Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane

Title:  The Stranger You Know
Author: Andrea Kane
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It begins with a chilling phone call to Casey Woods. And ends with another girl dead.

College-age girls with long red hair. Brutally murdered, they're posed like victims in a film noir. Each crime scene is eerily similar to the twisted fantasy of a serial offender now serving thirty years to life-a criminal brought to justice with the help of Forensic Instincts.

Call. Kill. Repeat. But the similarities are more than one psychopath's desire to outdo another. As more red-headed victims are added to the body count, it becomes clear that each one has been chosen because of a unique connection to Casey-a connection that grows closer and closer to her.

Now the Forensic Instincts team must race to uncover the identity of a serial killer before his ever-tightening circle of death closes in on Casey as the ultimate target. As the stalker methodically moves in on his prey, his actions make one thing clear: he knows everything about Casey. And Casey realizes that this psychopathic won't stop until he makes sure she's dead.

My Review:

How could I say no to reviewing The Stranger You Know?  IT'S A BOOK ABOUT REDHEADS!  Okay, redheads getting brutally raped and murdered, yes...but still.  The poor redheads.  I had to read it for them.

The Stranger You Know is the third installment of Andrea Kane's Forensic Instincts series.  Normally, I am very anti-reading-out-of-sequence (I have not read the first two books), but in this case, I was assured that the novel can stand alone.  Given the intriguing subject matter, I decided it was worth the risk.

In the end, I have to say I was a bit disappointed.  I tried so hard to love this book--really I did!  But there were a lot of plot elements that, when put together, gave me an overall feeling of discouragement by the time I reached the conclusion.  The first issue for me was that this book was difficult to get into without having read the other two.  I spent the first third of the novel trying to put together everyone's backstories, and even with the details that were provided, I was left feeling that the characters were underdeveloped.  This was certainly because I was not privy to the events that had happened in the first two novels.  So, my first recommendation would be to start with Book 1 if you're going to jump into the Forensic Instincts world.

My second issue was the lack of subtlety and surprise.  As a thriller/mystery, I expected more of this.  However, there was never much question as to who the killer was and who their next victim would be--I never felt startled by any "big" revelations.  Even the ending felt obvious, quick, and unsuspenseful.

Related to this was the fact that there are way too many convenient elements to this plot.  This is especially highlighted by the characters of Claire and Ryan.  Claire is a psychic of sorts, and every time a new victim was murdered, she would immediately get a psychic vision that alerted her to the crime.  How convenient for the team!  Ryan, on the other hand, is a techno-wizard who is able to immediately throw together a technological device that gets the FI team out of every tough spot they end up in.  Need to intercept phone calls from an unknown cell phone?  Done.  Need to trace phone calls more quickly than the police department?  Done.  Need a distracting mechanical mouse?  (Yeah.)  Done.  Between Claire and Ryan, I felt like the rest of the team never had to do any work, because they conveniently were able to solve so many major issues with their so-good-its-not-quite-believable abilities.

Ugh, I am being a Debbie Downer here.  Some good stuff to highlight: the plot is fast-paced, so even if it did lack suspense for me, it was never slow or boring.  The crimes being committed are truly horrifying, so if you're looking for a thriller that chills you, it will surely do that.  And if you enjoy a lot of the TV crime series (SVU, Criminal Minds, etc), my guess is that you will like the banter and comraderie amongst the FI team members.

I know, I've been really hard on this one.  I will say that I've seen many other wonderful reviews for this book, so perhaps we chalk it up to "this just wasn't for me".  I also strongly suspect that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the first two in the series beforehand.  But, what's done is done, and in the end, The Stranger You Know did not blow me away.

Despite all that, as always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Andrea Kane on her website.

Just because this one isn't going on my favorites list, doesn't mean it won't be on yours.  TLC Book Tours is offering a copy of The Stranger You Know to one lucky reader of my blog.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter!  Entries are for US/Canada residents only and contest closes 10/29.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

Title: The Never List
Author: Koethi Zan
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (Viking)
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Source: ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

My Review:

Ladies and gents, let me tell you how STOKED I was when I received this ARC in the mail.  The creepy cover, the ominous description with words like "captive" and "perverse" and "torture" me a psycho, but it's right up my alley.

