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, Thrillers

Book Review: The Whisper Man (By Alex North)

The Whisper Man by Alex North had been on my TBR pile for a while. It seemed like the perfect thriller – a small town with a dark past, a broken but loving family taking a chance on a new beginning, and a new case that brings both together.

But did it meet expectations, or did The Whisper Man fall short? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Thriller

Length: 

355 pages

Blurb:

After his wife’s sudden death, Tom Kennedy moves to the small town of Featherbank with the hope that it would give him and his son, Jake, a chance to fix their otherwise distant relationship. But Featherbank has a troubled history – it was the home and hunting ground of “The Whisper Man”, a name given to Frank Carter who lured young boys out of their homes by whispering at their window, before torturing and murdering them. Detective Pete Willis had caught Carter twenty years ago, ending his reign of terror after he’d claimed five victims. Now, twenty years later, another young boy has disappeared in similar circumstances, and young Detective Amanda Beck needs Pete’s help. Because “The Whisper Man” will only speak to the man who captured him and may finally talk about the suspicion that he had worked with an accomplice. But while Willis tries to overcome the emotional strain of his own personal past and that Carter’s visits place on him, while Beck tries to find the missing boy before it becomes too late, and while Tom attempts to settle into the new town, young Jake begins acting strangely. And soon… he begins to hear a whisper at his window.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The perfect combination of thrill, mystery, and emotion, The Whisper Man will leave you thinking about its characters (and looking over your shoulder) long after you’ve turned the last page.

What I Liked:

The Whisper Man is scary. It creeps you out, gets under your skin, and leaves you feeling unsettled – which makes it a brilliant ‘thriller’. Then there’s the characterization – you don’t just read about people and their circumstances and reactions; you go right to their essence. What makes them flawed, what leaves them struggling, and where do they find their strength – Alex North does a great job of making his characters as real as possible. And that ease of association will leave you shocked, smiling, and tearing up at various points as the characters’ stories unfold.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was very little to dislike in The Whisper Man.

Who Should Read It:

If you love thrillers, especially the kind that leaves you slightly jumpy at every small unexplained noise, then you will love this book. It is so much more than just the mystery though and, somehow, all of it comes together.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like violent crime, I would recommend avoiding The Whisper Man. It isn’t too graphic or violent, but there are some shocking scenes that can be disturbing.

Read It For:

Although the creepy-factor was strong in this one, I would say that The Whisper Man should be read for its emotional impact. The intricacies, struggles, and joys of relationships – especially that between father and son – are beautifully shown and will stay with you for a long time.

I haven’t read any of Alex North’s other works, but I definitely plan to. After The Whisper Man, I can easily place him among the best thriller authors I’ve read, and I’m hoping that his finesse and craft is maintained in his other books. In the meanwhile though, I did read another book that had long been on my TBR pile. So coming up next – a review of The One by John Marrs.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Exciting, even if a tad over the top: A review of Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver

It’s been a while since I read Tim Weaver’s work, in spite of having really enjoyed the three books of his that I have read. I was recently reminded of his work by S.W. Kane’s The Bone Jar (check out the review of that thriller here). And a day later, I was reading Never Coming Back. Read on to know what you can expect from this crime thriller, based on Weaver’s missing persons investigator – David Raker.

Genre: 

Crime thriller, Suspense

Length: 

529 pages

Blurb:

David Raker leaves London behind to heal, physically and emotionally, at his parents’ old house in Devon. But there’s a reason Raker does what he does – he needs to help people keep their loss at bay, so that they never face what he had to. Which is why when his ex-girlfriend, Emily Kane, turns up at his door asking for his help in finding her sister, Carrie, and her entire family, Raker cannot refuse. Carrie, her husband Paul, and their two daughters, disappeared without a trace, leaving the house like they’d just been there moments before. That was months ago. The police have had no leads, and Raker’s the only hope for Emily. What begins as a missing persons case turns into something much more sinister. Will Raker find the answers he’s looking for, or will a decades-old secret claim even more lives than it already has… including Raker’s?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out 10 for its suspense; 7 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book #4 in the David Raker series. Although it can be read as a standalone, with enough information to bring a new reader up to speed while not sharing spoilers, it is best read in order.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A few of the plot twists. You come to expect certain trends and twists when you read a lot of crime thrillers and suspense. But Never Coming Back still manages to surprise.

What I Liked:

The strong characterization and the effortless display of the complexities of relationships. They made the story more intriguing and very easy to associate with, and left you really invested in what happens next.

