Category: Thriller

Apocalypse Baby by Virginie Despentes

Posted March 10, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Apocalypse Baby by Virginie DespentesTitle: Apocalypse Baby (Goodreads)
Author: Virginie Despentes
Translator: Siân Reynolds
Published: Serpent's Tail, 2010
Pages: 338
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Provocative French author Virginie Despentes is best known for her debut novel Baise-moi, which was published in 1993 to much controversy. The book was adapted into a film, which was also written and directed by Despentes. This debut novel is often considered the most controversial French novel of recent times, exploring a punk fantasy of two women on a vengeance rampage à la Thelma and Louise. The novel and film are modern examples of a crime thriller genre known as rape and revenge.

Virginie Despentes has had a salacious life, which ranges from working as a maid/sex worker in ‘massage parlours’ to being a pornographic film critic. As a novelist she has written seven novels of transgressive fiction, although only three have been translated into English. Her latest novel Apocalypse Baby (Apocalypse Bébé) was published in English by Feminist Press in 2015. The book is a faced-paced thriller about a missing adolescent girl. Two mismatched private investigators are paired together to find this lost girl.  The two follow the evidence from Paris to Barcelona and back on this epic road trip.

Lucie Toledo is not a great private investigator, her skills typically include watching over her clients, but when the troublesome fifteen-year-old Valentine disappears she is out of her league. Tasked to watch the girl by her grandmother, Lucie is held responsible. She enlists the help of the legendary detective, known as The Hyena to help with this missing person case. The Hyena is a sexist, misogynist; constantly wolf whistling at female pedestrians and grabbing their crotches. Two very different personalities stuck in a car propels the novel towards the inevitable conflict.

Apocalypse Baby is an unflinching thriller that never shies away from graphic descriptions. Though not without its flaws, the novel offers so much more than a psychological romp. Virginie Despentes uses this transgressive story as a platform for social criticism, exploring French politics and society. Between each chapter, there lies a glimpse at different members of Valentine’s family, exploring their own struggles and fears. Her father, step mother, and two sisters are all fleshed out in these sections; not taking away from the novel but rather giving an extra dimension and providing a deeper understanding on Valentine’s motivation.

What really stuck with me in Apocalypse Baby was the way it played with the idea of gender equality. Take for example the misogynist partner The Hyena, when you think about this character, did you envision a woman? I found myself constantly thinking “You are a woman, you should know better” but then I stop myself, a man should know better as well. I like the way Virginie Despentes used this idea as a tool to explore social issues. While this novel is nothing special, this one aspect really stuck with me and I appreciate just how masterfully Despentes made her point.


Mini Reviews; Crime Edition

Posted January 13, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 14 Comments

I do not know if it is the fact that I have had some big months recently or that I associate violence with the holiday period but I have felt the need to read crime fiction lately. I think after a recent review of Dexter is Dead, I have been searching from a new crime series, and hopefully I will find one soon. As crime novels are hard to review without spoilers I thought I will combine them into a mini-review.

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Vanishing Games (Goodreads)
Author: Roger Hobbs
Series: Ghostman #2
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Jack the Ghostman is backed, this time his mentor, Angela needs his help. After a heist to steal some uncut sapphires worth millions of dollars goes wrong, Angela finds herself in trouble. An unknown crime organisation seems to be after her and she is stuck in Macau without any help. She turned to her protégé in the hope to get back the sapphires and get out alive.

I remember Ghostman to be a fun, fast paced heist novel so when book two, Vanishing Games was released, I knew I would eventually read it. What worked really well in the book was the setting; Macau becomes this mysterious city full of uncertainty. A sovereign state of China, Macau is one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to housing the largest gambling district. A tourist attraction for high rollers, but still housing a seedy underbelly. I had a lot of fun with this book, it was fun and action packed, but still a typical heist novel which is not a bad thing


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: In the Woods (Goodreads)
Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Narrator: John McCormack
Published: Viking, 2007
Pages: 429
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

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I have been recommended the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French multiple times, not sure why. So I finally decided to pick up the first book In the Woods, which tells the story of Detective Rob Ryan and Detective Cassie Maddox assigned to the murder of a twelve year old girl. More than twenty years ago Ryan and two friends got lost in the same woods. He returned, but what happened to his friends remains a mystery.

