Tag Archives: Thrillers

Under my Skin

While I’m growing a little tired of thrillers focused on women with unreliable narrative, Lisa Unger’s upcoming book, Under My Skin, was just enough different to be enjoyable.

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband Jack was murdered during an early morning run, and Poppy is still drowning in grief. The case was never solved, and despite therapy, Poppy is missing memories from the days immediately surrounding the murder.

Using a mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs to cope, Poppy quickly loses the ability to differentiate between what’s real and what are dreams. But Poppy is convinced that clues to her husband’s death are hidden in her missing memories, and she’s determined to find out what she knows, even if she won’t like the answers.

Unger writes this story to be fast-paced, and to keep readers guessing, trying, along side Poppy, to recognize what is real in the story, and which pieces are dreams. Frankly, it can be a little challenging to keep track (which I think is the point), so if you’re someone who is obsessive about clear lines, this book may be hard. Additionally, if you have trauma of losing someone you love, this book might be hard too. I definitely held my husband a little tighter after reading it.

While everything seems pretty clear on the surface, we learn fairly quickly that our characters aren’t all what they seem, yet another layer of trying to determine with Poppy, is she a bad judge of character? Who’s side of the story is unjustly biased? And just how much can people change?

What makes this book a little different than some of the others that I’ve read is that Poppy comes out in the end as a strong character who doesn’t let other people tell her what is going on inside her own head. Sure, she questions, and recognizes her bad decisions, but she works through it all on her own, instead of believing those who love her, only to find out they were wrong or misguided. In her fragile state, Poppy hangs on to herself, instead of allowing those around her to remake her into someone else. And I like that about her.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, even if it did make my heart hurt to read it. And if you’re waiting breathlessly for your next thriller, you’ll have to wait until October, for this one to hit shelves. But it’s worth it.

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Lying in Wait

Liz Nugent picked an excellent first line for her second novel. “My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.” With an opener like that, how can you not keep reading?

Lying in Wait is a different kind of thriller than the ones I’ve been reading.

It follows the Fitzsimon family, Lydia and her husband Andrew, a prominent judge, and their beloved son Laurence. Obviously we know from the get-go that Andrew kills Annie, it’s in the first sentence. Lydia helps her husband hide the body, and they attempt to go on with life as normal, because who would miss a drug-addicted prostitute? Naturally, her sister would. Karen won’t accept that her sister is dead, because there’s no evidence for it. When her path crosses with Laurence’s, it becomes hard for the Fitzsimon house to keep a lid on its dark secrets–and there’s more than just Annie lying in wait for discovery.

Instead of being engaged try to figure out what’s happened in the story or how it ends, this story engages you in considering motives, how far someone will go in the name of self-preservation, and what will happen when it all hits the fan.

The characters are compelling, and Nugent does an excellent job in giving insight into each character, letting readers see what makes them tick and giving valid reasons for their behaviors.

All in all, Lying in Wait was a good novel. Keep an eye out for it when it hits the shelves in June, you won’t be disappointed.

Tangerine

I think the best books, and especially thrillers, are the ones that keep you actively trying to work out how it’s going to end.

In her debut book Tangerine, Christine Mangan nails that.

After a tragic accident at her college in Vermont, Alice Shipley quickly finds herself married and living in Tangier, Morocco. Then suddenly, her college roommate, Lucy, shows up, and Alice is both relieved to be coming out of her shell again, but also suspicious and on guard– after Vermont, Alice thought Lucy was gone from her life for good. As Alice tries to manage her anxiety and suspicion, Lucy is scheming away, trying to reclaim what was lost to them both in Vermont.

Throughout the book, I found myself coming up with all kinds of possible acts for the story to resolve itself. Alice is an unstable character, that much is clear from the beginning. But there is more to Lucy than we first are led to believe, too. And I quickly found myself questioning her as much as Alice.

For a debut novel, I think Tangerine is excellent. Heck, it’s excellent as a novel period. It’s got twists and turns and complex characters, and while the story keeps you guessing, everything leads to a logical conclusion.