What I Didn’t Like:

Part of the plot was a bit over the top. I genuinely do not know if the core circumstances that led to the events of the book could and/or do happen. Seems improbable but still just possible enough to be believable (to some extent).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes crime thrillers and suspense. You’ll especially enjoy this if you like the works of Jeffery Deaver, Tony Parsons, and Simon Beckett.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is turned off by graphic crime and conspiracy theories.

Read It For:

David Raker. He’s one of those literary characters that will make you want to read an entire series. He’s not shown to be invincible. In fact, he’s vulnerable, honest, and limited in capabilities, making it that much easier to think of him as a very real person and, consequently, to care about what he does and what happens to him.

Have you read any of the David Raker series? Let us know what you thought in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station!

– 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

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

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: The Butterfly Garden (By Dot Hutchison)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 288 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

An isolated garden. Beautiful trees and flowers. And a collection of butterflies – kidnapped women intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes and whose beauty is captured and preserved. Overseeing all of this is The Gardener. When the FBI rescues the girls, they find themselves struggling to find answers. The girls are too damaged to speak or share what they’ve been through. Only one girl stands apart – Maya. Maya begins to take FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison through her story, and the story of many others interwoven with hers. More disturbing than they could have ever imagined, the story that Maya tells them takes them into the horrors of the Garden and The Gardener’s mind. Yet, something is missing, something is being held back. Maya is hiding something. Agent Hanoverian needs to get to the truth. Because uncovering Maya’s secret, or failing to do so, will affect the fate of every girl they rescued and the man responsible for their horror.

The Bottom Line:

A disturbing book with a good storyline, but that fails to pack a real punch.

My take:

One thing is for sure – The Butterfly Garden isn’t a book that everyone will be able to digest. The way the book plays out could be enough to make people extremely uncomfortable. The events and the psyche of its characters are quite disturbing and occasionally even make your skin crawl. One good thing though, is that it isn’t as bad as it could have been.

Hutchison skips over the most graphic details, choosing instead to focus on the events leading up to it, and after it, and how it made the characters involved, feel. And that’s done quite well, saving readers from the worst of it, but still showcasing enough of the fallout to evoke some empathy, sympathy, and disturbance.

The story and the premise itself are just about okay. I mean, it’s interesting enough to create a story where a man has an entire garden of women whose beauty is preserved in death. But the story has a lot of plotholes. Like, how did no one notice something wrong for so many years? Or why didn’t the captured girls fight back when they had the clear advantage of numbers? There are many other such plot-points which, I felt, should have been explored more to make the story more believable. If the end result would have been what the story said it was anyway, that would’ve been fine. But the question of What if would have been solved.

Hutchison tries to offer that solution through conversation. For instance, she does showcase how terrified the girls were of making any attempt at overthrowing their kidnapper that would be ‘almost’ successful. The result of the ‘almost’ aspect was certain death. Which is why no one ever tries anything. But showing this would have made it more rounded as a story, instead of just mentioning it in passing as Hutchison has done.

The style of the book is definitely unique. It switches between the third person – when the detectives are interviewing Maya, and the first person – when Maya relates her own story. The contrasting approaches actually made a pretty good combination, leaving you turning page after page.

Characterization was good, although a bit over the top in some cases. The detectives are very likable and I’m keen to follow their story arcs over the next few books in the series (apparently, they’re related, but can all be read standalone).

The two biggest problems with The Butterfly Garden were that (a) it didn’t actually become as creepy and psychologically troubling as it could have been (which is something people look for in the genre of psychological thriller or horror), and (b) a large part of the plot is anticlimactic.

I started this book expecting it to be one of those that burns disturbing images into your head and keeps you revisiting them for a while, especially in your nightmares. That happened to me with John Case’s Murder Artist. I couldn’t sleep for days after reading that one because it was incredibly disturbing, not from a horror perspective, but from the extent of “how far can people go”. A lot of people may have felt the same with The Butterfly Garden. But the book gave me half a sleepless night before I began to forget about it. What remained are those detectives, and I’d like to follow the series for them and the fact that Hutchison may not be the best in the psychological thriller genre, but her books do follow an interesting theme.

