Book Review: The Intruders by Michael Marshall

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A cleverly written psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.  3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Taut, menacing, sinister, gripping, intelligent, action-packed – everything you could want from a thriller.
When ex-LAPD patrol cop Jack Whalen’s wife goes missing on a routine business trip to Seattle, his world is shaken.

Meanwhile, a ten-year-old girl vanishes from a beach in Oregon after an encounter with a sinister stranger – but it gradually becomes clear that she’s very far from defenceless.

Searching for answers in the shadowy secrets of a past that still haunts him, Jack discovers that the truth has roots deeper and darker than he ever feared.

Favourite Quote

Other people’s working spaces are like the ruins of lost civilisations.

Review

This is not the first book I have read by Michael Marshall.  Last year I read Blood of Angels (you can read the review here), the final instalment in The Straw Men trilogy, which I read as a standalone.  I enjoyed it enough to seek out more by the author, which is how I came to read The Intruders.

This was an interesting, original psychological thriller, with elements of the supernatural, horror and crime fiction, reminding me a bit of The X-Files.  It’s cleverly written in such a way as you don’t really know what exactly is going on until the mystery is revealed later in the book, and yet there is so much story unfolding that you don’t necessarily notice.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next.  It was interesting to see how the strange, diverse storylines were going to be pulled together.

I wasn’t struck on many of the characters, but surprisingly this wasn’t an issue that prevented me from enjoying the book.  To me, the story – and the mystery – took precedence.  I also wasn’t keen on the ending of the story, yet I can see why the book ended the way it did.

What I really liked about the story was that it were some great turns of phrase woven into the narrative, my favourite being the quote above.

Rating.

3.5 / 5

Advertisements

Book Review: Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

Snow White Must Die (translated by Steven T Murray) is the fourth book in the Kirchhoff and Bodenstein series by Nele Neuhaus.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A complex yet gripping mystery thriller, full of plot twists and turns.  I couldn’t put it down. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

On a wet November day, Detectives Pia Kirchoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to the scene of a mysterious accident. A woman has fallen from a bridge onto the motorway below. It seems that she may have been pushed. The investigation leads them to a small town near Frankfurt, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls, Laura and Stefanie (also known as Snow White), vanished without trace from this same village. In a trial based entirely on circumstantial evidence, Stefanie’s boyfriend, handsome and talented, Tobias Sartorius, was sentenced to ten years in prison. He has now returned to his home in an attempt to clear his name. Rita Cramer is his mother.

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. But when another young girl goes missing, the events of the past repeat themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a dramatic race against time, because for the villagers, there is soon no doubt as to the identity of the perpetrator. And this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

Favourite Quote

Like poisonous lava these words erupted from the depths of him; finally all the bottled disappointment came pouring out.

Review

I didn’t realise until I finished the book that this is the fourth book in the series that stars Kirchhoff and Bodenstein.  However, the book works very well as a standalone. I don’t believe I missed out on anything of significance by not starting the series at the beginning.

Every character we come across in this story has a tale to tell.  It’s not only the main characters that have the depth of a backstory while everyone else is simply there to move the story along, but, just like in real life, all these personalities, histories and choices weave together to create a fabric of community.  And somewhere, in amongst all this, are secrets and truth.

Kirchhoff and Bodenstein are both very interesting, modern characters.  Kirchhoff keeps so many animals that she almost lives on a farm, so before her day of investigating crime begins, she’s already been up for hours looking after the animals.  As for Bodenstein, his family are land and castle-rich but money poor.  Their personal lives are brought with them wherever they go, and this helps them to appear very realistic.  What is going on at home isn’t only important when the chapter says they’ve left work behind, so it’s all right for you to flesh out your character.   Most people are not like that; and believable characters are not like that either.

There are a lot of characters in this story and it was a little difficult to keep up with who’s who, but that’s my only real problem with the book.  I found the story to be gripping and I resented having to put it down when real life said I had others things to do apart from read.  I wanted to know what was going to happen next, what the next plot twist would uncover, if the truth would come out before it was too late…

This is my first foray into German crime fiction and I really enjoyed it.  I definitely plan to read more of these books.  If you enjoy Scandi-Noir, or any other sort of European crime-drama, I recommend Snow White Must Die to you.

Rating

 

Book Review: The Little House by Philippa Gregory

Summary (from Goodreads)

A contemporary psychological thriller in the style of Ruth Rendell, from one of today’s most versatile and compelling storytellers.