Between the time I received the ARC and started reading it, the Cleveland abduction case came to light, which added a scary bit of a real-life feel to the novel as well.  The case made me especially curious as to how Zan approached this type of crime in the book.

However, while there were many things I enjoyed about The Never List, I have to say that it wasn't everything I hoped for.

Let's start with the positives.  The overall premise of the novel, and its beginning, are exactly as chilling as the description will have you believe.  I flew through the first 50-ish pages in my quest to discover what happened to Sarah, Jennifer, and their companions in their abductor's basement dungeon.  Zan uncovers details of their captivity very slowly, in a way that leaves you desperate to flip the next page and find out more.  And there is no shortage of unexpected twists and turns--especially at the end.  I definitely didn't see the conclusion coming, which is a major plus for any thriller as far as I'm concerned.

But why didn't The Never List make my favorites list?  First issue: the characters.  Their development was clunky and too convenient at times.  Sarah, who has been a paranoid shut-in for years, suddenly finds the strength to not only leave her apartment, but fly all around the country and interact with total strangers in order to solve this mystery.  These changes in her personality happen so quickly that they left me feeling skeptical.  The same goes for her relationship with Tracy (one of the other former captives)--mortal enemies for years, they suddenly become buddy-buddy Charlie's Angels in an effort to team up against their abductor.  And another former captive, Christine, makes such a sudden change of heart partway through the novel that I had to suppress an eye-roll.

Similarly, many of the clues dropped throughout the novel felt like they didn't come about naturally.  There were way too many occasions when Sarah would ask someone she just met if they had any information, and lo and behold--here they are with a juicy tidbit that they never told anybody for all these years!  Not even the police when they were investigating!  How lucky for us, eh?  Much like the personality changes in the characters, these clue reveals felt awkward and too timely...definitely not an advantage in the thriller genre.

Final verdict?  The Never List is a solid three-star novel for me.  It's got enough creepy intrigue to pull you in quickly, and there are certainly a lot of twists and turns along the way.  I just wish that the plot movement felt a bit (a lot?) more natural.  With more subtle characterization and smoother inclusion of detail, this could have been a five-star for sure.

So, readers, what makes or breaks a thriller novel for you?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Audiobook Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Title: Joyland
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973,  Joyland  tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.  Joyland  is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.

My Review:

You guys know about the relationship that is Me + Stephen King.  He's had a few flops in my eyes (The Girl Who Loved Tom, and I'm so-so on Cujo), but for the most part, I devour and adore his work.  His most recent release caught my eye, partially because of the premise (creepy amusement park crime novel, oooooh!) and partially because of its somewhat-limited release.  It was primarily printed in paperback and audiobook format e-books and very few hardcovers.  I decided to go with the audio CD, narrated by Michael Kelly.

(Side note: while I was listening to this, we went on vacation to New Jersey and visited Wildwood one day.  Their boardwalk amusement parks totally reminded me of Joyland!  Which is probably not saying much for Wildwood...haha.)
Wildwood...or Joyland?  Hmmm...
Anyway!  About the book.  I quickly realized that this is not a typical Stephen King horror story.  It certainly has its chilling, supernatural elements, but it's probably more of a coming-of-age story than anything else.  It's narrated by Devin Jones, now an adult, but in the summer of 1973, he was working at Joyland, a seaside amusement park in North Carolina.  As the summer progresses, he struggles to get over a recent breakup while also uncovering the details of a murder that happened at the park not so long ago.  Along the way, he encounters a unique-though-fatally-ill child whose clairvoyant abilities are startling.

(Because what would a Stephen King novel be without a child with superpowers?)

