Tag Archives: Suspense

The Murder List

You know when you get a book and it turns out to be nothing at all what the synopsis leads you to believe? I hate that.

Hank Phillipi Ryan’s The Murder List is a thriller/suspense book that moves along at a fast pace but misses the key development to bring it all together at the end.

Rachel North is a law student who’s accepted an internship with the local district attorney’s office to learn the ins and outs of prosecution. The only problem is that Jack, Rachel’s husband, is a defense attorney whose mortal enemy is now Rachel’s boss. But what no one knows just yet is that Rachel’s past is more than what it seems, and it’s about to catch up with her.

The book is full of characters who have outwardly committed to justice, through their profession, but definitely appear to care so much more about winning cases, which makes them difficult to like– especially when their words and behaviors are questionable otherwise. Rachel’s character is alternately weak and projecting onto others, then coming into her own for a moment and taking control of her situation. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ryan did an adequate job of making her breadcrumb trail to lead careful readers to her conclusion. Though not a particularly surprising conclusion, as something of a connoisseur of psychological thrillers myself, I wanted more. I wanted to reach the end and suddenly have all these details stand out in my mind that were hints to what happened.

That said, the book does draw you in. And though I didn’t quite care for it, many thriller lovers certainly will. Ryan does a good job at weaving the past and present together to create a twisty plot with plenty to guess and wonder about.

Jamaica Inn

Ever since I read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, I’ve been wanting to read more by her. The depth of story and characters is excellent, and the gothic feel of her stories is reminiscent of other classics, but Du Maurier’s books tend to be a little easier to get through.

DSC00591Jamaica Inn starts with the death of Mary Yellan’s mother and Mary’s subsequent journey to live with her Aunt Patience at the remote Jamaica Inn, run by her uncle Joss Merlyn. Mary’s memory of her vibrant, enthusiastic aunt come crashing down when Mary arrives at the inn–despite being warned off– and finds a nervous shell of the woman she knew. Joss Merlyn is a hard man, and Mary soon realizes that she would have been better off heeding the warnings and staying away from Jamaica Inn. Though she doesn’t know what it is, exactly, there is darkness that makes itself at home there, and soon Mary is caught up in the middle of it.

A strong woman in her own right, Mary clings to her moral high ground as best as she can, but finds herself uncharacteristically tempted by a dark and handsome stranger she knows she cannot trust. Somehow, Mary finds herself quite in love and unsure of how to proceed.

Du Maurier is definitely a must-read author for fans of Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, and other classic stories. I’d say even fans of Wilkie Collins would find Du Maurier enjoyable. Her characters are real–they aren’t perfect, nor are the villains purely evil. Du Maurier writes her characters with soft spots and rough edges and the reader may find themselves understanding even the character they hate, or raging against the character they love.

The descriptions Du Maurier writes add greatly to the story, as well. Both scene-setting descriptions, as well as inner thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. As a writer myself, I know the pressure one can feel to make sure chunks of text are broken up by dialogue, and I’ll admit I have to be quite conscious about it, or else I’ll boogie write (right, sorry) along with description and inner monologues and scene setting, and then remember my characters have to speak, too. So I appreciate authors who show skill at using descriptions etc., to move the story along and avoid leaving the reader feeling bogged down.

I’m very excited to know that I have many more books to go before exhausting her writings, including some autobiographical work, which I’m really interested in. Now if I  could just get to the library…

The Mourning Hours

I’ve been aware of Paula Treick DeBoard for a while, as she’s a local author in our area, but I’d never tried her books. When some of my used book scavenging gave me the opportunity to read some of her work, I quickly realized I should have started much sooner.

Kirsten Hammarstrom was just a kid when her quiet Wisconsin life was turned upside down. Her brother was the star athlete of the town, but when his girlfriend disappears, and he’s the last person to have seen her, the small town turns against the whole family. Kirsten tries hard to believe the story her brother offers for what happened that night, but a niggling voice inside suggests otherwise. Years later, another tragedy brings the splintered family back together, and the truth finally comes out, giving them all a chance to heal.

I started this book before bed one night, and had trouble putting it down. By the next night, I had less than 50 pages left (and I was not keen on leaving it until the next day, but, responsibility…). It was a fast read, written from a young girl’s viewpoint, capturing the naivety and innocence of a kid trying to make sense of what she’s seen and heard, and trying to come to terms with the sense of betrayal that comes with her conclusion.

The first of her novels, DeBoard proves herself a master at weaving a suspenseful story, full of characters that feel real. The choices the family makes are ones that readers can understand and relate to.

The Mourning Hours is a well written book, keeping readers engaged right up until the very end. I’m glad I have a second of DeBoard’s books to start on soon.