It was easy for Elizabeth. She married the man she loved, bore him two children and made a home for him which was the envy of their friends.

It was harder for Ruth. She married Elizabeth’s son and then found that, somehow, she could never quite measure up…

Isolation, deceit and betrayal fill the gaps between the two individual women and between their different worlds. In this complex thriller, Philippa Gregory deploys all her insight into what women want and what women fear, as Ruth confronts the shifting borders of her own sanity. Laying bare the comfortable conventions of rural England, this spine-tingling novel pulses with suspense until the whiplash double-twist of the denouement.

Favourite Quote

Their very generosity to her and concern for her had told her that she was a stranger, and unwelcome.

Review

This was a gripping read that kept me reading until the very last page and left me feeling chilled to the bone afterwards.  This is perhaps one of the best psychological thrillers that I have read to date.  Philippa Gregory conveys just how easy it is for what appears to be kindness to be used to manipulate someone who is more-or-less alone in the world.  What unfolds is just so hard to read and some passages are simply harrowing.

The characters are superbly imagined.  Ruth is talented and successful in her own right, but the only family she’s got – her selfish husband and his overbearing and controlling parents – are not interested in her work.  They are only interested in his successes.  She is nothing more to them than add-on to the family; there to serve a purpose.  I really felt for Ruth, and was moved and upset by the evil treatment she received at the hands of the people who should have cared for her the most.

As for the ending, I’ll try and explain my thoughts without letting any spoilers out.  The first thing that happened, had to; there was simply no other course of action for Ruth to take if she wanted things to change.  However, I was surprised – and perhaps a little disappointed – in what that led to, though I can understand why things turned out as they did.

All-in-all, I can’t recommend this dark sinister tale highly enough.

Rating

4.5 / 5

 

Book Review: The Broker by John Grisham

Summary (from Goodreads)

In his final hours in the Oval Office the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems that Backman, in his power broker heyday, may have obtained secrets that would compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plan, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive – there’s no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is: who will kill him?

Favourite Quote

“I’ve been locked in a small cell about the size of this apartment for six years.  You can’t expect me to stay here.  There’s a vibrant city out there.  Let’s go explore it.”

Review

This was a gripping read; I could not put this book down.  The characters were interesting and the storyline hooked me from the first page.  Although Joel Backman was not a particularly nice man, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.  To have so many people want to kill you…well, the danger he was in was palpable.  And, as the story unfolded, I found myself rooting for him, the person he was long forgotten for the man he had become.

I liked how Joel Backman’s transformation into Marco Lazzeri was depicted in the book.  Another clever turn was including Marco’s language lessons in the narrative so not only does he have to be immersed in the language and culture of his new home, but the reader is too.  And, it’s been years since I have spoken Italian, so this served as a bit of a test to see how much I could remember before checking it over with the translations that immediately followed.

The book is well researched and the settings, especially the main attractions of the towns Marco is confined to, are described in detail.  It was an easy read, one I could easily get lost in.

All-in-all, a thoroughly entertaining thriller that I struggled to put down.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Text by Claire Douglas

Summary (from Goodreads)

A single text changed her life. Did it end his?

Emily Latimer is furious. Her boss Andrew is being so unreasonable, as always. She fires off a text to her boyfriend, only in her haste she sends it to her whole office group.

In it she says Andrew’s being difficult about letting her have time off work. That she is angry. That she hopes he dies. The next day her face burns in the office. No one believes her when she says it was a typo, she meant to say does. She hopes he does.

It’s a nightmare. But it gets worse – Andrew doesn’t turn up for work. And then the police come knocking. Because Andrew Burton has been murdered . .

Favourite Quote

It’s warm and cosy in here with Radio One playing quietly in the background and the rain drumming on the roof and bonnet like an amateur pianist plonking out a tune.

Review

This was a quick, engaging read. I think I got through it in about half an hour, but for the whole of that time I found it gripping.  Although short, there are plenty of twists to keep you reading.

The characters quickly came to life as soon as I started reading.  I really felt for Emily.  Two small slip ups – a typo in a text and sending the text to the wrong people – and everything unravels for her.

It lost as star because I thought it ended a little abruptly, making the closing pages feel rushed.  However, I thought it was a good read with a believable story line. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

I downloaded The Text for free from iBooks.

