Tag Archives: Psychological thriller

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 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: Memory Closet (By Ninie Hammon)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 337 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Anne Mitchell has no memories of the first 11 years of her life. They vanished into a darkness that was filled with evil, inhabited by her own, personal Boogie Man who watched from the shadows. The fear of facing the Boogie Man kept her from making any attempt to remember. Until she saw the evil hiding behind the repentance in her dying mother’s eyes. Until the Boogie Man made an appearance that put Anne’s career and the little life she had made for herself at risk.

So, Anne moved back to the town of Goshen, back to live with her senile grandmother in the home where she grew up. It was the best place for her to try and remember, to face the memories that had, so far, eluded her. She’d been bullied all her life by the Boogie Man. The only way to get rid of him is to pull him into the light. But, for that, she has to go into the closet first, into the darkness. And as the lines between reality, memory, and imagination begin to blur, Anne realizes that she may never find her way out of the closet – that the Boogie Man has been waiting for her, and after all these years, he may finally win.

My take:

The premise of this story is surely interesting – amnesia triggered by a traumatic event and that plainly protects the protagonist from worse memories. It’s a psychological thriller with immense potential. There are also some characters that you can really associate with, feel bad or good for, and find them to be well-rounded.

But the book falls short on too many aspects to really make for a good read as the psychological thriller it’s supposed to be.

First is the fact that it really just goes on and on. I mean, the book could have been 100 pages less and still gotten the message across just as clearly. Each emotion is experienced to death until you’re just wondering when the scene is going to change, and still have to read about how sad or scared someone is for another four pages.

Then there’s Anne Mitchell herself. The character, meant to be raw, scared yet strong, kind, loving, and just a little confused, comes across as someone who is little more than annoying and a big cry-baby. She spends most of the book being exhausted for one reason or another, and avoiding good ideas that could help her… just because.

Now, I get that she’s meant to be emotional and maybe even a partial wreck, given the horrific things happening. But the resolve with which she’s introduced disappears within pages, and the other, more vulnerable emotions that she does go through just go on and on. That was where shortening the length could have been very effective. All in all, she was a character who was just about there, but forgot who she was a little too often.

Then there’s the excessive graphic nature of some narrative. It makes sense that Hammon was trying to be descriptive; but when it comes to these kinds of books, there is “show, don’t tell”, and then there is “just too gross to read”. At some point, the descriptions go from being necessary-psychological-thriller-disturbing to just plain “not-adding-any-value… move on”.

Another really annoying thing about it was the really long sentences that hit you with so much information that you just had to go back and read them again. Toss in some weird similes in the narrative (that were barely required, in the first place), and at some point, you’re just reading random words until the next sensible part.

Last, the book was, oddly enough, predictable – which is a major disappointment for a thriller. After 337 pages of excessive emotion, unnecessary description, and a lot of droning on, you’d think there was something better coming up in the climax. Instead, you get something predictable, anticlimactic, and extremely abrupt – it was like after all that writing, Hammon got tired and wrapped up the book really fast, without bothering too much on giving the audience an after-event look at the characters.

I had definitely expected much more from Memory Closet, and doubt I’d read more of Ninie Hammon’s work. The only reason it gets a 2-star rating and nothing lower is because the execution could have been worse (there were points where it, thankfully, took a turn off the bad path and back onto the good), but manages to be alright. Also, as a story idea, it wasn’t too bad.

Recommended for:

  • Hardcore psychological thriller fans who could read any story in that genre
  • Thriller fans (if you have nothing else to opt for)
  • Readers who like the very specific category of amnesia related thrillers

– Rishika

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