This was a fresh and dark psychological suspense, which I enjoyed far more than I expected. My problem with best-seller crime novels is they tend to be very formulaic and unoriginal. Tana French managed to keep the same format but still made the book stand out. I think the chemistry between Ryan and Maddox played a big part of this. I was shipping the two and hoping they will end up together. I hear this series follows different characters in the Dublin murder squad which I am worried about, I want more from these two characters.


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Villain (Goodreads)
Author: Shūichi Yoshida
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2011
Pages: 295
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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One morning in January 2006, the body of a female insurance saleswoman, Yoshino was found dead on Mitsue Pass. A young construction worker, Yuichi is arrested for her murder. Shifting perspectives, Villain tells the story of the events leading up to Yoshino’s murder and the aftermaths.

Kosaku Yoshida is often considered as one of Japan’s best crime writers and as a fan of Japanese Lit, I knew I had to check one of his books out. However I was a little disappointed; the story was interesting but I was not a fan of the execution. I thought it builds up the suspense, then shifts perspective; which felt like it kept stopping and starting and that just felt too clunky. Yoshida explores the idea of alienation, which seems to be a common theme in Japanese fiction. This worked well, however this was not enough to redeem the novel for me.


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Hit Man (Goodreads)
Author: Lawrence Block
Series: Keller #1
Published: Harper Collins, 2002
Pages: 342
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: eBook

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Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripped down story.

I enjoy Lawrence Block’s style; it is nice to know someone is trying to keep the pulp crime genre alive. However Hit Man is more of a thriller series, which develops the complexities of this character with short intervals for an assassination. I like the way the stories interlock as a way to introduce John Keller, I have never seen this technique and think it worked well. Having said that, I think this is a fun book but I am not sure if I will continue the series. I am looking for something darker and do not think the Keller series will give me what I desire.


October 2015 Mini Reviews

Posted October 27, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Crime, Literary Fiction, Thriller / 2 Comments

October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: World Gone By (Goodreads)
Author: Dennis Lehane
Series: Coughlin #3
Published: William Morrow, 2015
Pages: 416
My Copy: Library Book

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Ten years after the events from Living by Night by Dennis Lehane, World Gone By, tells the story of Joe Coughlin in a changing world. Prohibition is now dead, the world is at war again and Joe’s enemies have destroyed his empire and killed his wife. The novel is set in both in Cuba and Ybor City, Florida and World Gone By explores the implications of Joe Coughlin’s past. A novel of crime, revenge and the moral complexity of a criminal past while being a good example for his son.

I am somewhat discontent with the state of popular crime fiction and find myself longing to be surprised. Normally I am a fan of crime novels and like to explore the psychological or gritty nature of the plot. World Gone By seems to offer something different, I did not connect with Living By Night, but the synopsis of its sequel was enough to raise my interest. Sadly, this was unable to deliver, and I felt disconnected to the plot due to the fact that it was overly cliché. I wanted to enjoy this book; the time era and the premise are two elements I love in fiction and I had heard such good things. I need to stop listening to hype, or maybe I should give up on crime fiction all together.


October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Mislaid (Goodreads)
Author: Nell Zink
Published: Fourth Estate, 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Set in 1966, at the campus of Stillwater College, Mislaid tells the story of Peggy. A freshman with literary aspirations, Peggy finds herself falling for Lee, a poet and one of her professors. Peggy falls pregnant and the two end up married. The only problem is, Peggy identifies herself as a lesbian and Lee as gay. This turns into some wry joke; they are an odd couple that has been mislaid.

Nell Zink takes it upon herself to explore the complex issue of sexuality with a mismatched pair stuck in a marriage that neither are interested in. The problem with Mislaid, is that this is such a complex issue and Zink was unable to handle the novel in a way it deserves. From the first chapter when the term ‘Mecca for lesbians’ was used, I felt uneasy about the way the GSM (Gender and/or Sexual Minorities) community was being treated. Then the wit found in Mislaid did not work for the majority of the novel. I was less than impressed with this book; it could have been a great story but nothing seemed to come together the way I expected.


October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico (Goodreads)
Author: Javier Marías
Translator: Esther Allen
Published: New Directions, 1996
Pages: 57
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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I do not know how I found this little gem, I would like to know who recommended it so I could personally thank them. Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico is a short novella that tells the story of Ruibérriz de Torres who is brought in to translate for Elvis Presley who is in Mexico to film Fun in Acapulco. While in town, Elvis and his entourage, find themselves in a seedy bar where they get into a little trouble with a local kingpin.

