Read on to find out.

Mark Edwards Here to Stay
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Psychological thriller

Length: 

370 pages

Blurb:

Elliot lives a simple life. He never felt like anything was really missing, until he met Gemma Robinson. Suddenly, she seemed to fill a void he hadn’t realized he even felt. They were married within a matter of months. When Gemma mentions that her parents were visiting for a couple of weeks, Elliot did the only thing he found right – invited them to stay over. Days later, Gemma’s parents and extremely quiet sister, Chloe, come over. And never leave. They encroach on every aspect of Elliot’s life, while Chloe remains silent and mostly to herself, and Elliot begins to suspect that they are trying to escape from something they’ve done. As Gemma’s parents show no signs of leaving, Elliot decides to dig into their lives to find answers and save his marriage. The truth, however, is much worse than he could have ever imagined.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Like with all other books by Mark Edwards, the highlighted takeaway is the end. There are very few writers who can conclude a thriller with a real surprise, but Edwards manages to do so consistently.

What I Liked:

The story doesn’t slow down for a single moment, in spite of being based on such a simple premise.

What I Didn’t Like:

Oddly enough, Elliot. Although his character was developed well and a lot of his behavior made sense because of that arc, he seems too submissive to be real. It made it a little hard to associate with him because I genuinely could not imagine any person being the way he was.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys thrillers. This is a different style of thriller, but definitely keeps the pages turning.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not enjoy psychological thrillers, or stories based on characters who are just plain sociopathic.

Read It For:

An interesting and not-too-commonly-done take on the thriller genre. With so many thrillers out there, this one is a fresh (albeit slightly disturbing) read.

Here to Stay was published on 1st September 2019. If you haven’t tried Mark Edwards yet, this is as good a place to start as any.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Great start, but fizzles out: Review of Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci

David Baldacci introduces a new lead character – FBI Agent Atlee Pine – in the first of a series dedicated to her. A well-developed, likable heroine, Atlee Pine leaves an impression in Long Road to Mercy. The book had some great parts and some not-so-great parts. Keep going to read the entire review!

Long road to mercy - David Baldacci - Atlee Pine
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller

Length:

404 Pages

Blurb:

Atlee Pine was six years old when a kidnapper snuck into the room she shared with her twin sister, used a random nursery rhyme to select his victim, and left with Mercy. Atlee never saw her sister again. But the event drove her to become the justice-keeper she is. Thirty years later, the only agent assigned to the FBI’s Arizona Resident Agency at Shattered Rock, she is responsible for the protection of the Grand Canyon. But even with her experience and outlook, Atlee could not pre-empt the convoluted web she finds herself in when she begins to investigate a stabbed Grand Canyon mule and its missing rider. Soon, Atlee realizes that those she considered her allies may not be so, and enemies – known and unknown – are waiting at every turn. Will Atlee win the fight for the democracy of the country she swore to protect, or will her battle end with her life?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its suspense-filled storyline, and 6 out of 10 for its thrill.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the first of the Atlee Pine series. The second book, A Minute to Midnight, comes out in November 2019 (and looks pretty kick-ass).

Highlighted Takeaway:

Atlee Pine, as created by Baldacci. Admitting that it’s his first time attempting a female lead, Baldacci does a good job of creating a character that is easy to associate with, and complex enough to be realistic.

What I Liked:

The plot: It was really well-woven, introducing the reader to unknown ideas that could very well be real (some aspects may or may not be based in reality, in fact – I didn’t check).

What I Didn’t Like:

The depth of the Grand Canyon’s geography: While it was meant as an immersive narrative, it got a bit too mundane and made me zone out a bit when there was little but details of the Canyon for pages on end.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys political thrillers and other Baldacci books. Or anyone who likes crime fiction.

Who Should Avoid:

The book has nothing that would specifically turn someone off.

Read It For:

The beginning of a new character series that shows a lot of promise and sets the stage for a story arc that you would want to follow, if you enjoy crime fiction.

Got something to share about Long Road to Mercy or David Baldacci or Atlee Pine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Strong social commentary, and well-paced: Book review of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill

A Time To Kill is John Grisham’s first novel. It came into the limelight after the success of his second book but, once discovered, became known as a masterpiece. There are some brilliant aspects to the book, many of which are relevant even today to the different forms that segregation takes. At the same time, a lot of it feels dated and cringe-worthy. Read on to know whether its positives outweigh the negatives or not.