If you’re look g for a good page turner, look no further than Tangerine.

The Good Girl

Mary Kubica has been popular for quite some time, and so I’ve been anxious to try her out as a thriller writer, and I’m so glad I finally did.

In The Good Girl, Mia Dennett, daughter of the well-known Judge Dennett, leaves a bar with a stranger and ends up kidnapped and in the run with her abductor. As the police start an investigation, it comes to light that the prestigious family has secrets, and chaotic emotions swirl beneath the surface.

A mixture of chapters from before the rescue, day of the rescue, and the weeks after–from various points of view–The Good Girl will catch you off guard, unless you pay attention to the small details, and even then, things aren’t quite what they seem.

Without giving too much away, The Good Girl leaves you with lots of questions about what was real and what was a performance. And you’ll have to decide those for yourself. But Kubica creates compelling characters with depth, a mixture of good and bad in each one to remind you that they’re human too, and shows that people can be capable of surprising actions, if they find the right motivation.

If you’re looking for a thriller that will keep you guessing just like it’s detectives, The Good Girl is for you. You won’t be disappointed.

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.

The Third Twin

I’m familiar with Ken Follett as a historical fiction author, but The Third Twin was my first taste of him as a thriller author.

Jeanie Ferrami has been doing research into the nature versus nurture question in regards to crime by studying twins, specifically those who were raised separately. But when a normal day on the university campus turns into a nightmare, Jeanie finds herself knee deep in conspiracy and cover-ups– Jeanie has uncovered identical twins born to two separate mothers.

Refusing to give up on uncovering the truth, and finding it difficult to know who she can trust, Jeannie must bring the secrets to light quickly, before she becomes another fatality to maintain the secret.

In the whole, the premise was excellent, and the story was engaging. The story moved quickly and Follett dropped enough hints to lead you along while reserving some secrets for the ending.

However, I confess I’m getting a little tired of thrillers being chock full of romance, or of relying on sexual crimes as the catalyst for the storyline. I suppose it makes sense, for the romance, because intense situations tend to create a strong bond of intimacy, but, many stories lately seem to be romance stories tucked into intense situations.

All in all, Follett didn’t disappoint. And I certainly wouldn’t pass up any of his other works on just this premise. So when you need a good, fast-paced story with romance as the underlying theme, try out one of Follett’s thrillers. You won’t be sorry you did.

Fragments of the Lost

I’ve been meaning to read a Megan Miranda book for a while, as I’ve heard she’s a good thriller writer, so, naturally, an advanced copy of her newest book became available, I snatched it up right away.

Fragments of the Lost is geared toward young adults, and is the story of Jessa Whitworth and her ex-boyfriend Caleb. After they broke up, Caleb’s car washed off the side of the bridge in a flash flood. Everyone’s decided Jessa’s to blame, since it was her track meet he had left on the night of his accident. Caleb’s mother demands Jessa pack up Caleb’s room, and as she boxes everything up, Jessa struggles with her guilt and with the growing realization that their relationship seemed to be built on a foundation of lies. Jessa dives into her own investigation, trying to find out why Caleb was on the road, where he was going, and what she truly knew about Caleb. But she’s quickly finding out that she may not like the answers she uncovers.

Within the first few sentences of this book, I was hooked. It’s chock full of drama and mystery and flows at a fast pace. The story is told in first person, a mixture of present moment and flash backs from when Jessa and Caleb were still together. This makes it easy to get into Jessa’s head and see everything from her perspective, follow her thoughts to the same conclusions she reaches. But the book has several twists and turns to keep readers on edge, and the short chapters make it really easy to promise yourself “just one more.”

Being geared toward young adults, of course there is romance throughout the whole book (not the least of which is obviously the flashbacks from Jessa and Caleb’s relationship). But I was glad to see there was much more to the story than that. If the rest of her books are anywhere near as good as Fragments of the Lost, I’m really going to enjoy catching up on Megan Miranda’s books.