Javier Marías has managed to create a punchy story that explores a complex life of a translator, on one hand he has a big famous singer/actor that the world idolises and adores but his entourage has got him into trouble with a crime lord that is feared in Acapulco. Ruibérriz de Torres is stuck in the middle unsure if he should be translating the words that could get everyone into a fight. Should he censor the words for either Elvis or the kingpin just to keep the peace? This novella explores the idea of translations and the second hand nature of words, in a very meta way since this novella was translated from the Spanish into English by Esther Allen. This is only fifty pages long, but manages to explore a complex issue in a very interesting way; I have not been able to stop thinking about the ideas found in Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico.


October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Leaving Berlin (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Kanon
Translator: Esther Allen
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Almost four years after World War II, Berlin is a mess, divided in two. The east is occupied but the political ideas from the Soviet Union and the Allies are trying to control the west. This power struggle will later divide Germany into two with the erecting of the Berlin wall in 1961. Alex Meier is a young Jewish writer who managed to flee Nazi Germany to find a home in America. Only he found himself in the crosshairs of Joseph McCarthy during his “Red Scare” witch hunts. Alex and his family are now facing deportation; that was until he was given an alternative by the CIA but is this a solution at all?

The setting for Leaving Berlin is fascinating, the rebuilding and restoration of Germany is interesting enough as it is, but then you have the political struggle and influences of America and the Soviet Union as well. The American propaganda towards communism plays a big part in this espionage novel, and reading a book about a country being torn apart by the Cold War was really interesting. I am very interested in the history behind the Cold War, especially when it comes to the way the media was used to manipulate and of course I am interesting in the Soviet Union. As far as this novel goes, it was entertaining and I enjoyed reading it, however the setting and political history interested me more than the plot. I would have enjoyed a non-fiction novel of post-war Berlin more than Leaving Berlin, but that does not mean I regretted reading it.


The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

Posted August 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 0 Comments

The Two Faces of January by Patricia HighsmithTitle: The Two Faces of January (Goodreads)
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Published: Sphere, 1964
Pages: 306
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Con artist Chester MacFarland is wanted by the police back in America, but here in Greece, he feels free to roam with his young Colette. That was until he accidently kills a police officer in his hotel room. The young American law graduate, Rydal Keener is there to help them escape the city. This accident has brought the three together but is this for the best or is there something else at play?

Patricia Highsmith is often referred to as the queen of suspense and The Two Faces of January does not do anything to contradict this. The title alone gives the reader a pretty clear idea of what to expect; the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus has two faces, one looking to the future while the other looks at the past. The term Janus-faced means “having two sharply contrasting aspects or characteristics”. In the biography Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson, Highsmith stated that the title was a reference to the flux-like nature of the characters that she likes to create.

When it comes to character development, Patricia Highsmith really shines like no other. She has a great ability to create complex characters that feel authentic, and that is an ability that I find lacking in a lot of suspense novels. In The Two Faces of January, Highsmith creates a love triangle that is actually interesting to read about. There is the homoerotic relationship between Chester and Rydal and Colette is also quite taken by this young law graduate. This turns the book into more of a psychological look at the shifting nature of relationships rather than a thriller. It does depends on how the reader decides to read The Two Faces of January but for me the depth is what stood out for me.

I probably should mention that The Two Faces of January was adapted into a movie back in 2014 starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac. This was the directorial debut for Hossein Amini, who is best known writing the screenplay for the novels Drive and Our Kind of Traitor; he even wrote the script for The Two Faces of January. I know I need to have more Highsmith within my reading life and I am thinking about re-reading The Talented Mr Ripley, before continuing on with the series. I have noticed there are new editions of the Highsmith’s novels lately and I think I should take advantage of the availability while they are easily accessible.


The Whispering City by Sara Moliner

Posted May 15, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 2 Comments

The Whispering City by Sara MolinerTitle: The Whispering City (Goodreads)
Author: Sara Moliner
Translator: Mara Faye Lethem
Series: Martí #1
Published: Little Brown and Company, 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Paperback

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General Franco was at the height of his power in Barcelona, 1952. When a wealthy socialite is found murdered in her mansion, the police scramble to seize control of the investigation. An over eager journalist named Ana Martí Noguer is assigned the task of shadowing the lead investigator, Inspector Isidro Castro. However, Ana discovers a bunch of letters that dramatically contradict the official statement made by the police. Now she is in mortal danger; her information can expose a conspiracy of murder and corruption.