John Grisham A Time to Kill
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Legal thriller

Length:

511 pages

Blurb:

When Carl Lee Hailey’s ten-year-old daughter is brutally raped by two men and left for dead, he takes justice upon himself and kills the men who hurt his child. Jake Brigance chooses to defend Hailey, a black man in a county that’s predominantly white. It becomes the biggest trial of the Southern town of Clanton, Mississippi. The media attention begins to escalate, as does the racial tension. Threats and violence unfold as extremists take a stand against Hailey. And the trial that began as Jake Brigance’s biggest career opportunity turns into a battle for justice beyond the prejudice of race, and the fight for his client’s life… and his own.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10 for its tale that combines hard-hitting emotion, political and social factors, and the simplicity (both good and bad) of basic human instinct.

Characterization:

6 out of 10. The attempt at making certain characters come across as raw and very human in their reactions came off, instead, as people who were primarily good, but with a healthy dose of being arrogant jackasses.

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its legal action and drama, 9 out of 10 for its emotion, and 10 out of 10 for its rare but well-placed humor.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10. You can tell there’s really good talent there, but it is clearly the beginning of potential being realized.

Part of a Series:

Yes, as Book #1 of the Jake Brigance’s series, from what Goodreads says. Book #2 is Sycamore Row.

Highlighted Takeaway:

This book hits you hard, much harder than you would expect. And it remains relevant across the decades, in numerous ways.

What I Liked:

The blatantly honest narration. No words minced, nothing sugar-coated. It was a clear reflection of the society, mindset, and even language of the time in which it was set, making it much more believable and relatable. Although, not everything believable was likable, which brings me to my next point.

What I Didn’t Like:

The sexism and other societal norms, although self-deprecated, were a bit cringey in today’s day and age. You need to constantly remind yourself when reading those parts that the time in which it was set was very different than today.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys books with courtroom drama and/or books with social commentary. Or even anyone who just wants to read a good book that’s emotional, raw, and has a good story to tell.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who finds it difficult to look at the concept and practice of gender roles as different than what they are today. If you cannot ignore those era-specific nuances, you won’t be able to enjoy the positive aspects that the book offers.

Read It For:

Emotion, courtroom drama, and an engaging story.

What did you think of A Time to Kill by John Grishan? Worth its hype or a let-down? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika

Much better than its prequel: Book Review of Tony Parsons’ The Slaughter Man

I read my first Tony Parsons book at the end of 2018. Having been in the middle of a whole lot of stuff, I gave the book – the first one in the DC Max Wolfe series titled The Murder Bag – 3.5 stars on Goodreads and a super short review (check it out here). When I look back at that review though, I’m honestly surprised… because the second book in the series – The Slaughter Man – was a really, really good read.

More details follow below!

The Slaughter Man Tony Parsons
Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Crime thriller, Suspense

Length: 

384 pages

Blurb:

A wealthy London family – mother, father, teenaged son, and teenaged daughter – are murdered in cold blood. The family’s youngest child is kidnapped. The weapon takes DC Wolfe and his team to a man who was convicted decades ago in the murder of an entire family, his choice of weapon earning him the nickname, The Slaughter Man. But the man, who has served his time, is now old and dying. Could he really be responsible for the new murders? And if not, was it a contract hit, copycat thrill, or revenge killing that resulted in the murder of an entire family? Can DC Wolfe find the right answers, and the missing child, before it’s too late?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Part 2 in the DC Max Wolfe series. Although it can be read as a standalone, there are some references to its prequel. And I also feel that reading it in order will help the reader understand Wolfe’s character arc development better.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Heart. At its very crux, this book has a lot of heart. It shows people – ordinary people – trying their best to do the right things, and being prepared to face the consequences of that choice.

What I Liked:

The story itself – multilayered, addressing very real events the existence of which many people would find easier to deny, and built upon the basic and raw emotions that drive human beings.

What I Didn’t Like:

While Tony Parsons’ blunt style works really well for the stories he tells, it does at times feel choppy. But that was felt much less often in The Slaughter Man than in The Murder Bag.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a gritty crime thriller.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who gets squeamish easily – this book has sections that just aren’t meant for the faint-hearted.

Read It For:

DC Wolfe. His character – a man who does the right thing because it’s the only thing he knows how to do while torn between being a good cop and good father – is raw, real, and very easy to associate with, and support.

The Slaughter Man only strengthened my interest in DC Wolfe and Tony Parsons’ writing – will continue to follow the series that seems to have a lot of interesting titles already out. If you like crime fiction, give the series a shot – it’s worth trying out for sure, even if you choose not to follow the entire thing.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika