Tag Archives: Crime

Review: Two Girls Down (By Louisa Luna)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 320 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Jamie Brandt leaves her ten and eight-year-old daughters alone in her car for less than five minutes at a strip-mall parking lot… only to come back and find them missing. When the overworked police department fails to provide answers, Jamie hires Alice Vega – a bounty hunter known for finding missing persons. Vega comes to the small Pennsylvania town, learns more about the case, and finds herself facing a tight-lipped police captain who wants her to have nothing to do with their investigation. So Vega reaches out to Max Caplan, a disgraced former cop turned PI. Together, they begin the search for the two missing girls. But soon they discover that there is a lot more than what meets the eye in the kidnapping case. As stranger and stranger connections are uncovered, Vega and Caplan realize that the kidnapper will stop at nothing to remain hidden. And with time going by all-too-fast, that may lead to the girls being lost forever.

The bottom line:

Two Girls Gone has an interesting storyline and attempts to hit audiences right in the feels, but ends up being a little too confusing instead of intense.

My review:

Received an ARC – So a big thanks to NetGalley and DoubleDay Books!

First, let’s look at the good things about Two Girls Down. It’s a really good story with twists and turns that you don’t see coming. It contains a good amount of suspense and keeps you turning the pages almost relentlessly. It also does justice to the genre, does not shy away from violence, and keeps you guessing till the last minute. As a crime thriller, it does well and has a lot of interesting angles.

But, it also has aspects that take away from how good it could have been.

Alice Vega and Max Caplan’s characters are really interesting. They are honest, raw, and easy to associate with, and unfold as the book progresses. But, there are these random moments where their actions make no sense and don’t even remain consistent with their characters.

A large part of the writing is through thought based narration. So you can really tell what the characters are feeling in any situation and you get to see the entire moment through their eyes and thoughts. I’m assuming that this was meant to come across as “intense” and to a great extent, it does. But at times, the writing is just so convoluted in its attempt to be human that it becomes too confusing and even annoying.

The most irritating part, though, is Vega and Caplan’s relationship. It’s an interesting and honest relationship, for the most part. But there is this element of attraction that is weakly explored at odd times. Honestly, I think the story could have been even better if that aspect was either ignored altogether or explored more fully. The way the attraction angle is used comes across more as forced than the intended (I assume) impulsive.

There are also a lot of characters who are briefly mentioned and then play an important role. With so many names being thrown at you on every page, keeping track can get difficult. And this makes the story a bit cumbersome.

These tiny problems really reduce the reading quality of the book. And yet, the book manages to be interesting enough to want to finish. It also has some great “kick-ass” elements for both the protagonists that are a lot of fun to read. It flows really well and in the end, has a great story. Although it is being published as a standalone, I’m hoping that Luna will write sequels because I want to see the development of the very interesting partnership between Vega and Caplan as they take on new cases.

So, in spite of its flaws, it can definitely be enjoyed, especially by:

  • crime fiction fans
  • mystery and thriller fans
  • fans of female-centric books

Two Girls Down releases on 9 January 2018. If you’re a crime fiction fan, I’d recommend marking the date and getting a copy. In the meanwhile, let us know if you’ve already read the book or what you’re looking forward to about it by dropping us a comment below!

– Rishika

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Review: A Dark So Deadly

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 608 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

DC Callum MacGregor is the latest addition to the Misfit Mob – the department where Police Scotland sends those officers that it can’t fire, but don’t want either. MacGregor does not deserve to be part of the Mob. But that’s only the beginning of his problems. He’s assigned to finding out which museum lost the ancient mummy that they found at Oldcastle tip. But then he discovers a connection between the mummy and three missing young men. The Misfit Mob manages to hold on to the case, and the disreputed department becomes the only thing standing between a serial killer and his next victim. With his professional life just about holding up, MacGregor dives head first into the case. Until a blast from the past changes everything. Questioning everything he’s ever known, MacGregor has to balance his search for a killer with the chaos of his crumbling personal life. Every step takes him closer to answers he may not like, and dangers he may not be able to avoid. As he watches his own life careen out of control, MacGregor realizes that things around him are just not as they seem. And by the time he learns the truth, it may be too late.

My take:

I had very high expectations from A Dark So Deadly. I’ve only read one other book by Stuart MacBride – Halfhead – and had absolutely loved it (read my review here). That’s why I was waiting with bated breath for the time that I’d get my hands on A Dark So Deadly. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really meet the anticipation I’d built up.

It definitely has a lot of things going for it. The story itself is really interesting and multi-layered. It isn’t a simple serial killer story. Instead, it takes multiple points of view, moves between the past and present, and explores a lot of storylines. They even leave you guessing how different things are related, which adds to the entire suspense element. It also has some really surprising elements – twists and turns you just would not see coming. Added to that is MacBride’s quirky sense of humor that comes through in narrative and dialog. At the same time, he does not shy away from making things as graphic as they need to be, which adds the right amount of thrill.

His characterization is excellent. Each person is well defined, has his or her own quirks, and has their own personality that comes through in action and dialog. Looked at from that perspective, there is great finesse in the delivery of the story.

