Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: No One Home (By Tim Weaver)

Published in 2019, No One Home is one of the most recent books in the David Raker series. The next full-length novel in the series, The Blackbird, comes out mid-2022. Between these two, Tim Weaver published one standalone thriller – Missing Pieces – and one collection of short stories featuring David Raker – The Shadow at the Door.

The reason I bring all of this up is that when I realized I was almost completely caught up and would now have to wait months and years for the next installment in the series, I was both happy and sad. But if you haven’t read any of Tim Weaver’s books yet, or if you’ve just read a few here and there, I would really recommend reading the entire series, and starting from the first one. The David Raker series remains one that meets the bar almost every time.

Genre: 

Thriller

Length: 

400 pages

Blurb:

The village of Black Gale has four homes and nine residents. On Halloween night, they meet at one of the houses for dinner. Photos of the night show them happy – drinks and smiles all around. Then, none of them are ever seen again. Two and a half years later, the police still have no clue about what happened to the entire village, and the media focus has died down. So the families of the missing people turn to David Raker. And Raker makes their obsession his own. With every case, David Raker has been moving closer to his own destruction. He knows this truth. He accepts it. But nothing could have prepared him for the mystery of Black Gale.

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10 stars

Plot:

10 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yep, this is Book #10 in the David Raker series. I wouldn’t really recommend reading it as a standalone. After around Book #5, they’ve become more and more connected, and you’re likely to have spoilers for the prequels if you read them out of order.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An unconventional mystery, supported by numerous characters that are all shades of gray, and enhanced through its perfect setting.

What I Liked:

No One Home has two stories running simultaneously, far apart in setting and time. Both are interesting, and both have their own protagonists. This dual approach is incredibly engaging.

Then there is also the fact that, as with previous works, David Raker’s character grows more and more with every successive novel. And #10 in the series has some of the most interesting character development yet. Never before has the series had you so concerned.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t really find much to dislike. Quite a few twists and turns that keep you guessing right up until the end.

Who Should Read It:

If you’ve read and enjoyed even one of the David Raker books, I’d recommend giving the entire series a read. And if you haven’t read anything by Tim Weaver as yet but enjoy thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction, especially those with gritty settings, then I’d highly recommend this series.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t enjoy crime fiction that focuses on cold cases or that can become a bit dark, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

Read It For:

Some shocking developments in David Raker’s story arc, and interesting ones in those of other favorite characters.

Unsurprisingly, I actually ended up reading The Shadow at the Door, which is set after the events of No One Home. Its review will be up soon but before that will be the review of Simone St. James’ most recent book. You might have heard of this one if you like the crime and thriller genres, especially true crime. Stay tuned!

Got something to share about Tim Weaver, David Raker, or other books? Or just want to say hi? Drop a comment below!

And as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Treachery Times Two (By Robert McCaw)

A big thanks to the author, Robert McCaw, and Oceanview Publishing for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Treachery Times Two brings to the forefront one of the biggest ongoing arcs in the Koa Kāne series – Koa’s one mistake that made him who he is, but the revealing of which could take away everything that he’s earned. Does the book do the arc justice? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length: 

361 pages

Blurb:

Numerous bodies are unearthed in an old, abandoned cemetery when a volcanic earthquake disrupts Hawai’i island. In them is the mutilated body of a woman, unrecognizable, and clearly buried only days ago. Chief Detective Koa Kāne’s investigation into the woman’s death leads him into the world of a politically connected defense contractor, an incredibly powerful and secret military weapon – Deimos, and an FBI espionage investigation. Forced to defy his Chief of Police in his search for justice for the victim, Kāne faces a new threat – that of his thirty-year-old secret being revealed. Years ago, Kāne had killed his father’s nemesis – the man who’d been responsible for Kāne’s father’s death – and covered up the murder. Now, the grandson of the dead man has arrived, and Koa is forced to investigate the homicide he had committed. Until another man is falsely accused of the murder. Can Koa stand by and watch an innocent man pay for his crime? Or will he accept his guilt before everyone, losing the chance to find justice for the mutilated, forgotten woman, and losing the woman he loves, the respect he’s earned, and everything he has ever held dear?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book No. 4 in the Koa Kāne series. The books are connected and are best read in order, but can be enjoyed as standalone-s too. Check out the review for Book No. 1, Death of a Messenger, here, and Book No. 3, Fire and Vengeance, here.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Even better than its prequels, Treachery Times Two brings everything you’ve come to love about the Koa Kāne series – mystery, culture, and characterization – and ups the ante.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I liked the most in Treachery Times Two:

