Tag Archives: Thriller

Good Premise, Weak Implementation: A Review of Trance (By Adam Southward)

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of this book. Trance released on 1 July and is now available for sale. I wish I could’ve enjoyed it more because the blurb had been incredibly promising. But there were some issues that just couldn’t be ignored in this psychological thriller.

Oh well… Let’s get right to the review of Adam Southward’s Trance.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Psychological thriller, Mystery

Length:

336 page

Blurb:

Three University scientists are found dead in a horrifying murder-suicide. Victor Lazar is found outside the room and imprisoned as the only suspect. But soon, other inmates are driven to suicide. And then the psychologist assigned to Lazar kills himself.

Private therapist, Alex Madison, used to be one of the best forensic psychologists in the city until the events that led to his downfall, personally and professionally. When he’s called in to interview and diagnose Lazar, he knows it’s a chance at redemption. But the case forces him to look beyond everything he’s known and learned about psychology and psychiatry. Will Madison find his redemption? Or will he end up losing everything he still holds dear in the revenge saga that Lazar is building?

Overall Rating:

5 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

5 out of 10

Primary Element:

4 out of 10 for the psychological thriller aspect, 6 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

6 out of 10

Part of a Series:

According to Goodreads, this is the first of the books in the series of the primary protagonist – Alex Madison.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The basic premise – if this had been explored more, it would’ve been a very different (and much better) read.

What I Liked:

The book doesn’t shy away from being violent and abrupt, making it a fast-paced read.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The psychological basis of the story was just a given, which takes away the entire mystery of, “How is this happening?”
  • Characters were one-dimensional
  • Plot twists were predictable
  • The main protagonist, although probably one of the better parts of the book, could probably have done with a little more rationality. Although not as cringe-worthy and annoying, Madison’s character reminded me a lot of another confused character that I’d absolutely detested – Lorna – from Samantha Hayes’ Tell Me A Secret (review of that apparent psychological thriller is here).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone looking for a quick mystery, pseudo-thriller – as long as you’re not expecting a book that stays with you forever.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes psychological thrillers because of the depth they often offer into the human psyche – Trance has a good premise but does nothing to follow it up.

Read It For:

A fast holiday or non-serious weekend read option.

All in all, I’d say that Trance doesn’t have to be one your TBR list. Adam Southward is a talented writer who probably has some great ideas. I’d love to see them more fleshed out though so as to actually make for a compelling, memorable read. As for Trance… it’s a good option for when you want something fast and not too sensible.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this review.

– Rishika

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Keeps the Pace Up: A Review of Redemption (By David Baldacci)

Amos Decker is back!

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of the books starring the man brought to life by David Baldacci, you’ll know that Amos Decker is one of my favorite literary characters. And Redemption, while keeping up the pace that its prequel – the Fallen – had set, just adds more reasons to love the flawed, moralistic, often pig-headed Decker.

David Baldacci Redemption

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Mystery, Thriller

Length:

418 pages

Blurb:

Amos Decker returns to his hometown of Burlington to visit his wife and daughter’s graves on the day that would have been his daughter’s fourteenth birthday, and comes face to face with Meryl Hawkins. Hawkins had murdered four people, thirteen years ago, including two children. He’d been found guilty of the murder on the basis of overwhelming evidence – evidence that Decker and his partner, Mary Lancaster, had found as detectives assigned to their first homicide. Released due to a terminal illness, Hawkins claims that he’s innocent, and he wants Decker to find the real killer. Decker refuses. Until another murder shocks the town and brings up an unexpected connection to the thirteen-year-old case. Had Decker really made a mistake and caused an innocent man’s incarceration? If Hawkins was innocent, who had really committed the four murders? And how many people may die if Decker doesn’t find the right answers in time?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the fifth book in the Amos Decker series, which is best read in chronological order:

  1. Memory Man (review here)
  2. The Last Mile (review here)
  3. The Fix (review here)
  4. The Fallen (review here)

Highlighted Takeaway:

The shift from who Decker began as in Memory Man, to the character he’s now been made into. It’s a risk – playing with the essence of what makes Decker, Decker. But Baldacci has built the shift well over the series, making it such that you can easily associate and empathize with this version of him.

What I Liked:

Each character holds their own in Redemption, making for a book that has multiple personal tangents that tie together really well. Vulnerabilities and strengths of all characters are well-explored to make them all relatable, and get the reader invested in the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing specific that is unlikable in the book.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys intricate and layered storylines, and anyone who likes complex mysteries that are about more than just the case at hand. Also, anyone who’s a fan of David Baldacci – the Decker series is one of his most popular one and for good reason.

Who Should Avoid:

People that enjoy thrillers where the chill gets into your bone. While Redemption is a thriller in that you’re turning the pages in a rush to know what happens next, it won’t leave you looking over your shoulder. So if that’s what you look for in a thriller, then it may be best to avoid Redemption.

Read It For:

A complex but well-laid storyline, great characterization, and the intriguing development of Amos Decker’s character.

