Tag Archives: crime fiction

Review: The Lucky Ones (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Fiona had never been happier. In fact, today was the happiest day of her life. The only thing she didn’t know was that it was also the last day of her life.

Ben Hofland moves from London back to his small hometown of Shropshire after the discovery of his wife’s infidelity. Along with him is his eleven-year-old son who is struggling to come to terms with the separation and fit into this new life. Ben believes that the quietness of the town that had driven him away years ago is the very thing he needs to heal and build a new life for his son and himself.

Detective Inspector Imogen Evans had similar expectations when she left London, the city she’d grown up in, and its painful memories behind to move to Shropshire. The last thing she’d expected from the sleepy town was murder. But when another body turns up, Evans realizes that she’s dealing not only with murder but with a serial killer. And one who has already left three victims in picturesque locations with their eyes open and lips turned into frozen smiles of deadly bliss.

When Ben finds work and learns that his son’s bullies have decided to leave him alone, he finally feels like his bad luck has ended. That it’s finally time for him to have the happiness he deserves. But Ben has no idea that someone is watching him – someone who wants him to have much more than happiness. Someone who wants him to have eternal bliss. Will DI Evans be able to understand what drives the killer before he claims another life? Or will Ben pay the ultimate price for his happiness?

My take:

First off, I’d like to give a big ‘Thank You’ to NetGalley for a copy of this book and the opportunity to read (and review) it.

Now, to the book itself.

The Lucky Ones has all the right elements for a serial killer themed psychological thriller, and they’re all executed really well. It’s got great suspense with the end being quite unexpected. Even if you have figured out a part of it, there’s a whole lot more to the conclusion that you will not see coming. It’s got the right amount of gore, disturbing descriptions, and suspicious characters. And it’s got a relentless pace with something interesting happening on almost every page.

What I liked most about the book was the depth with which it went into the antagonist’s point of view. Many novels tend to have more implied explanations of why people do the things they do. But Edwards leaves nothing to your guessing capabilities. He lays it all out clearly, and that gives the story this rounded feel that I have always enjoyed. At the same time, it gives you insight into some seriously twisted ideologies that act as motivation for the antagonist’s actions. In fact, Edwards even goes on to say that the inspiration for this book was a conversation he’d overheard at a café. And this leaves you wondering just what people of our the world may be capable of thinking and doing.

All the characters are well-defined and you get a very real view of their struggles. Although protagonists, Ben and Evans have their own demons. Their decisions and emotions aren’t clearly segregated into black and white. Much like with most people in real life, they fall in a gray area. This realistic take on his characters adds good value to the book and allows you to relate with it on a much stronger level.

There were two aspects, though, that I thought could have been done better. There should have been more detail about how Ben and Imogen felt about their own emotional lives individually before that aspect abruptly appears in the latter part of the book (I would’ve called this a spoiler but c’mon… like you hadn’t already expected this angle to be present!). The second is that there were some parts, although not exclusively evident, that seemed to be missing depth. This was more of a feeling than a line or paragraph that I could point out – but the result was that it made certain parts of the story, and hence the book, stay just below the ‘this is brilliant’ line.

In spite of those problems, I would highly recommend The Lucky Ones to:

  • fans of thrillers, serial killer stories, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
  • people interested in trying out a new author – Mark Edwards does not disappoint
  • people wanting to add a new author to their ‘I need to read all his books’ list

I’m definitely going to be reading more of Mark Edwards’ work. In fact, I’d had another of his books on my TBR pile for a while. Which is why I was even more excited when I got this book from NetGalley.

The Lucky Ones is expected to come out on June 15. Don’t miss this psychological thriller and let us know what you thought of the book and/or this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: The Last Mile (By David Baldacci)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 417 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Melvin Mars was a twenty-year-old football star with a promising NFL career before him. But fate had other plans. Convicted for the gruesome murder of his parents, he spends twenty years in jail on Death Row. Except, minutes before his execution, another man confesses to the killings. The case hits too close to home for Amos Decker, now on the way to begin the next phase of his life as a part of a special team of the FBI. He convinces his team to take up Mars’ case. But the case is far from being simple.

As the investigation deepens, Decker finds himself in an intricately designed web of deceit, whose roots lie in a time of American history that most people want to forget. But that isn’t easy for the Memory Man. Decker refuses to back down even as he faces enemies at the highest levels of power who will do anything it takes to keep the truth from surfacing. Committed to finding the truth, Decker finds his new career, his life, and the lives of those he has grown to care about, threatened. Now, Decker can only hope that his unique talents and his team’s persistence are enough to solve the case, even if that means changing his and Mars’ lives forever.

My take:

Amos Decker returns in The Last Mile and becomes part of another great read by David Baldacci.