  1. It’s got the perfect mix of culture and story, with neither outshining the other.
  2. It showcases Koa Kāne in his rawest, most human form – flawed yet morally strong.
  3. It has multiple storylines and brings them all together perfectly.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing I can say I actively disliked in the book. I found it to be even better than the earlier books in the series (except for Book No. 2, which I am yet to read), and feel that it’s set the bar higher for the series.

Who Should Read It:

If you like mysteries, especially those that have multi-layered plots, you’ll definitely enjoy Treachery Times Two and other Koa Kāne books.

Who Should Avoid:

I don’t think anyone would really dislike this book, unless you absolutely do not enjoy mysteries.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne’s ultimate test – professional and personal. And the always-enthralling representation of Hawaiian culture.

Treachery Times Two releases in January 2022 – pre-order it from most online bookstores or Amazon.

Got questions or something to share about Robert McCaw’s Koa Kāne series or Treachery Times Two? Drop a comment below! And as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: Eeny Meeny (By M. J. Alridge)

I came across Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge in the Goodreads Giveaways list. Although I didn’t win a copy, I checked it out from my library as soon as possible because of its very interesting blurb. Read on to know if it met expectations.

Genre: 

Thriller, Crime fiction

Length: 

421 pages

Blurb:

The first victim came out of the woods, starved, barely alive. She had been abducted with her boyfriend. The abductor had left them without food or water, with one gun, one bullet, and one choice – one kills the other, and the murderer survives. Survival, though, may be worse than death. Guilt and horror break the survivor’s mind, leaving her a shell of her former self. And Detective Inspector Helen Grace is forced to accept the girl’s horrifying, almost unbelievable, account when more people get abducted, and more survivors show up… leaving more dead bodies in their wake. DI Grace finds herself in one of the most terrible and challenging cases of her entire career. And the demons in her past, that she’s staunchly fought off in her rise to the top, finally seem to be winning. Will DI Grace find what’s driving the unseen monster before her past catches up to her? Or will a sadistic murderer bring about her downfall?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

9 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

8 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its thrill and suspense

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the first novel in the DI Helen Grace series, and is M. J. Arlidge’s debut.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An excellent debut, Eeny Meeny is not for those who get queasy easily. Some very disturbing scenes and themes and a layered, complex plot keep you turning the pages relentlessly. M. J. Arlidge is definitely an author that crime fiction and thriller lovers would want to follow.

What I Liked:

There are three things that made Eeny Meeny super interesting for me:

  • A layered, complex story with multiple arcs that tie in well.
  • Narrative that really pulled you in, making you truly feel for the characters (good and bad).
  • A strong lead character, who is as human as they come.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was only one arc that I didn’t really like too much, primarily because it felt a little out of character for me.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, crime fiction, and thrillers. Eeny Meeny is definitely hard-hitting.

Who Should Avoid:

If you feel queasy with scenes that show the sheer desperation for survival inherent to human beings then you may want to avoid this one. The realness of the characters’ struggles and actions definitely had me squirming at certain points.

Read It For:

A new author and a new main character, both of which show an incredible amount of potential.

Before signing off on this review, I’d like to share that the revamp of The Book Review Station are underway. Starting with a new look (that we’re still fine-tuning), we’re soon going to be moving to author interviews and other new content. Let us know in the comments below if there’s something you’d like for us to include, and what you think about the new look.