I finished this audiobook a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still having a hard time deciding how I feel about Stephen King as a "whodunit" author.  The identity of the killer didn't come as a great surprise to me, which is what made me feel that this was less about the mystery and more about the maturation of Devin over the course of the story.  And Devin's character is great, but I guess I wanted more than just that from the book at times.  I go to Stephen King and want suspense--he's clearly the master of that arena.  However, that is not a big element of this novel, and in that regard I felt mildly frustrated.

That said--ignoring my feelings about the lack of suspense, this is an excellent example of a coming-of-age story.  As I mentioned already, Devin's character is excellent: witty, sarcastic, honest about his faults.  I enjoyed watching him change throughout that fateful summer at Joyland.  And Michael Kelly is an awesome narrator for the audiobook.  He helped me visualize Devin in a clearer way than I may have been able to do while reading the paperback format.  So in this regard, the book is a win.

Overall, this is obviously a mixed review.  Joyland is not a typical King novel, so I'd say it's best to know that up front.  If you focus more on the "human" element of the story, you'll be sure to admire it.  But your average King creep-factor will be if that's important to you, you may want to try another of his works.

Any other King fans have thoughts on this one?  If you've never read any King, have you ever been thrown off by a book written by one of your favorite authors?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review: Evil Water by Inger Wolf

Title: Evil Water
Author: Inger Wolf
Publisher: Black Cat Edition
Publication Date: December 15, 2012 (English translation)
Source: e-copy received from publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Two women disappear without a trace, and the same autumn a farmer on the outskirts of Ã…rhus finds them murdered in suitcases under a heap of stone. The skin of one woman is filled with the letter Y, and the other has a rare flower in her hair. Inspector Daniel Trokic is leading the case which goes in several directions: to a tribal population in Africa, religious insanity, and a horrifying meeting with leeches. When a third woman disappears, Trokic is under pressure to find out what the killer wants to say with his macabre scenery and rituals.

My Review:

When I was offered this book for review, I'll admit it: I read the description and immediately thought, "Oooooh dark Scandinavian mystery!  How Dragon Tattoo-ish!"  On that alone, I knew I had to give it a try.

Evil Water is the first of Inger Wolf's novels that have been translated into English (from the original Danish). I was initially under the impression that this was Wolf's debut novel, but in fact, she has several other books previously published (all in Danish).  This is important to know beforehand, because the other novels also include Daniel Trokic as the protagonist, so this is a bit of a series.  I didn't realize this until partway through the novel, when it became obvious that the plot was referencing things that had happened in other books.  Once I figured that out though, it didn't detract from my reading of the novel, and in fact made me wish the other books were available in English as well.  (I do have to note that the translation leaves something to be desired at times...word choices are a bit awkward throughout, which is off-putting, but I considered this to be a reflection of the translation rather than the writing itself.)

This is a dark mystery for sure.  Trokic and his crew are combing through some pretty grisly murders, so this is not for the faint of heart!  The pacing is fantastic.  I know I compared it to the Dragon Tattoo books above, but Evil Water moves along much more quickly and concisely than that series.  I felt like something new was being revealed on each page, and there was very little of the drawn-out background information that you often get in longer mysteries.  I had no problem getting hooked right at page one.

Another plus for this novel: the characters.  Trokic is a great lead detective, and all the references to Wolf's other novels made me wish I had more of the background on him.  The other characters (especially the other detectives) are very unique, which is great because they each bring a separate POV when you see the crime through their eyes.

Wolf throws a ton of red herrings in along the way, which left me constantly second-guessing the supposed identity of the killer.  There were several points where I was POSITIVE I knew who the killer was, only to be proven wrong a page later.  The ending was pretty creative, though I will say I felt that the steps to get there were sometimes contrived.  I won't give any spoilers, but there are several parts where the characters suddenly dovetail a conversation in a very awkward way that is obviously meant to bring a new clue to light.  The clues were all relevant, but I wish they were worked into the plot more naturally, as this made the action feel stilted at times.