The book covers many sensitive topics including racism and hate crimes. At the same time, it shows the progression of thought that has led to better times, while also depicting the lack of that advancement in some cases. It derives from very real times and makes for great fiction.

You revisit the characters from Memory Man and find new ones – all of whom manage to make their mark. The progress of the characters is shown really well, especially that of Amos Decker. You learn more about the effects of his conditions and watch him try and fit into the new life he has, with the past having concluded as much as it possibly could for him. You also get to see the development of his relationship with the people he works with, and of his team as a whole, all of which makes every character seem familiar and known. But the primary focus remains on Decker and Mars, and their most unlikely of relationships.

Baldacci made a great protagonist in Amos Decker – he’s likable, easy to associate with in spite of his unique personality, and really pulls you in with his perseverance of the truth. Although wired in a complicated manner, Decker is oddly simple and straightforward, making you wish that you (and others) could be like him – where the only thing that matters is how things really are, and not how they’re convoluted or manipulated to be. Decker drives the entire plot and story, and although you do end up wishing for more participation from the others, the story moves ahead relentlessly.

The Last Mile has good suspense, amazing twists, an intriguing story line, and an insight into the best and worst of human beings. It doesn’t try to put things and people into how they should be, but just into how they are – and that means accepting that people can be good and bad, sometimes at the same time. The book is an edge of the seat read, leaving you turning page after page, and keeping you hooked from the get-go. Unsurprisingly, it matches its prequel in impact and enjoyment, and leaves you wanting to read more of Baldacci’s work. I’m definitely going to be reading the third in the Decker series sometime soon. And also picking up the other Baldacci books in my TBR pile.

Recommended to:

  • thriller aficionados
  • crime fiction lovers
  • fans of crime and thriller novels with a multi-angle approach that are more than a whodunit

Let us know what you thought of The Last Mile and this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

PS: If you haven’t read any of the Decker books yet, you should probably start with Memory Man. My review here tells you what to expect from the first book of the series.

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Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (By Stieg Larsson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 554 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Harriet Vanger disappeared without a trace forty years ago. Her uncle Henrik Vanger was the head of the Vanger Corporation, one of the largest and wealthiest business families of Sweden. Now retired and aged, he is still obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance and is convinced that one of his own family members is responsible for her murder.

Mikael Blomkvist is convicted in a libel case for the publication of an article in his magazine Millenium against Swedish business bigwig Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. His unproven article destroys his reputation and brings his career to a standstill.

Lisbeth Salander is a private investigator, one of the best of Milton Security. Unbeknownst to her own boss, she is an exceptional hacker. But she is also young, dangerous, and keeps to herself. Behind her silent demeanor, she hides scars of a traumatic life. She trusts no one, least of all the police. Those who commit injustice against her are answerable to her, and her alone.

The paths of these three individuals cross when Henrik Vanger hires Mikael to find Harriet’s murderer in exchange for proof that will reinstate his good name in the field of financial journalism. Lisbeth finds herself aiding him in the investigation, and the most unlikely of bonds is formed. As the investigation continues, Mikael and Lisbeth find new evidence in the case after more than forty years. But someone does not want the case solved. And, as Mikael and Lisbeth learn, he will go to any lengths to ensure that old secrets remain buried forever.

My take:

The English translation of the original Swedish name of this book is ‘Men who hate women’. That should tell you exactly what to expect if and when you decide to read it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is primarily based on the misogyny in Sweden – in the form of sexism, rape, murder, and any other heinous act you can think of. This central theme is supported by financial crime and journalism and a simple murder mystery. The story follows multiple avenues that come together in quite a neat little bow.

It has decent elements of suspense and a good thriller vibe. It’s even got some abnormal psychology tossed in. All in all, as a story, it’s quite good and hard hitting, as expected from a book of the genre.

But there are a lot of things that could have been altered to make for a better reading experience.

Larsson’s writing style, at least when translated into English, is very in-the-moment. He tells you every activity of every character, however irrelevant. I suppose it’s a scene setting tactic, but avoiding it could have saved on about 75 pages of unnecessary reading. It also leads to some very dry storytelling of potentially edge-of-your-seat thriller material.

One of the main things is that approximately 25% of the book is done before the girl with the dragon tattoo actually comes into the limelight. Until then, she remains in the background, with the story occasionally covering her life, like a secondary character who you think will have an impact in some small way. But the fact remains that she has a massive role to play in the unfolding of the story and so, her delayed appearance does seem a bit odd.

The most difficult part of the book to digest, though, was the abrupt transition. True to its theme, the book describes the most horrifying rapes and atrocities you could imagine in the disturbing contrast of vivid, yet almost mundane, detail. Then, it shifts to scenes of consensual and casual sex as experienced by another character altogether. Frankly, after reading the former, I could’ve done without reading about the latter for a good three days. A double line spacing was not enough of a break!