As always, thanks for stopping by and checking out the latest book review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

A thriller that checks all the points: A Review of The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane

A big thanks to NetGalley for a copy of The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane. A thriller with the perfect setting – old, abandoned mental institution, frozen river, the harsh winter months – The Bone Jar was an interesting read that is reminiscent of the works of two authors whose works I’ve loved – Tim Weaver and Tony Parsons. Read on for more deets!

Genre:

Crime Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

328 pages

Blurb:

Blackwater Asylum, located on the banks of the Thames, has been shut for years. A popular destination for urban explorers, the old asylum is known for its rumored psychological experiments and other horrors, as well as its continued haunting. When an old woman is found dead in one of the asylum rooms, it is up to Detective Lew Kirby to find out why someone murdered a fragile, elderly woman and took the trouble of staging her body at the asylum. With the help of urban explorer, Connie Darke, who has a personal connection to the site, Kirby goes looking for answers, only to find another body in the river. Kirby is faced with more questions than answers as he attempts to build the connection between both deaths, receives information from an old patient whose sanity is still questionable, and finds his personal life falling apart around him. Will Kirby find the answers he’s looking for before someone else dies?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its mystery; 7 out of 10 for its thrill factor

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the first book in the Detective Lew Kirby series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The setting. S.W. Kane, according to her bio, is fascinated with “urban exploration and crime set in cold places”. She brings both these elements together really well, creating a setting that pulls you right in. Her descriptive narrative adds a whole new level to every scene and every event that takes place.

What I Liked:

I found the characterization really strong – S.W. Kane has created well-woven, complicated people that stand their own with every action and sentence. This is especially true for Detective Lew Kirby who is shown to be a quintessential good guy at his core, but with enough shades of gray to make him seem real and relatable.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was really not much to dislike in the book.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good thriller or mystery. If you liked Simon Beckett’s Written in Bone (check out its review here), Tim Weaver’s The Dead Tracks (read its review here), and/or Tony Parson’s The Slaughter Man (yep, I reviewed that too and you can read that here), you’ll like S.W. Kane’s The Bone Jar.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not enjoy thrillers, especially those that tend to have a bit of a macabre setting and outlook.

Read It For:

The pace, and its ability to pull you in from the first page and not let you go until you’re done. For me, this was the start of another series that I’d definitely like to follow.

Got some thoughts on The Bone Jar? Share them in the comments below, along with recommendations and suggestions of books that you think are a must-read.

Not a fan of mystery? How about some new sci-fi? Or a classic? Or a legal thriller? Here are some recommendations:

  • Sci-fi – Obscura by Joe Hart (find its review here)
  • Classic – 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (find its review here)
  • Legal thriller (with a healthy touch of social awareness) – A Time to Kill by John Grisham (find its review here)

Happy Reading!

And, as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

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

Posted in All Book Reviews

Unputdownable: A Review of Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this book, and for introducing me to an author and character that I will surely be following. This is the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series, based on the character of the same name who is a con artist turned defense lawyer. It’s completely readable as a standalone and although it does mention a bit about Eddie’s life and character journey, nothing leaves you feeling lost.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Thriller, Suspense

Length: 

368 pages

Blurb:

Eddie Flynn protects the innocent. When a high profile case involving an incredibly popular actor comes his way through one of the biggest law firms in the city, Eddie refuses. The actor is on trial for the murder of his actress wife and bodyguard. Eddie has no reason to believe his innocence, nor does he know why the reputed firm wants him on the case. Until Eddie meets the accused. Willing to go to any length to protect an innocent man, Eddie takes the case up under overwhelming evidence against his client. Eddie is confident that the real killer is out there – he just has to convince the jury of that. But the killer is closer than even Eddie can imagine. And convincing a jury may not be so easy when the killer is part of it.

Overall Rating: 

8 out of 10

Plot: 

9 out of 10

Characterization: 

9 out of 10

Primary Element: 

9 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style: 

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is #4, but can be read as a standalone without any problem.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The plot twist. It’s very rare that the killer-reveal takes you by real surprise, but Steve Cavanagh manages to do just that.