If you look up the term "page-turner" in the dictionary, a picture of Evil Water is next to it.  If you want a fast-paced, twisted thriller, this is a great choice.  The translation and some of the clue-drops were not ideal, but overall I'm glad that I dove into Trokic's world.  Here's hoping that more of Wolf's novels become available in English as well!

Other reviews of Evil Water:
The Yellow-Haired Reviewer
Valli's Book Den
I Am, Indeed

What say you, readers?  Have you read any good crime thrillers lately?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: The Intercept by Dick Wolf

Title: The Intercept
Author: Dick Wolf
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: December 26, 2012
Source: ARC received from the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads :

Days before the July Fourth holiday and the dedication of One World Trade Center at Ground Zero, an incident aboard a commercial jet over the Atlantic Ocean reminds everyone that vigilance is not a task to be taken lightly. But for iconoclastic New York Police detective Jeremy Fisk, it may also be a signal that there is much more to this case than the easy answer: that this is just the work of another lone terrorist.

Fisk—from the department’s Intelligence Division, a well-funded anti-terror unit modeled upon the CIA—suspects that the event might also be a warning sign that another, potentially more extraordinary scheme has been set in motion. Fluent in Arabic and the ways of his opponents, Fisk is a rule breaker who follows his gut—even if it means defying those above him in the department’s food chain. So when a passenger from the same plane, a Saudi Arabian national, disappears into the crowds of Manhattan, it’s up to Fisk and his partner Krina Gersten to find him before the celebrations begin.

Watching each new lead fizzle, chasing shadows to dead ends, Fisk and Gersten quickly realize that their opponents are smarter and more agile than any they have ever faced. Extremely clever and seemingly invisible, they are able to exploit any security weakness and anticipate Fisk’s every move. And time is running out.

My Review:

If you have watched TV at all in the last 20 years, the name Dick Wolf probably rings a bell.  He's the creator of TV's Law & Order series (DUN DUN).  When I heard he had written a book, I was intrigued.  I figured if he wrote in a manner similar to the dramatic style of his TV shows, the book had the potential to be awesome.  Or, he could end up being an egotistical Hollywood-type who thinks he can write fiction, but is dead wrong.

So, first things first: I'm happy to report that Dick Wolf CAN write fiction.  Really fantastic fiction, in fact.  The prose is tight, the characters click, and the suspense had me awake and reading way later than my life with a 1-year-old should allow.

Let's talk about the writing for a moment.  Wolf is (unsurprisingly) a New York City connossieur, and it shows in the details of this novel.  The ins and outs of the NYPD's structure is explained well, including bits of information about the Intelligence Division that it seems only an insider would know.  It was interesting to see how this department works--and also how its investigative techniques, though advanced, are not foolproof.  The cultural makeup of the five boroughs is illustrated in a way that makes a non-New Yorker feel like they have an intimate understanding of the city.  New York City is the main location for a lot of novels, but that doesn't always translate into a dynamic and immersive setting the way it does here.  These details added a lot to the believability of the storyline.

While we're talking about details, I think it's important to note that Wolf took some liberties with the timeline used in this novel.  He has one crucial scene in the beginning that involves bin Laden's assassination (in May 2011), and the rest of the novel takes place around July 4th weekend in that same year.  However, the dates for the year are wrong (July 4th is on a Sunday in the novel, it was actually a Monday in 2011), and he has the World Trade Center dedication happening that weekend (as far as I know, the dedication hasn't happened yet since the building is going to be finished in 2013).  This threw me off at first, but since the terrorist acts in the novel are purely fictional, in hindsight I can see why he wanted to fictionalize the timing as well.

Our protagonist in this novel is Jeremy Fisk.  I am often leery of series that continually focus on one character, because I think they sometimes center too much on that particular person and not enough on the action of the story.  That is not the case in The Intercept.  Fisk's background is explained just enough so that he feels like a well-rounded character, but not so much that it seems the entire book revolves around him.  By the end, I cared enough about him that I wanted to read the next installment in his series (get on that, Wolf), but I didn't lose focus on the plot as a whole.  I think this is a tricky balance for an author to maintain.  I also loved Fisk's relationship with his colleague/girlfriend, Krina Gersten.  Their dynamic was punchy and fun, but with a bit of a soft center.  It is so easy for romance in a thriller to seem silly or misplaced (hi, every Dan Brown novel) but I didn't get that sense here at all.