Have you read David Baldacci’s Redemption yet? Share your thoughts on the book (or any other) in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

 

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Reminiscent of Stuart MacBride’s Misfit Mob: A Review of The Sleepwalker (by Joseph Knox)

I saw Joseph Knox’s The Sleepwalker in my Goodreads feed, and saw that it was available to read and review on NetGalley. So naturally, I had to get myself a copy (because of my obvious and possibly unhealthy love for the mystery/thriller genre). Three days later, I’m done with the book and can’t help but feel how similar the experience of reading it was to reading A Dark So Deadly by Stuart McBride (review here), which introduced readers to the Misfit Mob.

Here’s why The Sleepwalker was even better than A Dark So Deadly.

The Sleepwalker Joseph Knox

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

328 pages

Blurb:

Martin Wick was sentenced to death for the slaughter of an entire family. But Wick had no memory of the crime, earning him the nickname ‘The Sleepwalker’. Ten years later, Wick is dying in a hospital, under police watch. Detective Aidan Waits is part of the police protection detail that has only one job – watch Wick and try to find out the location of Wick’s last victim. But then, an attack leaves Wick and another policeman dead, and another gravely injured. And with his dying breath, Wick tells Waits something that sends him down a dangerous path where demons from his past, the search for the truth, and the threats of his present come crashing together. Will this be the end for Waits’ career and life? Will Waits fight the dangers that will pull him deeper into the storm from which there’s no return? Or will he embrace that darkness and the release it will bring?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book 3 of the Aidan Waits series. Book 1 – Sirens – has actually been on my list for a while. While I didn’t want to give up on the chance to read The Sleepwalker, I definitely felt like I should’ve started from Book 1. If you’re picking Joseph Knox as a new author to follow, start at the beginning – at Sirens.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Aidan Waits’ sour persona. It may have rubbed the other characters wrong, but I absolutely loved the way he was.

What I Liked:

Joseph Knox builds an intricately woven plot on the foundation of great characterization. The Sleepwalker reads really well, moves fast, and is also wonderfully human in its characters’ strengths and weaknesses.

What I Didn’t Like:

If I had to pick something, it would be the fact that the book wouldn’t have been complete without reference to its prequels. But, that very reference is what has now left me knowing more than what I would’ve liked to know about those very prequels. So if you pick this book up as a standalone read, you will enjoy it. But if you want to read the whole series, start with Sirens instead for a more complete experience.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves books set in the United Kingdom, especially if you like the works of Stuart MacBride.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not like books where the main protagonists are a little too dark; where they’re not anti-heroes, they’re just confused individuals trying to make the best of a situation and survive until they can be bothered to.

Read It For:

Aidan Waits’ struggle against himself and the hand he’s been dealt, as he tries to determine whether the effort is worth it at all.

A big thank you to NetGalley, Joseph Knox, and Transworld Publishers for an ARC of this book. The Sleepwalker comes out on 11 July 2019. Make sure to grab a copy if you love thrillers.

– Rishika

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The One You Sorta Get, But Not Entirely: A Review of Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

There are a few things you should know about Gorky Park before you read this review for said review to make any sense.

One, Gorky Park was actually written in Russian and translated into English – not something you realize when you read the blurb or buy the book.

Two, the cover may look all new and contemporary, but it’s an old book – originally published in 1981. It’s set in the 1980s in Russia, which was a very, very different time wrought with political nitty-gritties that most people aren’t completely aware of.

Three, in spite of being translated, it is actually very accurate in slang and style, something I realized when I watched Chernobyl right after reading this book and found the characters’ idiosyncrasies making more sense than they otherwise would’ve.

Four, those idiosyncracies make no sense for the first third of the book, until you get into it.

Now that we’ve got those out of the way… let’s get to this review!

Gorky Park Martiz Cruz Smith

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Mystery, Crime, Fiction

Length: 

592 pages

Blurb:

When Chief Inspector Arkady Renko discovers three mutilated in Gorky Park, he wants to do everything he can to prove that the case is more suitable for KGB than the militia. What begins as a minimal investigation turns into the biggest case of his life. As Renko is forced to question everything he’s believed in and trusted, he discovers more about himself than he thought possible, or even wanted. But will this realization help him find answers, or will it kill him?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

6 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for the mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10 for its abstract yet endearing style

Part of a Series: 

Apparently, yes. This is the first of the Arkady Renko series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The way Martin Cruz Smith manages to beautify the saddest and weakest vulnerabilities of human beings while showing that that is what makes us strong in the first place.

What I Liked:

The conflict that Arkady Renko has with himself as a good person dealt a bad hand, wanting to do the right thing even as he’s incredibly tempted to not, so as to protect himself.

What I Didn’t Like:

It was a little too local. There was so much reliance on the political and inter-country relationships at the crux of the story that I think it would leave anyone who wasn’t living in 1981 Russia feeling a little lost. Some perspective might have helped (especially for people like me whose knowledge of geography and history is downright-laughable).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys the abstract narrative that is seen quite often in slightly older novels. Anyone who loves Russia-based literature. And anyone who wants to try a mystery with a twist (a very, very large twist… and some small ones).

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes clear-cut plots – this one is super-twisty and can get a bit difficult to follow.

