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Archive for the ‘suspense’ Tag

Digging Up the Past   Leave a comment

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When reading a mystery I want to be surprised; I also want to reach the solution on my own. This might seem contradictory, but it’s my benchmarks for a good thriller.

Both were achieved in Fiona Barton’s The Child. I was pleased to be right. Of course, it took most of the book to fit all of the pieces together, but I did. Rather than feel disappointed once I suspected how things would end, I was proud of my sleuthing abilities.

Three main characters move the story: Kate, a journalist intrigued by the discovery of an infant’s skeleton when an old house is demolished; Angela, whose infant daughter was kidnapped from the maternity ward more than 40 years ago; and Emma, a middle-aged woman with secrets, including a teen pregnancy. Emma’s mother, Jude, has a pivotal role in the novel’s progression.

Kate is convinced there’s more to the story than the gruesome discovery at a construction site. Meanwhile, Angela’s begins to hope that she will finally have an explanation of what happened to her daughter. Emma fears that her past has literally been uncovered. Meanwhile, Jude has no interest in looking in the rear-view mirror and dismisses Emma’s anxieties as part of the strained relationship between the two.

Through Kate, the author methodically reveals the heartbreaks and fears each woman has suffered in their respective lives while fitting together the ways in which they’re all connected. If intrigue isn’t enough, there’s also a bit of science thrown into the mix.

The Child
Four Bookmarks
Berkley, 2017
365 pages

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Cutting Edge Suspense   Leave a comment

SharpObjects

Gillian Flynn writes books that are hard to put down filled with characters that are even harder to enjoy – or forget. Like her wildly popular recent work Gone Girl, Flynn’s 2006 debut novel, Sharp Objects, is full of dysfunctional relationships and twisted back stories; imagine Mommie Dearest meets Mean Girls.

Sharp Objects is immediately engaging: Camille Preaker, a third-rate newspaper reporter at an equally-lackluster Chicago newspaper, is sent to her hometown in rural Missouri to investigate the murder of two preteen girls. Camille’s self-deprecating manner initially creates empathy. It’s enhanced, for a short time, by the strained connection she has with her cold, distant mother, Adora. Slowly, the murders become background material as Camille’s childhood, and how she relates to them, comes to the forefront.

Adora lacks maternal instinct, and Camille’s approach to dealing with the emotional damage inflicted by her mother is as far from healthy as Neptune is from earth. In fact, Adora, unapologetically voices her disdain for Camille. In addition to Adora and Camille, the novel features a range of characters affected by the murders, and no one emerges kindly. The degree to which they are disturbed is varied and this is what helps make the book so compelling.

This who-dunnit is very creepy. The list of possibilities is short, so when the culprit is revealed, it’s not surprising just jarring. What’s most unexpected is the number of clues Flynn provides about Camille’s and the town’s secrets; those are much more difficult to anticipate.

Sharp Objects
Four Bookmarks
Three Rivers Press, 2006
254 pages