Last but not least, let's talk about the most important thing--the action!  What is a thriller novel without action?  The plot has a ton of twists, but doesn't feel overdone or too complex.  It will leave you guessing without causing confusion in a ton of important details.  That said, there was one twist (a somewhat major one) that I found rather predictable, which was a bit disappointing.  My guess is that anyone else reading the book will probably figure it out as well, since the character it involves is focused upon way more than they should be.  I was afraid this obvious plot turn would detract from the end of the novel, but fortunately, it didn't.  Even when you figure out who the bad guy/girl is, there are still so many questions and further change-ups that you stay engaged right through to the end.

In case you haven't guessed, my doubts about Dick Wolf as an author have been dashed.  If you are a fan of crime thrillers, read this NOW.  It's an amazing literary debut, and I will be checking out the next Jeremy Fisk novel for sure.


Are you a Law and Order fan?  Are you planning to check out Dick Wolf's new novel as a result?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: The Mistaken by Nancy S. Thompson

Title: The Mistaken
Author: Nancy S. Thompson
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
Release Date: October 18, 2012
Source: e-ARC provided by Reading Addiction Blog Tours for an honest review

Plot Synopsis (Goodreads link):

Tyler Karras is an honest man, a transplanted Brit living the American dream, but his charmed life takes an unexpected turn when his brother, Nick, is coerced into joining ranks with San Francisco’s Russian mafia. Ty intervenes to secure Nick’s freedom, yet only succeeds in incurring their wrath. With no choice but to accept Nick’s new life, Ty returns to his own, but his dreams are dashed when his wife—pregnant with their first child—is killed, the victim of a reckless crime.

Despondent and bitter, Ty macerates his grief in alcohol. From the depths of the bottle screams a voice, howling for vengeance. His target is a stranger, the woman who drew his wife toward her death. He doesn’t know her, but he’ll find her, and when he does, he will make her pay, for a deal has been struck with Nick’s Russian associates, enslaving her into a life of bondage. But as Ty moves forward in a cloud of alcohol, he mistakes the wrong woman for his intended victim and now all his plans have gone straight to hell.

With his eyes made clear by the stark reality of his mistake, Ty is driven, compelled by remorse and a relentless sense of guilt to make amends and protect Hannah Maguire, the innocent woman whose life he has derailed. He vows to keep her safe and out of the Russians’ hands, but they’re holding Nick as leverage to force Ty to complete their deal and turn over the girl. Once again, he must fight to free his brother, miring all three lives in further jeopardy. But Ty can’t do it all: Save the girl, his brother and his own soul. One of them must make the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review:

First and foremost, I should point out that despite the description above, this book is romantic suspense, not just suspense.  I didn't realize that at the outset, and it threw me a bit when more of the romantic elements took the lead (especially toward the end).  That said, some of the romance in the book worked for me.  I loved Tyler and Jillian's relationship--I thought it was fun and "real", for lack of a better word (they loved each other deeply, but they had their flaws).  The tragedy surrounding Jillian's death was heart-wrenching, and Ty's extreme grief and need for vengeance is palpable.

Tyler and Nick's relationship is also very well illustrated.  It changes dramatically throughout the course of the novel, as they navigate around Nick's irresponsibility and Tyler's need for control.  It makes for a complex and thoughtful look at the push-and-pull between two brothers.

Thompson also did a great job building suspense throughout the novel.  This was the biggest plus for me.  The scene when Tyler and Hannah first meet had me at the edge of my seat.  There are also some interesting twists towards the end that I did not see coming.  Thompson makes good use of multiple narrators (the chapters jump between Tyler, Jillian, and Hannah's POV)--this allows for a richer view of the story, and amps up the thrills as you wait to hear from each character.  Good suspense needs to leave me biting my nails at times, and it needs a certain level of unpredictability--check and check!