The Whispering City (originally title: Don de lenguas) is a Spanish novel written by Sara Moliner and translated into English by Mara Faye Lethem. Sara Moliner is the pseudonym of the writing duo of Spanish author Rosa Ribas and former German philosophy professor Sabine Hofmann. This is their first book together and, with their backgrounds and the premise, I went into this novel with high expectations. Sadly, this turned into a run-of-the-mill thriller novel which is not a bad thing; I just was hoping for so much more.

The back drop of a fascist government, known for their shadowing tactics, mixed with the philosophical background of Sabine Hofmann meant I was hoping for some interesting insights. I was hoping to learn about the cultural landscape and the political impact of Barcelona in 1952 but the main focus on this book was the murder and the conspiracy. Having recently read Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (translated by Edith Grossman), which explored the political and cultural issue in Peru at the time, I was expecting something similar with The Whispering City.

The Whispering City is in no way a bad novel, and I found it incredibly entertaining and worked as a palette cleanser for me while I was reading The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis and The Stranger by Albert Camus. One of the main reasons I am drawn to books in translation is the insight into the cultural life and I did not get that with this book. The Whispering City reminds me a bit of The Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, with a journalist as a protagonist investigating murder and corruption. While it was not as dark as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I found it a lot more enjoyable but still the same thriller formula.


Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo

Posted April 18, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 2 Comments

Red April by Santiago RoncaglioloTitle: Red April (Goodreads)
Author: Santiago Roncagliolo
Translator: Edith Grossman
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Published: Atlantic Books, 2011
Pages: 288
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Audiobook

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Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar does everything by-the-book, he is organised and knowledgeable on the laws of the land but this tends to rub people the wrong way. When a body is found burnt beyond recognition, Chacaltana’s life is never going to be the same. The investigation into this unique murder leads the associate District Prosecutor to question the choices the government are making. Set during Holy Week in Peru, Red April is a chilling political thriller that explores a twisted murder and a morally bankrupt government.

Red April takes place during Lent 2000, mainly in the Peruvian city of Ayacucho and follows a methodical prosecutor as he investigates a bizarre crime. These were the final days of Alberto Fujimori who vacated the presidency and fled the country in November 2000 due to a major corruption scandal and allegations of human rights violations. When Fujimori came to power in 1990, Peru was dominated by two terrorist organisations, the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso and the Marxist-Leninist organisations known as Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). It was not until about 1997 when most of this internal conflict resolved, but this was achieved by the Grupo Colina, which was a death squad made up of members of the Peruvian Armed Forces.

Set in the early 2000s, this novel explores that period of time where people loved Alberto Fujimori for making them feel safe but corruption is becoming a big problem. Even the main protagonist struggled with the idea of not supporting the president. Saying something like “the terrorist killed my mother, brother and sister but since the president took office, no one else from my family has been killed. Why would I vote for somebody else?” This hold on the past is something that runs strong throughout the novel, particularly with Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar who holds on to the memory of his mother. The book is set during Lent and then Holy Week which is a time of reflection and to remember the past, when Christ died for the sins of the world.

Peru is a very religious country, in the 2007 census only 2.9% identified as non-religious, with 81.3% claiming to be Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church is a very important part of the country, even Article 50 of its constitution states that “[the Church is] an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation.” The city of Ayacucho, in which the majority of this novel is set. lays claim to 33 Catholic Churches (one for every year of Jesus’ life) and hosts a large religious celebration during Holy Week every year. When reading Red April you quickly learn just how important religion is to the Peruvian people and the plot of the novel.

One of the things that fascinated me about Red April is the culture depicted within the book. Santiago Roncagliolo did not shy away from depicting the dark themes or the problematic political situation that Peru faces. He questions the counter-terrorism strategies of the Fujimori government but also depicts the overall sense of relief that the people had when terrorist organisations were dealt with. The corrupt government and the bureaucratic nightmare that Felix lived through all gave a sense of the political landscape. The Associate District Prosecutor did everything to the letter of the law, including sending rapists to prison; however this made him an outcast, even the rape victims got angry that they were unable to marry their attackers and get their reputation intact.

One reason I read a lot of translated fiction is because I find it interesting to explore different cultures and worlds. The Peru depicted in Red April is so foreign to me that I could not help but be spellbound by the cultural differences. Red April was the 2011 winner of the International Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP), a literary award I have started to follow closely now that I read more books in translation. The novel was translated into English by Edith Grossman and is a book that I picked up in order to read more books from South America. I am very glad to have read Red April, not only is it an excellent mystery/thriller but as you can see it was an interesting insight into Peru.


