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Review: Cause to Kill (By Blake Pierce)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 184 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Avery Black was one of Boston’s most notable criminal defense attorneys – until she successfully got a Harvard professor off murder charges, only for him to kill again, and dedicate his last murder to her. Avery’s life fell apart after the event and she lost everything in its aftermath, including her husband and daughter. She began a new life as a cop in an attempt to put away the kind of people she earlier fought for, and her skill and talent has finally gotten her promoted to Homicide Detective. Yet, she continues to face the scorn of her colleagues who still hate her and the public who is yet to forget what she’d done.

Then a girl from an elite college turns up dead. Avery’s ability to truly get into the head of psychopaths gets her assigned to the case, and she is forced to fight against the prejudices, mistrust, and hatred her colleagues have for her as she attempts to solve it. But as the body count continues to rise, Avery finds herself pitted against a serial killer who is as brilliant as she is. Consumed with trying to redeem herself, Avery allows the case to become her entire life. But even she could not have expected the horror into which it would lead her, and from which she might not escape.

My take:

The basic story line of Cause to Kill has the potential to be an extremely good book. Its execution, however, does not let that happen. Its potential was wasted by problems such as bad characterization, weak connections between events, and an average writing style.

The story’s main protagonist, Avery Black, was quite annoying as a character. Her need for redemption for definitely stressed upon, but she did little to actually make it reality. She was as arrogant as she was earlier, while constantly reiterating that she was no longer the same person. For someone who was supposed to be brilliant, she made very stupid choices in spite of being aware of the repercussions, and then blamed life for being unfair. Not exactly the best behavior for someone whose main goal was to begin taking responsibility for her actions and decisions. Then there was the way she kept switching from serious to flirty to friendly to God-knows-what – you just could not get an idea of what she really was as a person. So associating with her was very difficult.

Another annoying aspect was that Pierce seemed very keen on labeling her antagonist as a serial killer. And she went on to do so before the appearance of a second body and while the first case was still being worked upon as a personal crime. Serial killer based crime thrillers definitely have a following – but Cause to Kill did not unfold like one, it was just assumed to be one from the get-go, which gave the entire investigation a muddled-up feel.

The story also seemed choppy. Some aspects could really have been elaborated upon to give it that well-rounded feel, but they were left short. As a result, the story felt like it was trying too hard on the unexpected twists, which ended up being abrupt, often pointless, and forced.

Finally, the killer’s motive and psychology were also not explored to their full potential. It began really well, with great promise, but wasn’t really delved into or even bothered with, which left you with that uncomfortable this-story-didn’t-end-in-a-neat-little-bow feeling. And it also just took away all the impact with which the killer’s story had begun.

What Cause to Kill did have going for it was the relatively fast pace and storyline which, at the very crux of it, was decently intriguing. That’s why I would recommend it to:

  • people looking for a quick crime thriller junk read
  • hardcore crime thriller fans

After the slight disappointment that this book was, I would not bother with the rest of the Avery Black series by Pierce. But, I had definitely enjoyed Once Gone more than I did Cause to Kill (you can check out my review for that book over here), so I may read some of her other series if I need a short and fast crime thriller fix.

Share your thoughts on Cause to Kill and Blake Pierce’s other works in the comments below!

– Rishika

Review: As Time Goes By (By Mary Higgins Clark)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 278 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Betsy Grant is on trial for the murder of her husband, renowned Dr. Ted Grant, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for eight long years. The evidence against her is strong, and even her lawyer believes that accepting a plea bargain may be her best option. But Betsy refuses. She will fight to prove her innocence.

The trial is being covered by up-and-coming journalist, Delaney Wright. The sensational murder trial is the biggest story of her career and puts her right in the limelight. Sitting in the courtroom, day after day, Delaney begins to believe that, in spite of the damning evidence, Betsy Grant is innocent. Yet, another matter fills her thoughts. She can no longer ignore the growing desire to locate her birth mother. As the case progresses, Delaney turns to her friends Alvirah and Willy to ask for help in locating her mother.

And as they begin to uncover the details of Delaney’s birth and adoption, Delaney herself begins to work to prove Betsy’s innocence. But she faces one challenge after another as she finds herself caught in the intricate web spun by the real killer – someone who has gone to great lengths to murder Dr. Grant, and someone who will do whatever it takes to keep their identity a secret.