However, there were some things in this novel that threw me.  The biggest issue I had was with Hannah.  Hooooooey, does this woman have the world's biggest case of Stockholm Syndrome or what?  Tyler nearly brutalizes her, and then she spends the rest of the novel lusting after him.  I had a very, very hard time reading those scenes, and I just couldn't get behind Hannah's emotions at all.  This made the ending (which was a little too perfectly-tied-up) difficult for me to swallow.  Maybe it's because I was a Family Studies major in college, but I just wanted to yell, "GIRLFRIEND, GET THEE TO A THERAPIST!" for the majority of the novel.  It's hard to feel sympathy for such a weak female lead.

There were also a few details throughout the book that just didn't fit..  Some of them weren't huge plot points, but it's always tough when you're wrapped up in a story, and then you suddenly have to stop the flow of your reading to consider why a certain piece of the action seems out of place.  For instance--there are several times when Tyler binge drinks (we're talking entire bottles of tequila, plus beers, in one sitting), and then does things like drive (fully alert, and noticing the well-manicured lawns) to Hannah's house, or shoots an intruder dead-on in the forehead.  I've seen too many episodes of Intervention to find this realistic.  There was also his single-handed rampage in a Russian warehouse near the end, where he takes out tons of Russian mobsters despite having no previous fight experience.  It was hard to believe he was able to do it with only the anger in his blood.  These events weren't believable.  It made for a choppy reading experience.

As you can see, my review of this book falls all over the map!  But my summary is this: if you like solid suspense with a dash of romance, and you want complex characters with a rich variety of POV, The Mistaken will provide that in spades.  However, you'll probably have to suspend your sense of reality at some points...and be okay with Hannah's awkwardly needy persona.  3 Goodreads stars

*I did also note a favorite quote from this book:
"Whoever said vengeance is sweet was wrong. It’s the thought of vengeance—filtered
through memories that haunt and torment—that is sweet. Not the act itself. The act is vile and bitter."

Check out the other blogs on this tour!

October 20 - Reading Addiction Blog Tours - Meet and Greet
October 20 - Books For Me - Review
October 21 - Overflowing Bookshelves - Review
October 25 - The Well Read Red Head - Review
October 28 - Reviewing Shelf - Review
October 29 - Beth Art From the Heart - Review
November 1 - My Reading Addiction - Review
November 5 - TE Garden of Books - Review
November 7 - My Cozie Corner - Review
November 12 - Taking it One Page at a Time - Review/GuestPost

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source: borrowed from the library via my Kindle

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge .  Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

My Review:

YOU GUYS.  THIS BOOK.  How do I even review it?

If you are a living person with even a passing interest in books, you've probably heard of Gone Girl by now.  It's this summer's most-hyped new release.  It took me forever to read it because I am cheap, and thus do not buy a lot of books, which means I had to sit on the library's wait list for a while before I could get my hands on it.  But it was worth the wait.  I hate admitting that I have given into the hype surrounding a talked-up book, but this book joins Harry Potter and The Hunger Games in my "hype-happy books that I adore" category.

The tough thing about this review is that I can't tell you much about the book without totally giving away the good stuff.  And there is SO MUCH good stuff.

I'll put it to you like this.  The book is broken into 3 parts.  During the first part, I was completely intrigued as it bounced back and forth from Nick's POV, to Amy's diary entries.  I couldn't decide how I felt about the characters, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out.  I felt like the author was doing great things with perspective, so much so, that I thought that must be The Reason why everyone loves this book.  I made a lot of notes to myself like "characters have skewed perception of self" and "Nick as unreliable narrator" etc. etc.

And then the end of Part 1 came and it was like

and I stopped making notes to myself, because the time for thoughtful analysis was over.  It was time to devour this book without mercy.

