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Archive for the ‘thriller’ Tag

At Sea Without a Clue   Leave a comment

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Not all mysteries are thrillers; I like those that make me want to sleep with the light on – lots of lights. I expected to be kept awake by Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. I wasn’t. I enjoyed it as a mystery, but it fell short as a thriller.

The story is intriguing enough: a small group of passengers aboard a boutique luxury cruise liner bound from England to Norway’s fjords. The 10-cabin ship is owned by an exceptionally wealthy man who has invited a few friends and members of the media for the maiden voyage. Part of the problem is the main character: Laura “Lo” Blacklock, a travel magazine low-level journalist who lucked into the assignment. Ware doesn’t imbue Lo with many attributes that evoke much empathy or interest.

The mystery begins when, after drinking too much on the first night of the cruise, Lo is convinced that the woman in the cabin next door (#10) was thrown overboard. It’s the same woman who had earlier lent mascara to Lo. The problem is, according to the ship’s manifest, the cabin is unoccupied.

Lo knows the woman existed; she had proof. The narrative follows her efforts to determine what became of the woman in the face of incredulity from others. In this, Ware is successful. However, the lack of intensity as Lo strives to prove the reality of what she saw, keeps the novel from reaching the level of thriller. It was easy enough to turn off the lights.

The Woman in Cabin 10
3.5 Bookmarks
Scout Press, 2017
340 pages

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The Virus   Leave a comment

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Maggie Rider’s self-deprecating humor and sharp intelligence as narrator of The Virus by Janelle Diller elevate this sky-is-falling novel about the increasing threat of diminishing privacy.

Maggie works for a tech company that requires a lot of travel. Her husband, Eddy, is a freelance web designer. He’s actually more tech savvy than his wife, which evolves as a significant characteristic.

The novel begins with a smallpox outbreak in Colorado. Maggie and Eddy live in Colorado Springs; the story settings also include the Bay Area and Nebraska. At first, vaccinations are scarce. The rush to meet demand is fueled by government regulations requiring all who travel, work in the health industry and /or attend school to receive inoculations. Thanks to her job, Maggie is among the first to be vaccinated; something she willingly, almost gratefully, accepts. Suddenly, the immunizations are plentiful. Meanwhile, Eddy isn’t buying. His skeptical nature makes him leery of the outbreak in general and the vaccination itself.

Thus begins a race-against-time as more deadlines surface requiring all U.S. residents to be inoculated within a short time span.

Part thriller, part subtle love story (Maggie and Eddy are happily married) and a lot of intrigue make Diller’s story engaging. There’s an element of Big Brother along with the vulnerability that comes from being active on social media.

In general, the novel maintains a fast-paced tempo. Although not necessarily new, Diller raises important issues for consideration regarding the government and the ease with which we all share information about ourselves.

The Virus
Four Bookmarks
WorldTrek Publishing, 2015
359 pages

Held in Suspense   Leave a comment

Child44

Child 44 begins in such a predictable manner, with a vignette from the past, it belies the true suspense of Tom Rob Smith’s novel. However, as the tale unfolds each twist and turn is a complete surprise.

In Stalin-era Russia, Leo Demidov is with the State Security Force. In the midst of investigating a possible traitor, he’s ordered to address the death of a colleague’s young son. The family is convinced the boy was murdered but as Leo notes, “If left unchecked, the groundless chatter about murder could grow like a weed, spreading through the community … making them question one of the fundamental pillars of their new society: there is no crime.” The family’s concerns are dismissed.

Although he’s guilty of cold-heartedly dealing with those who denounce Mother Russia through actual or perceived actions, Leo has a soft side. Smith establishes a tangible fear and mistrust that permeate the Russian culture. Leo has kicked in more than his share of doors and had citizens banished, or worse, but the tide changes and he becomes a hapless victim when he refuses to condemn his wife, Raisa.

Consequently, Leo is assigned menial tasks with  small town police force, but a girl’s murder captures his attention by its similarity to the death he had previously scorned. Thus begins a secret investigation, cross-country pursuit, and unraveling of long-held secrets.

This is a rapid-heart rate page turner. However, one fault lies in Leo’s nemesis: Vasili, a one-dimensional character in an otherwise realistic, albeit frightening, world.

Child 44

Four and a half Bookmarks
Grand Central Publishing, 2008
436 pages

Norwegian Thriller   Leave a comment

redbreast

The Redbreast is the third of the Harry Hole series by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo. It’s also the fifth one I’ve read. Clearly, I haven’t read them in order. Initially, it was difficult to find translations of Nesbo’s books, so I savored them as I found them. He is apparently so in vogue now, that all ten, including a newly released novel, are readily available. At this point, I don’t mind the leap frogging. Nesbo has always provided enough backstory that I never felt I missed anything. However, what’s particularly appealing about The Redbreast is the introduction of the love of his life: Rakel, and her son, Oleg. Both figure significantly in the later books. But I’m jumping ahead of myself, literally.

Unlike others in the Hole series, The Redbreast is slow to build momentum. Initially, it was like being a passenger on a local train, with lots of stops, before finally getting on the express.

Nesbo’s story travels effortlessly between modern-day Oslo and World War II. The latter sets the stage for the underlying threat of neo-Nazism, which becomes the focus of an investigation Hole pursues. His efforts to discover how, and why, a rare sniper rifle was brought into the country lead him to several men who were Nazi sympathizers during the war.

Several parallel love stories emerge, as does a particularly sad one about friendship. All demonstrate Nesbo’s ability to evoke emotion while wanting to make sure all the doors in the house are securely locked.

The Redbreast
Four Bookmarks
Harper, 2000
520 pages