What I Liked:

Eddie Flynn’s character is one of the most rounded, yet realistic, I’ve read. There are a few fictional characters who I absolutely love because of their complexity and human-ness, with David Baldacci’s Amos Decker being one such character. Eddie Flynn makes it to that list and as one of the top ones for sure. Cavanagh has created a very relatable character in Flynn, one who keeps you hooked from the first page.

What I Didn’t Like:

Not a thing!

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoyed watching The Mentalist, and anyone who enjoys reading fast-paced courtroom-action-suspense novels. Also anyone who enjoys a good serial killer mystery and legal thrillers.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is put off very quickly by violence. There isn’t too much gore in this book, but there is some violence which may not sit too well with those not too used to it.

Read It For:

The suspense, the intricate storyline, and Eddie Flynn.

Got recommendations for other books like Thirteen or any other good legal thrillers? Drop a line in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: The Sleeping Beauty Killer (By Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 302 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Casey Carter was on the verge of her happily-ever-after when she got engaged to Hunter Raleigh III, a renowned businessman, beloved philanthropist, and potential political candidate whose family was nothing less than political royalty. But then Hunter was found murdered, two gunshots ending his life, and Casey left with blood and gunpowder residue on her hands. In spite of her claims that she’d been drugged and unconscious during the murder, Casey is convicted for manslaughter.

Fifteen years later, Casey returns to society, but feels like a pariah. Although everywhere she goes, people look at her like she’s guilty, she is determined to prove that she hadn’t murdered the man she loved. She approaches Laurie Moran, host of Under Suspicion, a show that opens cold cases, in the hope that Laurie could help her tell her side of the story, and find Hunter’s real killer. As Laurie and her team begin investigating the events that took place on the night of the murder and the people who had made up Casey’s past, Laurie finds herself close to believing that Casey is truly innocent. In her search for the truth, Laurie finds herself facing a new, egotistical co-host, a skeptical boss, protective family members, and a host of questions whose answers are not even remotely as simple as they should be. But the largest question that continues to plague her at every step is whether Casey is really innocent or did the woman that society named The Sleeping Beauty Killer actually murder Hunter?

The Bottom Line:

An extremely basic mystery that does not do justice to its apparent genre of thriller or suspense.

My take:

Let Me Call You Sweetheart was the first Mary Higgins Clark book I’d read, and I’d absolutely fallen in love with the author. I read most of her books over the years. While not all of them have been great, I think it’s safe to say that The Sleeping Beauty Killer was downright disappointing.

Essentially, the book is a simple mystery. The version I read had a quote on the cover from the Guardian saying, “Scared the hell out of me.” The claim is consistent with the reaction that people have when reading Clark’s work; her books are eerie, suspenseful, and unpredictable. So I obviously went in expecting that. But there was absolutely nothing of that sort in the book.

It’s got an interesting enough story with the kind of characters you’d expect from Clark. There are some twists and turns that, although not unpredictable, are interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. That is actually the only reason the book is good enough for a 1.5-star rating. Other than a mildly interesting presentation of a mildly interesting story, the book doesn’t have much to offer, especially for fans of Clark’s older works.

A few things that were really disappointing was the absolute lack of a thrill factor. I don’t need people jumping out from dark corners at me, but I do expect some element of thrill or even suspense, which I didn’t see in The Sleeping Beauty Killer. What was even worse was that the book was so unbelievably predictable – I’m not talking about the who, but also the why and how. There’s little point in reading a book when you already know the end (that too so early on in the book), other than to just find out if you were right.

My biggest problem with the book, though, was the characterization. This is the first book I’ve read in the Under Suspicion series, but the first few pages are enough to get the idea that Laurie Moran is an accomplished woman who’s seen hard times and come through them gracefully. Which is why I couldn’t understand why she chose to randomly titter like a sixteen-year-old. I’m not saying older women are expected to be serious or boring all the time, but there were these parts that were downright cringy, mainly because they seemed so out of character for the personality that Laurie is shown to be. The times where she was a normal adult but still having fun didn’t come across like that, which is what made the contradiction even worse.