At the end of it though, without your even realizing it, you’ll really like Lisbeth Salander. You will feel for her. And even though there are many things that turned me off about the book, I want to read the remaining two parts of the Millenium Trilogy – only to know what happens to Lisbeth. It’s weird that way – even with the many avenues the book took, it came through on its (English) name. It really is about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… and she’s worth reading about.

Recommended to:

  • fans of thrillers, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
  • those who have a strong stomach (because you need to digest a lot of graphic violence)
  • patient readers who can push through around 200 pages of random stuff before the main story begins (it can be very annoying at some points until then)

Let me know what you thought about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and/or this review – drop a comment below!

P.S.: Mikael Blomkvist is equal parts annoying as hell, and likable.

P.P.S.: Do the characters in this book do anything other than work, have sex, eat the occasional sandwich, and drink hundreds of cups of coffee? I mean, c’mon, eat real food now and then!

– Rishika

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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

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Review: Drained (By E.H.Reinhard)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 157 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Hank Rawlings has just made Agent in the homicide division of the FBI’s serial crimes unit. But the ex-Tampa Homicide Detective barely has time to settle into his new role before he’s sent to Chicago on a case. A serial killer who has managed to evade the law for years has resurfaced. His victims are turning up in dumpsters, drained completely of all their blood. And the body count is rising steadily. Rawlings and his new partner, Agent Beth Harper, have to dig deep and dig fast if they have any hope of catching the killer before he disappears again. But can they track down a killer who always manages to stay one step ahead? Or will the case cost much more than either of them is willing to pay?

My take:

Drained is your pretty regular, fast-paced, crime fiction. It doesn’t take a whodunit approach, but more of a will-they-catch-him approach. This brings in its own interesting elements as you see the protagonist and antagonist trying to out-do one another.

You get great insight into Hank Rawlings who played a supporting character in Malevolent and he comes into his own, evolving into a likable and strong personality. There’s also some light being shed on the relationship he shares with his wife – a relationship that was only touched upon in the first of the Lieutenant Kane series. There are other well-rounded characters that bring a wholesome feel to the story.

What I liked about Reinhard’s work, and it stays true in Drained too, is that he offers a certain amount of completion as far as motive, methods, and background of the antagonist are concerned. So you’re not left high and dry, wondering why someone would do what they do, and feeling like you didn’t get any closure.

The story moves along pleasantly enough, isn’t gore-filled, and keeps you turning the pages fast. The only thing it has against it is the play-by-play that is Reinhard’s preferred style. Personally, I’m not a big fan of having every action spelled out for me, so that can get a bit tedious to read (I’ve explained more about this in my review of Malevolent which you can read here).

All in all, Drained isn’t a great piece of literary excellence and, to be honest, I don’t think it’s meant to be that either. It’s meant to be a fast reading crime fiction with a considerable amount of suspense and twists, and a decent group of characters. On all those fronts, the book delivers. And it definitely keeps you interested enough to want to follow the series and Hank Rawlings’ FBI career.

Recommended to anyone:

  • who wants to indulge in some quick crime fiction
  • is a die hard crime fiction fan
  • as a travel read (it’s just 157 pages long)

– Rishika

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Review: Hush (By Anne Frasier)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ivy Dunlap had been waiting for the call for sixteen years – the call that would tell her that he’s resurfaced. She had no doubt that he would. The man who had murdered her son and left her for dead wouldn’t stay in the dark forever – he was compelled to kill. As a criminal psychologist, Ivy knew that.

And when the call did come, Ivy knew that she had no choice. She couldn’t continue living the life that was a lie, the life where she was safe, but where no one knew who she really was. So, she went back to help the Chicago PD apprehend the man who had been murdering single mothers and their infant sons. But going back was not going to be easy. Keeping her real identity a secret was not going to be easy. Chasing the man who’d haunted her waking and sleeping hours for sixteen years may come at a price that even Ivy could never have anticipated. And all the while, a single question remains – will the Madonna Murderer succeed where he’d once failed?

My take:

There are a lot of things you expect from a psychological/crime thriller. And for the most part, Hush delivers. It’s got a good story that shows you the evil that can exist within people. It’s blunt, sometimes gory, the right amount of mess-with-your-head disturbing, and its criminal psychology seems to be pretty spot on (speaking from the perspective of someone whose criminal psychology course was basically watching Criminal Minds). It’s even got some interesting characters who seem to do justice (for the most part) to what you would expect, given their backgrounds.

But the execution of all those aspects is what kills a lot of the experience.

And the grammar and formatting errors. I mean, it can’t be that difficult to ensure that if you’re moving from one scene to another altogether, at least hit Enter twice. When you’re reading a fast paced thriller, those things can really throw you off, hitting the breaks on an otherwise good momentum.

