Tag Archives: psychological thrillers

Review: Daddy Darkest (By Ellery A. Kane)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 358 pages

My rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

Small-town girl, Samantha ‘Sam’ Bronwyn heads from Texas to San Francisco with her best friend, Ginny, on an after-graduation trip. But Ginny disappears from the airport bathroom while wearing Sam’s letterman jacket. Suddenly, the guy who had been sitting next to her on the plane, and who had managed to carry a gun onboard, is her only ally. But she knows nothing about him or even whether she can trust him.

A dangerous serial killer escapes from San Quentin and is on the loose in San Francisco.

Spanish speaking, vicious looking men attack Sam’s hotel, the guns in their hands and tattoos on their body telling her that they’re affiliated with a notorious gang.

The FBI agent looking into the disappearance of Ginny’s case seems to know Sam’s mother.

And Sam’s mother, Clare Bronwyn, seems to be a whole other person – someone who knows too much about the events unfolding around Sam, someone who has too many secrets, and someone who Sam can barely recognize.

Sam does not know whom to trust. And every step that she takes pulls her deeper into a web of lies. Soon, Sam discovers that her life, and identity, isn’t what she believed them to be. And she may not live long enough to discover who she really is.

The Bottom Line:

A terrible waste of time, Daddy Darkest is a story that does not (even remotely) do justice to the psychological thriller claim and is actually painful to read at most parts.

My review:

A big ‘Thank you’ to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review (‘honest’ being the key word here).

Daddy Darkest begins with a lot of promise. It starts with Samantha and Ginny traveling to San Francisco, Ginny’s disappearance, and a shifty but somewhat-trustable man coming to help Samantha. All intriguing factors, and all with great promise.

Then, it goes back to the past, to the story of Clare Keely, which (as it’s painfully obvious in the first three sentences) is the story of Samantha’s mother. It’s about two chapters into the past when everything gets really bad.

At the outset, I should probably state that I don’t really have a problem with characters who are anti-heroes or anti-heroines. No one is categorically black or white. And gray makes books and characters interesting. I think ‘gray’ was what Ellery Kane was aiming for with Clare (Bronwyn) Keely. What she ended up with, instead, is a very whiny, annoying, selfish, bratty b***h of a main character.

Sure, Clare has a past – one that’s not too nice either. It messes her up a bit. But that is really not enough of a foundation to become the person she does. In fact, most of her personality traits were highly conflicting with one another. And much more than the ‘this is who I need to be, but this is who I really am’ conflict that complex characters have. Plus, who she needs to be and who she is are both really annoying. To put it down in some discernable order, this is what she’s like:

Oh! I’m so pretty, it’s such a curse. Oh! I’m so pretty, every man lusts after me. Oh! I wish they wouldn’t. Oh! I need some information from this guy, let me just flirt with him and sleep with him and he’ll tell me. Oh! I wish he wouldn’t touch me. Oh! Come, let’s jump into bed together again so I can get you to do what I want. Oh! I wish every man didn’t lust after me, it makes me feel uncomfortable. Oh! I’m so bad. And I love it. No, I hate it. Oh! I’m such a good girl, why don’t people just let me be? Oh! My beauty is my curse. Oh! My beauty is my power. No, curse. No, power. And so on and so forth. Until Clare Keely whined about everything she didn’t like, and everything she liked too.

There are characters who are tainted but who you call still sympathize with – but Clare Keely is not such a character. She’s just annoying, and there is a point where you just want her to shut up.

And Samantha isn’t the brightest bulb either. Likable at first, you can sympathize with her for a bit. Until Kane seems to absolutely lose the shape of the character and Samantha melts into some kind of mix of her old self and her mother.

As the book proceeds, all characters other than Clare sort of slip away from the limelight and become secondary, to the point that the book doesn’t even wrap up their story cleanly. The story actually had the potential to be multi-arced, but all of it is pushed to the sidelines while Clare Keely rambles on and on, until you just don’t care about any of those promising angles.

That, unfortunately, is how this book makes you feel – uninterested. I actually found myself physically straining to push ahead instead of just giving up (a lot of people gave up, so I know I wasn’t alone in this struggle). Then I reached a point where I started fast-reading a lot of the book to remain informed of the points that mattered (skimming over the whining and lamenting, which made up for a surprisingly large amount of the book throughout). I did this in the hope that the book somehow redeemed itself. Short answer? It does not, in any way. I actually think it just gets worse as it goes on.

So all in all, this book has no redeeming factors. There’s nothing dark or psychologically thrilling about it. The story isn’t really twisted like the blurb states. And the only thing criminal in it, is Clare Keely’s character.

I would recommend this book to:

  • No one.
  • Seriously. Pick up any other book. Literally, any!

I’m sure there are people who disagree with my view on Daddy Darkest. Drop me a comment or two below to say why. And, of course, say why if you agree too!

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: 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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