This book is not just great because of its issues with perspective (though that is part of it).  It is great because it is so unbelievably twisted.  I literally said, "OH SNAP!" out loud at least a half-dozen times.  Flynn has done an amazing job creating a thriller/mystery that is not based only on the action.  This is extremely character-driven, which I think is a tough thing to create when you're in the thriller genre.  I'm dying to read some of her other novels now, in the hopes that I can see this writing style replicated, even a little bit.

The ending.  I've heard it debated: some people love it, others hate it.  I am in the love category.  I think the best word I can use to describe it is haunting.  You want to know what comes next, even though you know it's going to be dreadful.  It sticks with you, that's for sure.

I'm leaving my talk about the book there, because I can't give it away.  It's going on my favorites shelf.  You need to read this.  And then you need to discuss it with me, because I want to know what everyone thinks of Nick and Amy.  I have so many opinions to share!

*Also: I already read that this has been picked up as a movie, with Reese Witherspoon producing (and possibly starring).  I desperately want to see this on screen, but I am terrified that Hollywood will ruin it.  Also, I think Rachel McAdams would be a way better Amy.  And Bradley Cooper is the ultimate Nick, amiright?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: A Drink Before The War by Dennis Lehane

Title: A Drink Before The War
Author: Dennis Lehane
Publisher: Harcourt
Publication Date: November 1994
Source: Personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads:

Kenzie and Gennaro are private investigators in the blue-collar neighborhoods and ghettos of South Boston-they know it as only natives can. Working out of an old church belfry, Kenzie and Gennaro take on a seemingly simple assignment for a prominent politician: to uncover the whereabouts of Jenna Angeline, a black cleaning woman who has allegedly stolen confidential state documents. Finding Jenna, however, is easy compared to staying alive once they've got her. The investigation escalates, implicating members of Jenna's family and rival gang leaders while uncovering extortion, assassination, and child prostitution extending from bombed-out ghetto streets to the highest levels of government. 

My Review:
As mentioned previously, I am going to a Dennis Lehane reading/signing at my library on 9/24 (SQUEEEEE), so I wanted to read at least one more of his novels before the event.  I read Shutter Island a couple of years ago, which I can only describe as amazeballs, so I had high hopes for his other work too.

A Drink Before The War is actually the first in a series of novels Lehane has written around private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro.  If you've seen the movie Gone, Baby, Gone, that was a later book in the Kenzie/Gennaro series.  This book is narrated by Kenzie, and I was immediately a huge fan of his voice.  It was basically like every guy from Good Will Hunting and The Departed got together and wrote his dialogue.  Lehane doesn't emphasize the Boston accent, but you can hear it in your head as you read.  Kenzie is the perfect Boston blend of sarcastic, funny, and crass.  (Trust me, I'm a Yankee fan who constantly gets heckled by Bostonians--I know what that sounds like.)  His POV is what sets this apart from your typical crime novel.

As for the plot--it does have a lot of what you'd consider to be the "cliched" parts of a P.I. crime story.  Two partners who often clash, crazy gunfights in broad daylight, run-ins with the cops...nothing out of the ordinary.  The real twist towards the end is probably something you could see coming (though oblivious me, who never properly guesses the ending to ANYTHING, was surprised).  If this story was just about the action, it wouldn't be anything special.

However, Lehane also wraps in a lot of issues concerning race and power, which adds a different dimension to it all.  He makes a valiant effort to illustrate the racial tension in blue-collar Boston in the early 1990's, and this bit of sociological perspective heightens the typical good guy/bad guy story line.  He also shows us how many of the characters (black and white) think through their own feelings on race throughout the novel.  This, paired with Kenzie's unique voice, is what made this more than the average thriller for me.

Overall?  If you're into crime stories, mysteries, and thrillers, this will be right up your alley.  And if you like those genres but find them too cliched, I'd still suggest giving this a try--because while it has some of that, I think it also brings something new to the table.  I'm definitely looking forward to more Kenzie and Gennaro!

(Plus?  It takes place in 1994.  The references to cassette tapes, boom boxes, high top fades, and the inability to Google anything are priceless.)
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