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Posted December 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 2 Comments

The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsTitle: The Girl on the Train (Goodreads)
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published: Transworld Publishers, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Every day Rachel takes the train into London and at a particular stop she likes to look out to the street and observe the row of back gardens. One house in particular is of particular interest to Rachel; she likes to imagine the lives of the couple living there, in which she has named ‘Jess and Jason’. They seem so happy, compared to her on life, she views them as a perfect couple. Until one day the minute stop allowed her to see something shocking, which leads Rachel to become a part of their lives. Rachel becomes more than The Girl on the Train.

I have to admit that I was a little hesitant going into this book; I thought it was going to try and replicate what Gone Girl did. While in the same vain with the multiple perspectives between Rachel and ‘Jess’, whose real name is Megan, The Girl on the Train stands on its own. While this book is already being compared to Gone Girl, I would just like to say that The Girl on the Train shares more similarities to The Silent Wife than anything else.

This novel plays a lot with the ideas of relationships and perspective; what may seem like a perfect couple on the surface can be a deceiving. Without going too much into the plot, I want to look at the way ‘Jess and Jason’ are perceived by Rachel. Obviously Rachel is an unreliable narrator, she only sees the couple’s house for a minute or two a day and not always the couple. To pass the time on her commute, she makes up this whole idea of what is happening in their lives.

The Girl on the Train does go a little deeper with exploring ideas of relationship, with a focus on abuse. Emotional abuse becomes a key component in the book and Paula Hawkins dives into the previous marriage of Rachel and even adding a couple of chapters from her ex-husband’s new wife. This thriller mainly happens on a psychological level and the reader gets an insight into the effects of emotional abuse.

There is a lot to be said about The Girl on the Train and I think this would make an excellent pick for a book club. Unfortunately reviewing a book like this makes it difficult, I am too worried about giving out spoilers and this restricts me from diving deeper into the themes within the novel. This debut by Paula Hawkins is not without its flaws; I think there was a missed opportunity to dive deeper into the major themes, however I did enjoy my time with this novel.


You by Caroline Kepnes

Posted October 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

You by Caroline KepnesTitle: You (Goodreads)
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Series: You #1
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2014
Pages: 422
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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A smile and a rant about books and Dan Brown from a beautiful woman is all it took. Joe Goldberg has a new obsession. Guinevere Beck is everything he ever wanted; she is smart, witty, and sexy but there is only one problem, she is not his. Beck doesn’t know it yet but Joe is going to do whatever it takes to make this relationship work.

You is a chilling psychological thriller about obsession and relationships. You starts off with a second person perceptive but it becomes apparent that the reader in never intended to be the ‘you’ Joe obsesses over. This unique viewpoint offers a weird and creepy insight into Joe’s obsession and slowly the novel morphs back into a more comfortable first person perspective. This really worked for me; I thought it was a great way to kick off the novel but I suspect this may cause real problems for other readers.

I am hesitant in reviewing this book because I really don’t want to give too much away. For me, this is much more than a thriller, this is much more than a book about obsession. This was a novel about relationships; the way we treat and try to possess others, manipulate others, as well as how much we really reveal to our partners. Sure, this is cranked up to eleven but the concepts are there, just explored in an extreme way.

What I loved about You was the way Caroline Kepnes takes normal relationship behaviours and just push them to their extremes. This allows the reader to look at relationships in a whole new way and explore how we treat others. Joe isn’t the only problem, every person in this novel explores a different behavioural trait and they all work together. While the overall feel for this novel is a psychological thriller, this relationship element is what made it work. The synopsis on the back of You calls it a “perversely romantic thriller” and that is the perfect way to describe this novel.

I know this book won’t be for everyone, there is a lot here that could put people off, however for me it was a perfect combination of thriller and relationship critique. The psychological element worked effectively to drive home some themes throughout the novel. You is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time, it did something different with the genre and it was executed well. Caroline Kepnes pulled off a difficult task, I am looking forward to see what she comes up with next.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Posted September 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Crime, Thriller / 0 Comments

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnTitle: Gone Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Gillian Flynn
Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012
Pages: 442
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

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I’ve been trying to review this book for a while now and it has become a real struggle. I don’t want to give any spoilers for this brilliant book so I will try my best. Advanced warning: this review may have spoilers or turn out incredible vague. When I first saw this book I kept thinking this was just another YA novel but then I noticed this book kept popping up everywhere so I thought I better read what this is about and when I did, I had to read it right away.