Read It For:

The authentic manner in which it captures a culture, and a look into the relationship-intricacies of two superpowers pitted against each other. Oh and also for this weird oxymoron that the book seems to be – it’s actually engaging and frustrating, simultaneously. You literally feel like putting it aside and not picking it up for a while, but still feel like turning page after page at the same time!

Gorky Park isn’t the easiest read, but it’s definitely an interesting one – to the extent that, in spite of feeling a little lost at many points, I wouldn’t mind reading more from Martin Cruz Smith, and am definitely going to follow the story of Arkady Renko. Before I come around to picking that one up though, there are many books to read and many reviews to share. Next up – The Sleepwalker by Joshua Knox.

Got something to add? Just drop a comment below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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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

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Enjoyable and Intriguing: Review of The Woman In Our House by Andrew Hart

After I read Tell Me A Secret (review here), I’d more or less sworn off of books that tried to imitate the niche genre highlighted by Gillian Flynn. Which is why I picked up The Woman In Our House with some reservations. The blurb was intriguing, but would the book focus more on the thrill factor as I’d hoped or go down the rabbit hole of a main female character’s self-pity was something to be seen.

Thankfully, it met expectations. And made for a captivating read. Before I go ahead, I’m sending NetGalley a big thanks for an ARC of this book! The Woman In Our House comes out on 18 June 2019.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Suspense, Psychological thriller

Length: 347 pages

Blurb:

Anna Klein and her husband decide to hire a live-in nanny when she decides to return to work as a literary agent after her second child turns a little over 6 months old. Oaklynn Durst arrives after numerous interviews and with stellar references. The children take to her immediately, leaving Anna feeling a little unwanted even as she remains thankful for Oaklynn and being able to go back to work. But when the children begin suffering from sudden illnesses and bruises, Anna begins to worry that Oaklynn may not be what she seems. But are her own insecurities driving her suspicion, or did she really put her children and even herself and her house under the care of a lying, scheming woman who wouldn’t hesitate to hurt any of them?

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 8 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 7 out of 10 for its thrill and suspense

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway: 

The plot. Let’s just say, “You will not see some things coming at all!”

What I Liked:

Characterization, especially that of the main protagonist, Anna Klien, was really well done. She wasn’t over the top or too self-pitying. In fact, she was just the right amount of neurotic and self-aware to make it easy to empathize with her, and even associate with her in many places.

What I Didn’t Like:

Similar to Tell Me A Secret, the men were only present when convenient. Even Anna’s husband is more ‘her husband’ than ‘a supporting character’. Given that he actually had a role to play in the book, there should have been a little more focus on him.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good suspense read, because it is surely that while definitely not being a ‘mess with your mind’ style psychological thriller. Those who like Mary Higgins Clark’s older books would probably like this one.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t like books that focus on women as central characters. The women in this book aren’t unrealistic in all action and thought in this book, but it’s still predominantly a woman-centric story.

Read It For:

Reminding yourself that the world still has those people who don’t exactly believe in the “live and let live” ideology, and that things aren’t always as they seem.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my book review. Say Hi! in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

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Good Potential, Weak Implementation: A Review of Done With Her by Chirasree Bose

A big thanks to the author who reached out and asked me to review her work! I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This is the debut novella (wouldn’t call it a novel at 73 pages) of techie turned content writer turned creative writer, Chirasree Bose.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Romantic thriller

Length: 73 pages

Blurb: Aveesh Mathur is shocked when he lays eyes on Spreeha, the new girl in his office whom everyone is lusting after. He cannot deny that she’s desirable, but she resembles someone from Aveesh’s past, a past he doesn’t want uncovered. Spreeha, who lives near Aveesh, already has a man in her life but is attracted to Aveesh because he resembles someone from her own past. As they are pulled inexplicably toward each other, Aveesh and Spreeha’s actions set off a chain of events that threaten all their relationships, and even their lives.

Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 10

Plot: 4 out of 10

Characterization: 1.5 out of 10

Primary Element: 6 out of 10 for its mystery/suspense

Writing Style: 1 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The social element that the book touches upon.

What I Liked:

Nothing specific.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The characterization was very weak and the characters lacked depth.
  • Too much abstract prose where it wasn’t required; it didn’t add the depth that may have been the aim.
  • A good basic story, but very weak implementation; it seemed like I was reading a long essay rather than a fleshed out story. And the basic premise did have enough depth for the story to have been more fleshed out.
  • Felt more like a work-in-progress story than an actual, completed book.
  • It also needs a lot of work on the POV; it’s written in the first person and the sudden changes across abrupt chapters made it difficult to follow the character from whose perspective the section was written.

Who Should Read It:

I wouldn’t actively recommend this book until it was further worked upon to flow better, be more complete, and went through a thorough, professional edit.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes stories that are complete and rounded, and does not like abrupt chapters strung together.

Read It For:

If at all, then for the social message that’s at the root of the book.

Overall, I think Bose has good vision and creativity. Translating it into a complete book (as all aspiring and existing authors have admitted) is about much more than just having a story idea. A good amount of time and effort investment could take Bose’s vision into a complete book that far surpasses Done With Her.

– Rishika

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