Coming back…

The characters are as good a place as any to begin. The characters are good, but their growth is terrible. The main characters seem to have some bipolarity going on at the weirdest of times. They go from being angry and closed off to super emotional in seconds, and that too for no real reason. They have these over-dramatic reactions to random things, and mainly just seem a little confused about who they are. I get the intense aspect – cops, trauma survivors, and people dealing with crime day in and day out will be so – but there is no consistency in their personalities or evolution of personalities. And that really slows the book down.

Coming to the story – the delivery is choppy. A lot of things are happening which come together eventually, but they are presented in a way that leaves you confused about the timeline. You think days have passed and it’s been only hours, or vice versa. That makes it a little hard to follow and you have to take a lot of things as just given and move on.

The last aspect that wasn’t tapped to its full potential was the depth of the evil that the book touches upon. It does decently on showing you the darkness that people can have. But it seems to only scratch the surface and leave a lot implied. I wouldn’t have minded reading more thoughts, monologs, or even narration, if it would have helped paint a complete picture, instead of just bits and pieces here and there.

All that being said, the book does great on closure. It brings almost all tangents to a comfortable close, and gives you a nice, complete feel – at least on the story. And that’s why I wouldn’t greatly mind reading more of the author’s work. As long as there isn’t too much of the off-putting stuff, of course!

Recommended for:

  • 16+ (or maybe even 17+) because of the gore and disturbing details
  • Fans of psychological thrillers as a thrill (or holiday or easy) read
  • Readers who enjoy crime fiction and crime thrillers
  • Readers who tend to enjoy the commercial (TV/Book) versions of criminal psychology

Share your thoughts in the comments below! I’d also love a recommendation of a really good psychological thriller.

– Rishika

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Review: The Devotion of Suspect X (By Keigo Higashino)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 374 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Yasuko had left her bad marriage to Togashi and its terrible memories behind. She had made a new life for her daughter Misato and herself, one that was filled with hard work and happiness. And one that was devoid of the terror that Togashi had brought to her daily. Until he turns up at her doorstep one day. To protect her daughter, Yasuko commits the greatest crime of all, and Togashi ends up dead in her apartment.

Unsure of how to keep her daughter and herself safe from the consequences of her actions, Yasuko accepts the help she receives from the most unexpected of persons – her unassuming, quiet neighbor, and maths teacher, Ishigami. And when the police investigation leads Detective Kusanagi to Yasuko, he finds nothing but an alibi that just about holds its own. Yet, Kusanagi has his own helper – physicist, occasional consultant, college friend, and genius, Dr. Yukawa. Fate puts Yukawa against Ishigami, his old friend and mathematician extraordinaire, and the only person Yukawa considered smarter than himself.

What happens when two brilliant minds are pitted against each other? Can Ishigami fulfill his vow to protect Yasuko and Misato? Does friendship have a chance of survival? Or will unexpected betrayal tear apart the delicately woven fabric that holds so many lives in the balance?

My take:

To begin with, let me say that the above blurb contains a lot of information, but no spoilers. Everything happens in the first three chapters and sets a stage for the story that follows.

Now, you’d imagine that a story in which the victim, murderer, and aids to murder are laid out in the first few chapters would have little to offer in terms of mystery and suspense. But that’s where The Devotion of Suspect X is so incredible. Even with everything already explained, it manages to shock, surprise, and make you (audibly) gasp. It keeps you thinking about what bad (or good) is about to happen as the investigation unfolds, and it makes you turn pages while wishing you could read faster.

But that’s not even the best part.

Sure, there are really well-done characters, an intricately woven storyline, lots of things happening, and a lot to process.

But the most amazing part of the book is the presentation of logic, rationality, and emotion. We are used to believing that logic and emotion can rarely co-exist. But The Devotion of Suspect X tells you that, in reality, they do exist together and are, in fact, highly dependent on each other for their existence. The book gives you a look into the psyche of people that is both, beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It explores the depths to which emotion (of every positive and negative kind) can go, and shows you how, the deeper you go, the more enabling or catastrophic emotion can be. And this is done in a way that leaves you absolutely reeling. Higashino makes you feel for and associate with the characters in an art-that-was-lost sort of way – establishing powerful connections that stay with you long after the book is done.

The only reason I would give it a 4.5 instead of a 5 is because I wanted it to go a step further at the end. There are some loose ends (even though how they tie up is pretty implied) that I would have liked more explicitly covered. Other than that, there is little to complain about in the book. It’s fast paced, super-engrossing, deep, and so, so interesting. All in all, a rollercoaster of an experience that I’m glad to have gotten on.

Recommended for:

  • Ages 16+ (because it is a bit complicated as a read)
  • Anyone who likes psychological thrillers
  • Fans of crime fiction and whodunits

I would love to read your thoughts on The Devotion of Suspect X (or this review too). Tell us what you think in the comments below!

– Rishika

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