And that inconsistency was in almost every character. Even Casey herself. It almost seemed like the author(s) couldn’t determine whether to make Casey strong, weak, mean, kind, gentle, or harsh; so instead of including a little bit of all these traits in a symbiotic manner, they just gave her random extremes of them whenever they pleased.

All in all, the book seemed very… amateur (the bookish dialog didn’t help). There is no dearth of crime fiction and crime thriller in the world today. Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, Simon Beckett, Tim Weaver, and Mark Edwards are just some of the names that come to mind when I think of detailed, layered, thrilling, suspenseful, and eerie reads in the genre (check out the reviews to some of their books I’ve absolutely loved, linked to their names above). Authors, seasoned and new, are getting better with each book that they pen. But with each book, Mary Higgins Clark seems to be continuing her descend from the pedestal on which her work had, justifiably, placed her. I still remember books like On The Street Where You Live (which I’d found brilliant) and A Cry In The Night (check out the review for that one here) which was quite good. Then, more recently, I read As Time Goes By, and that was a good book but was still incredibly predictable and just not as enjoyable as her previous works (more detailed review available here). But I have to admit that The Sleeping Beauty Killer finds a place at the bottom in my pile of Clark’s books. I’m definitely not reading more of the Under Suspicion series unless I decide to just read something light, fast, and not overly complicated.

So, should you read The Sleeping Beauty Killer? Yes, if:

  • you’ve read the Laurie Moran Under Suspicion books before and enjoy the character and series
  • you enjoy Clark’s more recent works
  • you enjoy uncomplicated, linear mysteries

But definitely not, if:

  • you want mystery that comes with thrill and suspense
  • you love unpredictability
  • you loved Clark’s older works (that makes this book disappointing on numerous levels)

Don’t go yet! Share your thoughts on how Clark’s work has progressed over the years according to you, drop a recommendation, or simply say Hi! in the comment section below!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: The Fallen (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 420 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amos Decker doesn’t want to take a vacation. But when his boss forces him to take a break before he risks burning out, he takes up his partner on her offer to travel to the quiet town of Baronville. The only thing on the agenda is to spend a relaxing time with Alex Jamison’s sister and brother-in-law, and to celebrate her niece’s upcoming birthday. But when a spark in the neighboring house catches Decker’s eye on the first night there, he rushes to help. And stumbles onto two bodies. When he discovers that they weren’t the first murders in the town, Decker is compelled to investigate. Soon, he finds that the small town of Baronville is hiding a large secret. As Jamison and Decker take on the case of six bizarre murders, their relaxing vacation turns into a fight for their lives. Someone does not want them finding out the truth, and they’re willing to kill anyone who gets too close. And this time, the Memory Man’s skills may not be enough to overcome the unseen forces that are threatening him, his partner, and everyone close to them, before it’s too late.

The Bottom Line:

Another thrilling ride in the Amos Decker series, The Fallen is packed with an odd but complimentary mix of violence, emotion, and a whole lot of character development.

My take:

The most notable thing about The Fallen is that it has the largest character arc development in the entire series. While this is true for all the characters of this particular franchise, it is especially so for Amos Decker.

The memory man is not the same person we met in the Memory Man. While the next two books in the series show us more about him, and his inability and desire to be more social, The Fallen is where that journey culminates. And, more importantly, where we see what Decker could be like should he actually develop the social niceties that are missing from his personality. It sort of makes you think about what will happen if what you’ve wanted from Decker’s personality would actually come true – and whether you’d be happy about it at all.

Story-wise, The Fallen is one of Baldacci’s most layered works. I’ve read a lot of Baldacci’s books and have come to expect some things from them, which leaves little room for being caught off-guard. But The Fallen still manages to surprise.

It’s a multi-faceted story that is complicated enough to keep you guessing, but not so complicated that it becomes tough to follow. It also moves really fast, jumping from one angle to another to keep you turning the pages. It’s an action-packed read that hits the ground running.

The Fallen is also surprisingly emotional at times. And although you’d expect this to conflict heavily with the fact that it has much more violence and gore than you’d have assumed, the contrasting approaches come together really well.