Rating

Book Review: Blood of Angels by Michael Marshall


Blood of Angels
is the third book in the Straw Men trilogy by Michael Marshall

Summary (from back of book)

Notorious serial killer the Upright Man has escaped from a supermax prison.  The FBI have no idea how it happened, or where to start looking.  Ex-CIA agent Ward Hopkins suspects the Straw Men, a shadowy conspiracy of killers with a macabre agenda.

But apart from Ward’s girlfriend Nina, a discredited federal agent, the only person who believes the Straw Men even exist is John Zandt, a homicide detective obsessed with tracking down his daughter’s killers – and who is now wanted for murder himself.

The terrifying thing is that Ward’s right – his brother was broken out for a reason.  The Straw Men are planning something big.

And now only Ward, Nina and Zandt stand between them and a spectacular act of carnage…

Favourite Quote

It had been like being held in a giant’s warm hand for a spell.  We could feel that hand lowering, preparing to put us back down.

Review

First off, I didn’t realise this was the third book in this storyline until I had already started reading. Having already enjoyed what I had read, I decided to continue on instead of going back to start at the beginning of the trilogy.  This clearly shows that Blood of Angels works well enough (rather than perfectly well) as a standalone read.  However, had I not already started the third book, I would have preferred to start at the beginning.

There are a lot of characters in this story and a number of story threads which are cleverly woven together.  The beginning did feel a little slow, but the pace did pick up.  The author does a good job of trying to include all the pertinent information from the first and second book in the narrative.

The conspiracy theory aspect of the storyline wasn’t overplayed.  Instead the thriller aspect of the story was the main focus point, and this involved quite a bit of action.  The characters were detailed and engaging, as was the plot itself.  At certain points in the book I couldn’t help but wonder how the separate storylines were going to come together, but when they do, it’s cleverly written.

I would happily read more from this author as I found this book quite gripping once I got into the story…

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Eye of Ra by Michael Asher

Summary (from inside book sleeve)

Unknown to the world at large, the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1923 revealed a secret of crucial importance – a secret that over the next years would bring about the mysterious deaths of more than twenty people.

But the story didn’t end there.  Omar James Ross, a maverick Egyptologist, is drawn back to Cairo by the disappearance of his friends and colleague, Julian Cranwell.  His body is found by the Great Pyramids, and Ross becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that leads directly back to Tutankhamen’s tomb and is linked in some way to the legendary lost oasis of Zerzura.

Cranwell’s body vanishes from the morgue, and every contact, every informant dies or disappears.  Ross, threatened, harassed, almost friendless, takes refuge among his mother’s people, the Bedouin nomads of the Western Desert.  It is in the company of an intrepid band of these tribesmen that Ross solves the mystery of the Eye of Ra, and comes face to face with the most earth-shattering discovery.

Rich in Egyptian mythology and history, Bedouin folklore, sinister secret organisations and deep conspiracies spanning millennia, The Eye of Ra is a highly atmospheric thriller combining fascinating characters and chilling mysteries.

Favourite Quote

‘What’s it like?’

‘Well, it’s not two palms and a pond – that’s how most people think of an oasis.  It’s fifty miles long with scores of villages, millions of palms, lakes, thousands of feddans of farmland, scrubland and acacia forest.  It’s like a big green island in a sea of nothingness.”

Review

I enjoyed this book a lot.  The story was fascinating and cleverly written, and the characters engaging.  Full of twists and turns, I didn’t know what was going to happen next most of the time, though there were some instances where they were anticipated.  That didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it, however.

My favourite character was Doc Barrington, though Omar James Ross was interesting; being part English and part Hawazim, he had spent most of his life up until that point feeling like he didn’t fit in anywhere.  I found the mythology and history engrossing, and the descriptions of the Bedouin, their folklore and way of life, thoroughly fascinating.

The book is full of rich descriptions of places, and the author’s understanding and knowledge of the desert and the people who live there shines through.  I liked the front cover too – anything with hieroglyphs on it immediately catches my attention.

I wouldn’t describe it as a page turner, more a slow burner, even though there is a lot of action in it, but it held my attention throughout without fail (hence the four stars rather than five).  I thought I wouldn’t get on with the sci-fi aspects of the plot, but the author did a great job of telling the story so that it didn’t bother me so much; yes, it was a little far-fetched, but fun nonetheless.

The Eye of Ra is full of secrets and mysteries, mythology and action, and has a rather unique  answer to the curse of the pharaohs.  If you enjoy historical fiction and sci-fi, and possess an interest in Ancient Egypt, I think you will enjoy this book.

Rating