The Blue Hour by Douglas Kennedy

The Blue HourI have really mixed feelings about The Blue Hour by Douglas Kennedy. Like, really mixed. It’s a kind of schizophrenic book for me, and perhaps for the publishers as well, as it is published in the UK as The Heat of Betrayal. And for the record, given the cover and title of the UK edition, i don’t think I ever would have picked it up. Continue reading

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha ArangoI was on a bit of a reading slump when I came to The Truth and Other Lies by German screenwriter Sascha Arango, and it fed my slump to the dogs. That means it was good. The story was crazy, but crazy good. Continue reading

The Expats by Chris Pavone

the-expatsI don’t often read spy thrillers, but when I do they will be by Chris Pavone. It’s like he gets me and knows what will hook me into an action packed read. Earlier this year I read and reviewed The Accident by Pavone and my love of it propelled me to read his first novel, The Expats. Continue reading

The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn

The-interns-handbookI haven’t been very discriminating in my reading lately. What that means is that I’m picking books based on the cover or a catchy title without really knowing what it’s about. That’s what happened with The Intern’s Handbook¬†by Shane Kuhn. I liked the cover and I’ve been an intern, so I figured I could relate. Besides, internships are making the news all over Canada right now so I thought this novel might fuel the flames a bit. Continue reading

The Accident by Chris Pavone

the-accidentThere is no doubt about it, The Accident by Chris Pavone is a thriller – and I loved it. As you know, thrillers are not exactly my thing, but when one this good comes along it grabs you by the throat. And probably the reason I liked it so much is because it is a thriller set in the publishing industry. That’s the hook that really grabbed me.

So imagine this, a manuscript for a book that will bring down a multimedia conglomerate and put the CIA in a very uncomfortable situation if it comes to light. And this manuscript has just been delivered to the one agent who can make it happen. Almost from the moment Isabel finishes reading the manuscript her life is in danger and people around her are found dead, but she manages to stay one step ahead of them. Compelling, isn’t it? Continue reading

The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter

The-mad-sculptorI will be completely honest with you and say that I chose The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model and The Murder that Shook the Nation¬†because I had it mixed up in my head with The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. Both are New York based mysteries set in the 1930s and both use alliteration with the letter ‘M’ in their titles. Beyond that, there is little similarity.

The Mad Sculptor is about a murder that rocked New York City in 1937. Robert Irwin, a brilliant young sculptor, went to the apartment of his unrequited love interest and killed her mother and a boarder before finally killing Veronica. Following the murders, Irwin was the target of a manhunt that lasted several months. Continue reading

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

I needed another book set in the 1920s for Jazz Age January hosted by Books Speak Volumes, so I went with Katie’s (Words for Worms) suggestion of The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Instead of being your typical flapper age, gin soaked romp, The Other Typist is a psychological thriller soaked in champagne.

So what am I really saying? First, I loved The Other Typist. Rindell is a very good writer. She presents us with a rather unreliable narrator in Rose, a plain looking typist at a police station in Manhattan. Unreliable narrators are a bit of a soft spot with me, so I was thrilled. As the story progresses, Rose drops hints that she is now in a psyche hospital for unknown, but rather dark reasons. These reason have to do with Odalie, a true flapper through and through, who comes to work as the other typist at the precinct. Slowly the lives of Rose and Odalie become so intertwined that they cannot be separated.

I don’t want to give too much away about The Other Typist. I will say that it was full of surprises. It was kind of a Jazz Age combination of The Talented Mr. Ripley and the movie Single White Female. The end threw me for a complete loop and like Katie, I’m not completely sure if I understand what happened in the end.

Who would like this book? I would not put this book in the category of literary – it was definitely a psychological thriller. It was fairly fast paced, but was atmospheric enough to give a good sense of 1920s New York. There were speakeasies and bathtub gin, a little violence and on the fringes sat gangsters. For me the best part was Rose who saw the world around her from a unique perspective.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

nightfilmOh, boy. Where do I start with this one? Night Film has been getting a lot of buzz for months now. It was poised to be the big book of the fall season. But like so many ‘It’ girls who have fizzled into post-sex tape obscurity, Night Film fails to deliver the goods. True, it is an action packed tale that brings new technologies to the reading experience, but after Marisha Pessl‘s dazzling debut Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Night Film leaves me feeling meh.

Admittedly, I expected much from Night Film. I was enticed by her use of very real looking webpages and other media in the text and curious about the ‘enhanced reading experienced‘ that could be accessed through a mobile phone app. I was also hoping for something even more brilliant than Special Topics. In short, I wanted literary genius and technological savvy all rolled up in one.

Instead I got something that came closer to resembling Dan Brown. Try as I may, I find it hard not to disparage Dan Brown. I just don’t read many thrillers and perhaps that is why I found to Night Film to resemble his work. Night Film is basically about three marginally related characters all searching for answers surrounding the death of a reclusive horror movie director’s daughter. In the early stages of the narrative they follow the path of the investigative journalist – following up on leads and asking questions. Soon things turn to black magic and our trio turn into covert operatives delving into a world in which psychological terror plays as much a part as physical terror.

Who would like this book? After all I have said, you may think that this book is not for you. That likely isn’t true. It is a good thriller as far as thrillers go. I kept turning the pages and waiting to see what would happen next. So if you want a thriller – go for it. If you want a work of literary genius, hold back. The media spectacle surrounding Night Film also makes it an intriguing read. I think this book is supposed to breaking barriers, and perhaps it is. The ‘enhanced reading experience’ provided by the Night Film app was entirely conceived of after the completion of the novel and is not integral to the reading experience in the least. However, it is an interesting add-on that I’m sure we will see employed more and more.

When it comes right down to it, I say read the book if you are interested, but it is more of a ‘borrow’ than a ‘buy’. And as an aside, I don’t think Night Film would work very well as an audio book and I question it’s usefulness as an e-book. Let me know what you think if you have used either of these formats.

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

wicked-girlsThe Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood is not my typical fare. It is a thriller about the unintentionally intertwined lives of two women forever joined together by a crime they committed in their childhoods. After serving their time in juvenile detention they are given new identities for their own protection and go on to try to make new lives for themselves.

Much of the novel has to do with living a lie. The two protagonists, Kirsty and Amber, have to live their lives as adults without revealing their pasts. For both of them, this means never revealing to their partners their true selves. For Kirsty, a suburban working mom, this puts strain on her family life. For Amber, on the other hand, her partner is equally cagey about his past.

The Wicked Girls, like many of the novels I’ve been reading lately, is set in England. Before I moved to the UK I did not read very much British writing, unless it was nominated for a major prize. Although one would not think that the cultural differences between the UK and North America are that great, I am delighting in the subtle differences in the two cultures. This is something I don’t think I would have appreciated without having lived in both places. In particular, books like The Wicked Girls have focused on some of the grittier sides of life in Britain, something I do not encounter in my daily life here, but class differences in the UK are something I am growing increasingly aware of. Although class issues exist everywhere, over here they seem very different than in North America – more pronounced and more permanent.

Who would like this book? As I mentioned at the top The Wicked Girls is a thriller, a genre I don’t generally read. In my own snobbish way I tend to think that thrillers won’t be well written. That is certainly not the case with The Wicked Girls. Alex Marwood is the pseudonym for a London based journalist. The novel is smart and well written. In many ways it reminds me of Linwood Barclay‘s thrillers, perhaps because they both have journalistic backgrounds.