When Amy disappears in suspicious circumstances all eyes fall to her husband as the primary suspect. Nick claims he is innocent but the evidence is not in his favour. Did Nick kill his wife? As this novel progressed any ideas of what happened will be shattered, any presumptions you’ve made about the characters will be wrong. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a dark and twisted journey with so much unpredictability that you will be up all night trying to find out what really happened to Amy.

What I loved about this book was that you never really know what to expect. The book is told from the perspective of Nick and Amy, the diary of Amy tells the back story of their lives while the alternative chapters told from Nick takes the story from the disappearance. Slowly the pieces start to fall into place but there is always another curve ball just around the corner. The dark and psychological aspects of this novel remind me of something Jim Thompson would write but then the thriller and suspense of this book reminds me a lot of books like Before I Go to Sleep or Into the Darkest Corner.

Flynn did a brilliant job with this novel, it kept me up at night, made me want to skip work to read this book and in the end any spare time I had I was back in this book trying to find out what really happened to Amy. I wasn’t sure what I was in for and I didn’t know who to believe but in the end I enjoyed the ride. On reflection this book seemed incredibly basic with its plot but writing in a brilliant way that while reading you never have enough pieces to solve this puzzle. Highly recommend this book to any lovers of mystery and suspense.


Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Posted August 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 0 Comments

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen KingTitle: Mr. Mercedes (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen King
Published: Hodder, 2014
Pages: 496
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Paperback

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When I picked up Stephen King’s new novel Mr Mercedes, I felt anxious and nervous. This novel has been billed as King’s first hard-boiled detective novel and it reminded me of his past attempts at pulp fiction. Joyland was billed as a pulp novel and by all accounts it had the makings of a good dime-store novel but the end result felt like King stuck to what he does best and only paying homage to the genre. Mr Mercedes has all the hallmarks of a hard-boiled novel, a brooding and jaded detective, a femme fatale and mysterious villain but this read more like a cat and mouse suspense thriller. Don’t get me wrong, this novel is a homage to detective fiction; Philip Marlow gets a mention and a fedora even makes an appearance. Though the third person narrative and chapters focusing solely on the killer meant we are in a thriller and I had to adjust my expectations.

Bill Hodges is a retired cop with not much to do; when he was on the force he was highly decorated but now he is left alone with the thoughts of all his unsolved cases. One of those cases was the psycho-loner who ploughed down a crowd of people in a stolen Mercedes. One day Hodges receives a letter from this killer taunting him into a little game of cat and mouse. This is a high-stakes race against time; can Hodges catch the Mercedes Killer before he strikes again?

I found it interesting that Stephen King picked the fundamental character archetypes found in hard-boiled fiction, in particular to Bill Hodges, and made it his own. On the other hand the plot felt into the typical tropes found in suspense thrillers. So we have a book that is walking a fine line between homage and cliché. When it comes to hard-boiled detectives, there has been a great evolution in the genre and character archetype; it was felt a little dated to see an old white guy again. I felt it to be unnecessary, in fact I am struggling to think of any ethnicity within the book that didn’t come across as stereotypical. It was a shame because you can do so much with a hard-boiled detective and still keep him as a homage to 1940’s crime novels.

I get the impression that maybe Stephen King is the kind of writer that sticks to the tried and true methods of writing within a genre. As prolific author, I’m beginning to question if he ever takes a risk in his writing. I am not one to judge King’s work, I’ve only read a few of his books (I think five) but they all seem to follow the typical tropes found within their genres. Does he take risks?

It is starting to bug me this whole ‘old white guy’ category of novels all feature non-multicultural characters and if we do have some ethnicity, they all feel a little too stereotypical. It isn’t necessary in today’s novels; there is room to explore some diversity within a book. I won’t go into anything about feminism because I fear I would give spoilers with what I want to say but we need more strong/independent women in novels like this.

Having had a bit of a rant, I found that I’ve managed to talk about the novel and not give any spoilers. I did in fact enjoy the ride this took me on, it was predictable and typical of the genre but sometimes it is fun to go on that journey again. In fact (with the exception of On Writing) I think this is the first Stephen King novel that I have actually enjoyed. I find some parts of his other books entertaining but on a whole they do not work for me. Maybe I’ve just read the wrong King novels. Bill Hodges is returning in another two more novels and I will be picking them up and using the books as a little entertaining read when I need them.