The book meets (and also exceeds) expectations of readers following the Amos Decker series. It is slightly better than its predecessor, and sets the tone really well for the next installment (I’m assuming and hoping that this isn’t the last one). I would rate the books in the entire series, thus far, as follows:

  1. The Memory Man (you can check out my review here)
  2. The Fallen
  3. The Last Mile (you can check out my review here)
  4. The Fix (you can check out my review here)

So, should you read The Fallen? Yes, if:

  • you like crime fiction
  • you want to continue on Decker’s journey or even try him out as a new series hero (this book can be read as a standalone but I would strongly recommend starting from the Memory Man)
  • you like David Baldacci’s work
  • you like multi-plot stories

Drop a comment below to share your thoughts on Baldacci’s work, The Fallen, or even just to say Hi!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: The Innocent (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 422 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Government assassin, Will Robie, returns from two successful assignments in Tangier and Edinburgh to find that his next target is right in his home city – a government employee who needs to be eliminated for an unknown reason. But on the day, faced by the young woman he’s meant to kill and the child that’s holding on to her, Robie, for the first time in his life, hesitates. Before he realizes his mistake, a secondary shooter kills both mother and child. Robie manages to escape in spite of his handler leading him to the second shooter, and imminent death. Putting his personal escape plan into action, he heads to the bus station to get on the next bus to New York with a ticket booked earlier under an alias.

Fourteen-year-old Julie Getty has been forced into the foster care system due to a recurring drug problem faced by parents who have made numerous attempts to turn clean. When she receives a note from her mother stating that they want to make a new start as a family, Julie runs away from her foster home. Returning to her own house, she sees her parents being murdered by a lone killer. She manages to escape and heads to the bus station, coincidentally getting on the same bus as Robie in an attempt to leave town.

But the killer follows her on board. Robie stops him before he finishes his mission. Moments later, Robie and Julie get off the bus. And the bus is blown to smithereens. Unsure of who between them the target was, Robie feels compelled to protect Julie. But his plans to help Julie and save himself are brought to an abrupt halt when he’s called back in by his department to liaise with the FBI on the assassination-gone-wrong, and discover who had set him up. Now, Robie is working with FBI Special Agent Nicole Vance on a crime at which he’d been present. He knows that, somehow, everything is connected. Only by discovering how can Robie prove his innocence and save lives… including Vance’s, Julie’s, and his own. But, to do that, Robie needs to identify who he can really trust. Struggling to get to the truth in a web lies, Robie is running out of time. He needs to get to the bottom of things before Vance uncovers his real profession and the role he really played in the events of the night, and before more people around him are killed.

The Bottom Line:

A typical Baldacci political-crime-conspiracy-thriller that takes an oddly analytic look at assassinations and murder, and that introduces a hero with lots of potential.

My take:

The Innocent is a typical Baldacci book – it’s got the political angle, it’s got a hero who has a unique moral compass, and it’s got the crime thriller angle that keeps the pages turning. The story is complicated enough to be interesting and stops just short of becoming down-right confusing.

As expected from Baldacci’s work, the most intriguing aspect of The Innocent is the new hero it introduces. Will Robie is intrinsically a good guy with exceptional skills, and he’s an assassin for his government. He is a man trained to kill, he’s good at it, and he feels no remorse about his profession. The book often touches upon the concept of good vs. evil, and the reality that humans (even those like Robie) are essentially not one or the other. As a character, he is definitely interesting and, although I didn’t find the book as good as others by Baldacci, I definitely want to follow Robie’s development.

One thing that really stands out is the bluntness of the violence. It isn’t gory nor exaggerated in any way. It is oddly calculated. When Robie eliminates a target or sees someone dead, he perceives and analyses it with the strangest simplicity, practicality, and mundaneness. He does not think of life as cheap, as is made very evident. But the coldness with which he looks at death definitely adds a lot to his characterization.

The only downside, if I had to choose, is that the story was good, but could have been much better. It has a lot of build-up but ends up being slightly anticlimactic – not in delivery, but in the story itself. Maybe a couple of pages more about how the many different angles came together, and why, would have made the story more compelling, and consequently more fulfilling.