Don’t You Cry

If you ever get the chance to snag a Mary Kubica book, do it. Her thrillers are uniquely written, each storyline leading to a logical conclusion that you didn’t quite see coming.

In Don’t You Cry, Quinn Collins is getting nervous, because her roommate Esther Vaughn disappeared without a trace. Becoming increasingly more frantic, Quinn searches Esther’s stuff for clues, and finds cryptic, creepy letters addressed to “My Dearest,” and signed “EV.” Quinn starts to wonder if Esther is really the person she thought.

Meanwhile, a few hours away, Alex Gallo sees a mysterious woman show up in the diner he works at. Inexplicably drawn to her, Alex is desperate to know more about her, to know her secrets. But the truth is more sinister than he could have imagined.

Though a little slow to start (or maybe it’s just because my mind has been obsessed with other things lately), Don’t You Cry May actually be my favorite of the three Kubica books I’ve read. Written in first person, it’s easy to get sucked into Quinn’s panic and confusion, and easy to feel sympathy and understanding with Alex and his sudden crush.

Don’t You Cry is a new twist on a domestic thriller, and it leads you in several directions before all the clues fall into place, pointing to the logical conclusion.

Blood Sisters

I snagged an early copy of Jane Corry’s new book, Blood Sisters, and let me say, I was not disappointed. I read the whole book in one day.

Blood Sisters, obviously, focuses mostly on two sisters, dealing with the aftermath of an awful childhood accident that left younger sister Kitty unable to speak or remember, and elder sister Alison riddled with guilt and anxiety. Alison is trying to make a life for herself, and takes a job teaching art in a prison. But soon she starts receiving anonymous, and ominous, notes, and she starts to realize the past may be coming to get her.

Only three people know what happened that fateful morning. Two of them have slightly but significantly different versions of the events. The third can’t remember, even though the closure everyone needs depends on her.

Blood Sisters ends up having four points of narration: one from Alison’s point of view in first person, one from Kitty’s point of view in third person, some diary entries, and, later, flashbacks from Alison’s point of view. But the narration works for the story, and it’s easy to follow the threads as they weave their way into a final picture.

Corry’s book was easy to read. It gave enough so you have a general idea of what happened, but enough misleading hints to keep you guessing about all the fine but crucial details. And just when you think you’ve figured it out and uncovered the secret, Corry reveals that there’s still more. But she does it in a way that keeps you engaged, not tiring you out from gratuitous word padding or layers of “suspense.”

Corry’s book is my latest go-to recommendation and, of course, it means her first book will have to go on my never-ending list of books to read.

So if you’re looking for an easy suspense read, be sure to check her out.

Odd Child Out

For a while, I’ve known Gilly Macmillan was an author I wanted to check out. In searching for thriller recommendations for a customer, her name popped up, and I’ve been biding my time ever since. When the advanced copy of her upcoming book, Odd Child Out, was up for grabs, I didn’t waste a minute snagging it.

Odd Child Out is the story of two teenage boys, Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad, best friends, at least until Noah is found unconscious in the canal and Abdi, the only one who knows what happened, isn’t speaking. His silence and Noah’s condition makes for the perfect sensational story for an unethical cop turned crime reporter, who paints the situation as an inverted racial crime perpetrated by Abdi, a Somali refugee, and Noah, born and bred Brit.

Detective Jim Clemo, just back from mandatory leave prompted by another case involving minors and tragedy, is dedicated to finding the truth, even though it tries his new-found patience, and requires limited interaction with his ex, the unethical reporter.

While the tragedy at the canal is the catalyst for the story, within the lives of Abdi and his family, so much more is going on. And as everyone chases the truth about what happened at the canal, Abdi is caught up in his own pursuit, chasing the truth about his own life.

Macmillan’s book was an enjoyable read. Not quite as suspenseful as I would have liked, as I guessed at most of the ending, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to read. And for many, the twists will still come as surprises, there wasn’t much information, just a lucky guess on my part, I guess.

Macmillan writes in present tense, from everyone’s perspective, which makes for a little bit of a different style of read, but I think it worked for her, allowing the reader to feel different emotions in “real time,” as it were.

The book also touches on, and handles very well, several different sensitive subjects, including suicide, immigration, stereotyping, and backgrounds. As Macmillan writes about these different things, it’s clear she’s done her research to know how her characters would react, given their history and background, and she finds the right ways to articulate the emotions–sorrow, anger, and fear.

Conclusion: Gilly Macmillan is still on my list of authors to read more of– especially since this seemed like a second novel about Detective Inspector Clemo. I can also recommend her in full confidence, having read something of hers myself. If you enjoy suspense thrillers and investigation books, look for Odd Child Out, coming in October.