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Review: The Chinaman (By Stephen Leather)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 420 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A casual observer saw The Chinaman as little more than the owner of a small Chinese takeaway business in South London. That was the life he’d chosen when he was finally able to put behind him his years as a jungle-skilled, lethal assassin who had fought for the Viet Cong and the Americans. He had already watched two of his daughters being raped and killed by Thai pirates. So the hardworking, quiet life suited him, his wife, and only remaining daughter.

When his wife and daughter are murdered in an IRA bombing, he does what any law-abiding citizen would do – reaches out to the authorities. But he’s shunned by everyone he approaches, labeled a nuisance. That’s when The Chinaman realizes that his days of war aren’t truly behind him. And this time, he’s fighting for revenge.

The bottom line:

A hard-hitting, emotional, violent story that is much more than what its title suggests.

My review:

The first thing to know about The Chinaman is that it is intensely emotional, especially during the backstory of the titular character. But it is equally hard-hitting during scenes where other characters interact. You really feel for the characters because everyone has something going on beyond what the world within the book sees, and their constant turmoil is beautifully displayed.

The second thing to know about it is that it is extremely violent. There are moments when you just cannot accept the horrifying scenes unfolding in front of you as you read, and are yet are compelled to move ahead. There is no sugar-coating on death. It is displayed in all its ugliness, and in its raw, heart-wrenching honesty.

The story itself is much more than what the title claims. While the Chinaman is an integral part of it – the one who ties everything together – there is a lot more going on. A lot of people play pivotal roles in the development of the story, making it much more than a simple tale of revenge. It is built on the foundation of a political issue, but avoids being typical in its delivery when venturing into the political aspects. There is always something happening and it keeps you turning the pages.

Stephen Leather’s style is refreshing. It is strong and raw. It does not shy away from depicting the horrors of life and death. And he creates strong characters who, through their strengths, weaknesses, and flaws, are incredibly human. It is also extremely detailed, delving into the real technical aspects of skills possessed by the characters. Also, the book comes with a good amount of twists you don’t see coming.

There are only two things I thought could have been done differently. The first is the amount of detail at every step – that could have been reduced. I loved reading about the Chinaman’s skill, but it did get a bit monotonous after a while. I mean, I don’t have to know every step taken to make every single bomb. The second is the reactions that some of the characters had at certain moments. They seemed highly absurd and although these were explained at a later point, I still think that they could have been handled better. These few problems did reduce the overall quality of the reading experience for me.

What I like most about the book is that it isn’t black and white. It is various shades of gray where antagonists seem to have a good side, and protagonists carry out the most heinous of acts. And yet, they all seem to do what their lives force them to do, forever burdened or comfortable with their own actions.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Chinaman, and Stephen Leather’s style. I’m definitely going to be adding him to my list of authors to follow. I’d recommend the book to:

  • all readers who enjoy fiction
  • thriller and mystery fans

I read The Chinaman when I did because of the movie inspired by it and that was to hit the cinema sometime now. While I’m still not sure if it’s going to be screened at any cinema in my city (which is terribly upsetting because I would have loved to see the adaptation), I’m still glad it gave me an opportunity to discover Stephen Leather.

Read The Chinaman? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

– Rishika

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Review: That Last Weekend (By Laura DiSilverio)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 312 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Laurel Muir did not want to accept the unexpected but familiar invitation and return to Chateau du Cygne Noir – the castle turned BnB – for a weekend getaway with her friends. The tragedy that had struck ten years ago had sent those very friends on their own individual paths, the friendship strained, almost broken by what had happened. That event had ended a decade-long tradition of annual weekend getaways, and filled each of their hearts with doubt for each other. Driven by the need to rekindle that friendship and overcome the past, she finds herself accepting the invitation. But the past is not done with them yet. When a murderer strikes, the remaining friends are forced to face the truth – a killer lies in their midst. Thrown once again into a police investigation and with nowhere to go, they decide to uncover the truth this time. But Laurel does not know who to trust as she adamantly takes it upon herself to find answers. And as the skeletons in the closet are slowly exposed, Laurel finds that she may have been too ambitious and that her ambition could cost her her life.

My take:

First off, thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of The Last Weekend. Here is my honest review.

That Last Weekend is a ‘novel of suspense’. And it definitely keeps the suspense. The story is interesting and is filled with twists and turns, most of which you don’t see coming. Set in the present, the story touches upon events of the past through flashbacks. The transitions are smooth and comfortable to follow. They don’t break the flow and, in fact, add some interesting dimensions to the book.

The book gets right into it without much preamble. As a result, you take some time to get used to who’s who. That is still easier to do here than it is with a Mary Higgins Clark novel, though. Keeping with its ‘let’s get right to it’ beginning, the book moves along at a fast pace, without a single dull moment. It also has some good creepy elements which really set the scene perfectly. The writing style pulls you in and keeps you there, really allowing you to experience the entire eerie castle and small town setting, and adding to the suspense.

Yet, there are some aspects of the book that come across as a bit annoying. Some of the characters, for example. While Laurel seems level headed and easy to associate with, some of the other characters are just irritating. It wasn’t an in-your-face sort of irritation. It is just the way they are – not too pleasant would be the best way to describe it, I guess. You could chalk that up to the diversity that is existent in people. But their reactions to the events are just not sensible enough for someone who was in that situation. I have to admit that the diversity is what brings credibility and depth to such a story, but that didn’t exactly stop me from growling at the screen of my tablet at certain moments.

The last thing is that the story itself is actually incredibly interesting. It is twisted to a whole other level. But that itself is what made me wonder, “Can someone even be like that?” And that hint of incredibility brings down its appeal just a notch.

(Yes, I am aware that the last two paragraphs have me contradicting myself a lot. It was just that kind of a book.)

All in all, That Last Weekend was a more-than-just-good kind of read. It moved fast, kept me turning the pages, maintained its suspense well, and had a storyline that was convoluted to the right degree. It may not be the best suspense novel you read (given its few drawbacks), but is definitely worth reading especially if:

  • you like suspense novels
  • you like cozy mysteries
  • you enjoy murder mysteries and classic whodunits

That Last Weekend is scheduled for release on September 8, 2017 by Midnight Ink. I’d recommend grabbing a copy.

Liked or hated this review? Drop a comment below and tell us why. Also, let us know what you thought of the book or why you’d want to read it. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

 

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