Should you read The Innocent? It doesn’t have to be the first David Baldacci you pick up, but it’s definitely one that should be on the list, even if it makes an appearance slightly later. Recommended to:

  • fans of David Baldacci
  • political-conspiracy-crim-fiction lovers looking for a new series
  • anyone who wants to read a fast-paced, slightly-complicated crime fiction

Read The Innocent or any other Baldacci books? Share your thoughts on Will Robie or whoever your favorite Baldacci character is in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: The Sleeping Doll (By Jeffery Deaver)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 530 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

CBI Special Agent Kathryn Dance is the best in her field. She’s an expert in kinesics which makes her a very good agent and an exceptional interrogator. But she’s never tried to read someone like Daniel Pell. In 1999, Pell murdered an entire family, unwittingly leaving behind a young girl who was asleep, and hidden behind dolls. After eight years in prison, Pell evokes renewed interest by the CBI when new evidence connects him to another murder. The interview with Pell is meant for Dance to find the truth.

But things don’t go as planned. Within moments of the interview that leaves Dance unsettled, Pell is on the run, death and destruction in his wake. Now Dance has to rely on everything she could learn about Pell during the short interview as the CBI and local police begin an immense manhunt. But Pell behaves nothing like as escaped convict. He seems to have no interest in leaving the area. Dance struggles to identify the reason, and comes to a disturbing conclusion – she and Pell may be looking for the same person, the young girl who survived, the one called The Sleeping Doll. And as Pell outsmarts Dance and her colleagues at every step of the way, she begins to fear that her inability to read him might cost even more lives, especially those of the ones close to her.

The Bottom Line:

An interesting enough crime thriller, whose most positive factor is the technicalities of the protagonist’s profession.

My take:

I started reading Jeffery Deaver with his first novel, The Bone Collector (check out my review of that one here). What was most impressive about that book was the detail to the technicalities of forensics.

The Sleeping Doll mirrors Deaver’s skill in that regard. It goes into quite a lot of detail about kinesics, without becoming text-bookish. In fact, the theoretical angle actually paves the way for the story to move forward in many places.

The protagonist, Katheryn Dance, is… strange. For whatever reason, you don’t exactly like her right away. In retrospect, I think it’s because of her excessive ability to understand people’s actions, which makes her oddly reaction-less to a great extent (even though she isn’t emotion-less). She initially comes across as an aloof individual, but grows on you as the story proceeds and her personality unfolds.

Although the antagonist, Daniel Pell, is shown (through repetitive mentions by other characters) to be an extremely dangerous, sadistic psychopath, his character just didn’t have enough of a cringe factor to drive the point home. He falls short, seeming more like a villain who tries very hard to be coolly insane, but only manages to remain basically-negative.

As a story, The Sleeping Doll definitely has a lot of twists. As can be expected from Deaver’s work, it does a good job of maintaining the suspense until revelation time. Yet, it does seem to fall short of being an edge-of-your-seat-thriller. And I’d chalk this up to Pell’s character too. To be honest, he just wasn’t as scary as everyone in the story claimed him to be. And since most of the storyline is based on how brilliant and devious he is, the lacking in characterization greatly affects the overall feel of the book.

The supporting characters are (as expected) strong, with each person adding interesting elements to the story. You really associate with a lot of the characters, and Dance too, until you are invested enough to want to know what happens next. Which is why I would definitely continue to read the Dance series. I’d recommend this book to:

  • fans of crime fiction and crime thrillers
  • fans of Jeffery Deaver (may not be as good as the Rhyme series, but is definitely worth reading for its typical Deaver-ness)
  • fans of shows like Criminal Minds and Lie To Me (which I haven’t seen but know the premise of; I find some similarities in that and the kinesics-interrogation approach this book takes)

Let me know what you thought of The Sleeping Doll (or if I should ever actually watch Lie To Me)… share your comments below!

P.S.: I still prefer the Lincoln Rhyme series, although that may be because I’ve read more of them and there’s been significant character development. But, I’m still very keen to see where Dance’s story takes her.

Until the next book.

– Rishika