However, the book also has a lot of things that just do not work for it. For starters, there are just so many characters. With a book that is already chaotic by design (it’s supposed to be a bit messed up given its genre), it doesn’t help that names are constantly added to an already lengthy list. And it definitely doesn’t help when a briefly mentioned name reappears only 200 pages later and starts playing a big role. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially if you take even a day-long break from reading.

Another thing that got really annoying were some of the characters themselves. I’m not sure if they were meant to be endearingly quirky. All they ended up being were borderline annoying.

The main thing, though, was that the book could have been shorter by just a bit. You can even make peace with the fact that it’s over 600 pages long. Except, the end feels like MacBride kind of got bored writing and so hurriedly completed it.

A lot of the story is actually left incomplete. You don’t know what happens to certain characters because the last time they’re mentioned is on sort of a cliffhanger. And when you’ve invested yourself into 600 pages, you want those extra few pages to tie things up into a neat little bow.

All the characters actually show great progression over the book. But the abrupt end leaves you wondering just what the heck happened! I mean, there’s more to a murder mystery than finding out who the killer is, right? I just hope that MacBride decides to turn the Misfit Mob into a series so that we can see how the characters continue to develop and address their many problems that have only begun in this book.

All in all, A Dark So Deadly is a good option in the genre of serial killer crime fiction. It is multi-layered, humorous, interesting, and has that typical Scottish vibe to it that makes you pick up a MacBride book in the first place. It could have been better, but still enjoyable and not something that would make you feel like you wasted your reading time.

I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of crime fiction, especially the serial killer sub-genre
  • fans of Scottish and British novels
  • fans of Stuart MacBride

Read A Dark So Deadly? Let us know what you thought of it, and this review, in the comments below.

– Rishika

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Review: Red Dragon (By Thomas Harris)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 464 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Will Graham almost lost his life when he apprehended the psychopath and serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Surviving the horrific attack, he retired from the FBI and chose a quieter, more peaceful life. But when another psychopath brutally murders two families over the span of two months, Graham is forced out of retirement. His gift for seeing things that others can’t may have made him great at tracking killers. But it left him chaotic and broken. Now, he needs to embrace that dark part of himself as he goes after the murderer. This time though, even Graham might need some help. But the only one who can help him is Hannibal Lecter. While Graham finds himself trying to understand the mind of two psychopaths, the killer sets his sights on another family. And an innocent woman is pulled into the dangerous game between Graham and the murderer. Will Graham find all the answers in time? Or will his failure claim numerous lives, and his own sanity?

My take:

To begin, let me say that Red Dragon is the book that introduces one of the world’s most infamous psychopaths – Hannibal Lecter. But that’s about as far as Lecter’s involvement in the book goes. He makes a couple of appearances and that gives you decent insight into his scarily calculative and cruel mind. But it does not really instill the fear of Hannibal the Cannibal into the reader.

Coming to the story itself – Red Dragon has a story that has the potential to be absolutely terrifying. It’s insane, psychopathic, cruel, and often very raw. There are scenes that are just so disturbing that they will make you jump. And since they come so unexpectedly, this effect is felt even more so. You will cringe, you will wonder just what the heck happened, and you will be intrigued/grossed out at the same time. These scenes are nothing short of powerful and really bring that ‘crazy’ touch to the book.

The story moves along briskly. It’s a long read, but it does not really slow down at any point. There is something or the other always happening and that keeps you turning the pages briskly.

The characters are believable, sometimes unfortunately. The Dragon himself is a complex person and his personality is depicted well. Graham is a complicated character too, and his constant state of being in an internal battle with himself is nicely presented. Most of the other characters fill their roles out perfectly, and the various relationships add good dimensions to the plot and people. The only part that got really annoying was Graham’s wife, Molly.

I don’t know how marriages used to be in the 1980s. But there existed an odd coolness to Molly and Will’s relationship that seemed very unlike that of two people who were apparently in love. Maybe it was Will’s job that took a toll on the relationship, but that needed to be described more convincingly. Without that, Molly’s character came across as plain annoying.

As far as the writing style is concerned, the only thing that I can say is that Harris’ is freakishly weird. He switches between tenses, writes half sentences, and just has this vague touch to his prose. A lot of the book made me feel like Harris had these disturbing, chaotic images playing out in his mind’s eye and he just wrote furiously, getting it all onto paper, and then just moved on to the next image. And that made the book so darned infuriating to read at times.

It sort of brought down the entire quality of a story that could have been absolutely amazing in its chaos. It seems to just miss that mark where abstract turns into discernible image. As a result, for me, the book had a lot of potential that remained unrealized.

I wouldn’t say that everyone needs to read Red Dragon. I’m sure you can follow the Hannibal Lecter series even without reading this as he isn’t really the main part. But I’d definitely recommend the book to:

  • people who love serial killer and psychopathic themed books (this is one of the craziest!)
  • people who enjoy dark mysteries
  • people who want to learn what psychopaths can truly be like (it’s got an oddly realistic sense about it)

Let us know what you thought of Red Dragon and/or this review. Drop us a comment 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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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: Cause to Kill (By Blake Pierce)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 184 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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

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

My take:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Rishika

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