My take:

If you’ve read Mary Higgins Clark before, you’ll know what to expect from this book – unpredictability, great suspense, and an amazing story. And it delivers… for the most part.

As Time Goes By is an interesting story with numerous storylines that come together at the end in classical Clark style. It has also got the large gamut of characters you expect from her work, their relationships and connections revealed in time. And, it’s also written in that typical, fast-paced style of hers that keeps you turning the pages frantically in an effort to know what’s next.

What it doesn’t have, though, is that strong unpredictability element that was a massive part of Clark’s older works. It is predictable on most aspects, which takes some of the fun out of reading a Mary Higgins Clark. Also, it’s an Alvirah and Willy mystery which, as I discovered, aren’t as much fun as her other series because I found the detective duo to be missing the depth and complexity that her other characters have.

All in all, the book has the suspense, the mystery, the likable characters, and the story, that make for a good crime fiction read. You should definitely go for it if you’re a regular Mary Higgins Clark reader. But if it’s your first time with the author, then you should opt for something else. I’d started with Let Me Call You Sweetheart and although I remember very little of that story, I vividly remember absolutely loving it. But, like me, if you’re getting back to Clark after a while, As Time Goes By is a decent place to start. It definitely made me remember why I used to love her work. And I’ve already begun adding her books to my to-be-read (and re-read, in some cases) list.

Recommended to:

  • Fans of Mary Higgins Clark
  • Those who’ve not read her work for a while
  • Die hard fans of crime fiction (because any Clark book would be a good addition)
  • Anyone looking for a quick crime fiction read (even at 278 pages, it moves along really fast)

Let us know what you thought of As Time Goes By or drop us some recommendations in the comments below!

– Rishika

Review: Murder on the Orient Express (By Agatha Christie)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 347 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks in the middle of the night due to a snowstorm. No one can get on or off the exclusive train. The morning reveals a ghastly shock – American millionaire, Simon Ratchett, is dead in his compartment. Twelve stab wounds lie in his torso, depicting the hatred that the killer had for him. But the killer had not anticipated two things – being stuck on the train due to the storm, and being accompanied on the journey by the famous and highly skilled detective, Hercule Poirot.

Now, isolated by the storm, the people aboard the Orient Express become suspects in the grisly murder. Poirot needs to find the killer amongst a dozen people. But with no means to verify their evidence and with growing understanding of who Ratchett really was, Poirot finds the case to be one of the most complicated ones he has ever come across. Little misses the detective’s keen senses. But can his talents help him identify the killer before it’s too late this time? Or will the murderer, in an effort to protect his identity, strike again?

My take:

I used to read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was younger. She was one of my favorite authors. I’m probably reading Murder on the Orient Express for a second time. And I’m very glad that I didn’t remember any of it. It is a classic whodunit that definitely packs powerful surprises and a massively unexpected ending.

The main thing about Christie’s work is that it doesn’t beat around the bush. The aim of the book is to solve a murder, and that’s what it does. It was also written at a time when cultural generalizations were acceptable and understood. So it’s definitely not something you want to read if you feel that such generalizations are in poor taste – because the book is filled with assumptions of the way Italians, Englishmen, and Americans, amongst others, behave.

One thing that I’d forgotten about was the amount of French used in Christie’s work. You definitely need to have a basic understanding of the language, or at least Google translate open at your fingertips to be able to understand a good chunk of the dialog. It’s not that being unable to understand will take information away, but it will definitely take away from the camaraderie among characters and general feel of the setting.

Coming to the story itself – you will surely not see the end coming. It unfolds in an extremely unpredictable manner and, in Christie’s classic style, will have you guessing wrongly until the very end. Even when you’ve grasped a large part of the mystery, aspects will continue to evade you until Poirot himself explains them. That’s why, as a story, it is really good.

All in all, Murder on the Orient Express is definitely worth a read, regardless of your age. You can enjoy it for multiple reasons, and it is a fast-moving, page-turning, classic whodunit written in the very unique style of Agatha Christie. Highly recommended to:

  • fans of Agatha Christie
  • fans of classic mystery
  • those who’ve spent their childhood with Christie (this is an enjoyable blast from the past)

The film adaptation is going to be out soon – catch that if books aren’t your thing. But if you’re even remotely interested in reading, then get your hands on the book before (and keep your French to English translator handy). Do share your thoughts on the book, Agatha Christie’s other work, and any other random musings in the comments below!

– Rishika