Should you read The Butterfly Garden? Definitely not if you get queasy easily. But, give it a shot if:

  • you like crime thrillers
  • you enjoy psychological suspense and thrillers
  • you are not easily creeped out by the atrocities and disturbing weirdness that this world is (probably) actually capable of
  • you want to read an interesting (but not excellent) thriller

Drop a comment below to share your thoughts on The Butterfly Garden or recommend a good psychological thriller. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

P.S.: I’m going to take a few months off of reviewing books. I may occasionally review a short story here and there, but I’ll be back early next year in full swing to tell you which books to add to your TBR pile and which to ignore! In the meanwhile, if you’re interested, you can follow my photography adventures (and misadventures) on my Instagram handle: @rishikajhamb

Laters, Alligators!

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

 

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: Into The Darkness (By Sibel Hodge)

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Source: Goodreads

Length:

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Toni wants to study criminal psychology to be able to help people, especially children, affected by the evil deeds of which psychopaths are capable. But a week before her university course begins, she discovers something horrifying in the deepest corners of the internet. Before she is able to wrap her head around what she’s seen, she finds herself attacked, abducted, and locked in a dark cell. With no help from the police, Toni’s mother turns to an old friend for help. Ex-SAS operative, Mitchell, has seen the worst that the world and its people have to offer. He knows that evil is not a concept of fairy tales, but a very real threat that can exist in the form of anything and anyone. Uncaring about the law and only concerned with quick justice, Mitchell is a vigilante with a mission – bring Toni home safe, no matter what it costs.

DS Warren Carter has been a detective for so long that the job and the growing lack of justice are beginning to make him grow weary. He is two weeks away from retiring from the force and taking up a different job. Then, he’s called in to investigate the double murder of a simple, seemingly normal couple. Nothing is what it seems in the case. DS Carter is short on staff and has almost no support from his overbearing, bureaucratic boss. Yet, he won’t let the case go, relying on the instincts that have always had his back to try and solve the cold-hearted, heinous crime. But the case isn’t simple, and DS Carter finds himself falling into the depths of a world that is more twisted and evil than he could have ever imagined.

Time is running out for Toni as Mitchell tries desperately to find her in a world of shadows where anonymity is pivotal. And DS Carter is beginning to question everything he’s ever known. The Missing, the Vigilante, and the Detective are caught in a dangerous game, one that offers threats at every turn, and that none of them may win.

The Bottom Line:

An interestingly told thriller that does not shy away from the gory stuff, hits you in the face with the truth that you’d rather never know, and spins an intricate, well-plotted tale that is not made any less enjoyable by its predictability.

My take:

Writing in the first person isn’t always easy. Not too many people like the approach so you have to be exceptionally good at it to ensure that your audience can associate with the character they’re following. Writing from different points of view consistently isn’t easy either. It’s altogether too easy to get their personalities mixed up, and end up with one’s style seeping into the other.

Yet, Sibel Hodge does both these things with brilliant precision in Into the Darkness. 

The story follows a vigilante who believes that justice is best served instantly, a missing girl whose desire to help people takes her into the depths of unspeakable horror, and a detective who’s been worn down by the injustices he’s witnessed in his career but still, desperately, needs to trust in the legal system. All three are gray characters, and Hodge’s style allows you to follow their internal battles and really get into the story. She doesn’t break their characterization at all, which adds to the association that readers develop for the characters.

The story itself is quite interesting. It is based on a topic that has been done previously (in movies and books) – the dark web – but still manages to be fresh in its approach. It’s also painfully graphic, so those who aren’t used to too much gore may have a few cringe-worthy moments while reading. When you look beyond the near-horrific narrations though, you see that it’s less about the activity and more about the people behind it. Into the Darkness focuses a lot on what people, good and bad, are really capable of; on how far someone can go, how malleable their morals can become, if they’re motivated by greed and insane fetishes, or the desire to help people and enable justice.

The book proceeds at a good speed, taking you from one POV to another and back as you turn pages wondering just how (and even if) these three arcs meet. It’s not immensely unpredictable, but there are definitely some shock-factors. The characters within the story have apparently made appearances previously in other works, but the story is complete in itself. All in all, Into the Darkness is a well-paced, intriguing thriller; and while I wouldn’t say that this should be the next book you should read, it definitely should be on the TBR pile of anyone who enjoys the genre or wants to venture into it.

Recommended to:

  • those who enjoy thrillers
  • those who enjoy multi-POV or first-person focused books (both these aspects are done extremely well)
  • those who like crime fiction

A big thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of this book. It led to me discovering some very interesting characters and a new author to follow. Share your thoughts on how you liked (or are waiting for) Into the Darkness and any other books by Sibel Hodge in the comments section below.

Into the Darkness releases on 3rd June, 2018.

– Rishika