Tag Archives: Pamela Dorman Books

Review: Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French

8th April 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.

After the traumatic events in Blue Monday, Frieda Klein is nearly back to normal until she’s called on the carpet for delving into a client’s mind in order to help the police. Frieda herself questions her motives but ultimately knows she did what she had to in order to locate a kidnapped child, even if the results were less than ideal. The case still haunts her, particularly as she’s not sure it’s quite over…

Meanwhile, DCI Karlsson is in a bit of a quandary. A social worker visits a mentally ill patient only to discover a decomposing corpse covered in flies whom the patient has faithfully served tea. Unable to get a sense of what happened from the withdrawn woman, Karlsson calls again on Frieda, but she hesitates, unsure if police involvement is something she should be doing or even wants to do.

Ultimately, though, she cannot resist the draw of this patient who so obviously needs help. Plus, the victim is unidentified, and Frieda hunts down a clue the police have missed, leading to identification. But even with a name, this victim, Robert Poole, seems unknowable. Intelligent and perceptive, Poole was a con man, changing himself to suit the situation. The problem is, most of his con victims have no idea they’re being conned, or they’ve enjoyed his company so much they don’t seem to mind.

The more Karlsson and Frieda discover, the more they question who didn’t have a motive for killing Poole, and Frieda wonders at the similarities between herself and the victim, a man whom everyone seemed to be able to talk to easily.

Along with the suspense in Tuesday’s Gone, I really like the choice to very slowly reveal Frieda to the reader. In a way, the series seems to be less about the threads left over from the previous case and more about the exploration of Frieda’s own psyche. I like her; she’s introspective and cautious, but she also cannot resist helping once she’s begun, caring far too much about the people who could ultimately harm her. A good description of her, discussing a breakup over a year ago:

She suspected that Harry would think fourteen months was a long time; most people would. How do you measure absence? There had been minutes that had become hours, days dull and deadened as lead, and whole weeks when she’d had to force herself forward, inch by inch, across their expanse. How do you know when your heart is ready once more? Perhaps, for someone like her, the heart was never ready and had to be forced open.

Still enigmatic and quiet, Frieda nonetheless seems much more vulnerable in Tuesday’s Gone, and the tension left over from the outcome of Blue Monday follows her everywhere, making for an increasingly taut read.

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Review: The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

18th March 2013

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

*This book was sent to me by the publisher Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.

Of course it was my love for my children, love for my son, that caused me to act as I did. It was a lapse of judgment. If I could have foreseen the rippling aftershocks that followed I would have acted differently, but by the time I realized the extent of the consequences, it was too late….

Motherhood was my only excuse. I was trying to do right by my son and it made me momentarily blind to the interior laws I have always tried to live by. We all want the best for our children, but I crossed the line between protection and offense.

Lydia MacBride has kept a diary every year, commemorating events large and small, noting her thoughts, her dreams, her confessions. The Burning Air begins with one of her greatest confessions: she is dying, and she has not told her family, but there is an even larger secret she must keep from them.

Close-knit and supportive, the MacBrides must move on after the death of Lydia. She was a force to be reckoned with, but the privilege of their lives – private school, family, a lovely home – has created unknown enemies. On an annual trip to Far Barn, a family residence in the secluded English countryside, one enemy in particular has waited for this moment, has crafted its circumstances, and will threaten the MacBrides and their memories.

A tale of obsession and misguided hatred, The Burning Air by Erin Kelly is a great thriller with an oddly intoxicating villain. Though the narrative shifts between characters to build suspense and divulge only what is known to each, the unreliable narrator is by far the most interesting. The megalomania is fascinating to consider but terrifying to behold.

However, the culmination of years of planning was too rushed and didn’t seem fitting of a truly obsessive enemy. I am being intentionally vague here because there were moments in The Burning Air where I gasped with recognition and knowledge of who the villain was and how it would all play out. A single-sitting read, The Burning Air by Erin Kelly was a fast and electric read with only a mildly disappointing ending.

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Blue Monday by Nicci French

5th March 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Pamela Dorman Books/Viking in exchange for an honest review.

Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist, walks the streets of London at night. It’s not her patients or their stories she’s trying to escape, however. She just can’t sleep and finds the quiet of the city at night comforting before facing the day. When her former mentor becomes unreliable, she takes one of his patients, Alan Dekker. Alan can’t have children but has vivid dreams of a child, a redheaded boy who calls him Daddy and plays on the playground. When Frieda sees the news and discovers a redheaded boy has disappeared, she wonders. Could Alan be the culprit? He remembers feeling the same way 20 years earlier, when a young girl was abducted near a candy store. Are Alan’s latent desires expressing themselves in horrific ways? Frieda, unsure of her duty, goes to the police, and embarks on a fraught-filled journey to discover the depths and limitations of the mind.

The husband-wife writing duo Nicci French have written several novels together, but Blue Monday is the first in a series (in which each book will be named after a day of the week) following Frieda Klein. Frieda is complicated. She isn’t close to her family and has few friends, practically none outside her work. She lives alone in a dark flat, and her life is quiet and ordered. Her mentor is struggling, and Frieda’s confidence in him is tempered by her need to get him back on his feet and in the clinic, a need that seems to be personal as much as it is practical. She is unsure how to proceed when she suspects her patient of wrongdoing, and instead of forging boldly ahead, she seeks counsel, even though it’s from her flawed and troubled mentor.

As for the central mystery, once the main twist is revealed, I found it relatively easy to reconstruct the rest. However, after a discussion on Twitter, I think it may be my excessive mystery reading that’s to blame. 😉 In fact, I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. There is a good bit of exposition, but in the first installment of a series, that’s hardly unexpected, and I liked that French doesn’t reveal the details of Frieda’s past life. The ending, though I had anticipated it, was still incredibly chilling and left me with an eerie feeling.

If you’re typically wary of reading books with possible violence to children or with abductions, Blue Monday focused much more on the mind of a kidnapper as opposed to graphic or unnecessary scenes with either child. The aftermath of an abduction on families is difficult to experience, but it also illustrates how differently those faced with such horror react.

Initially, I was concerned that the novel may feel unstable, as I could not recall having read a novel with two writers. The publisher kindly included a Q&A with the pair, and they said, “It’s a question of moving between the two of us. We never decide in advance who’s going to write what chapter, there’s no division….If Sean writes something and I change absolutely nothing about that whole section, but I read it and approve it, then it becomes mine as well. It becomes a kind of Nicci French thing so we both own each word of it.” Interesting. And it worked.

Interested in Blue Monday? Leave me a comment and your email address, and I’ll draw a winner by Friday at midnight.

Blue Monday is out today. Buy your copy from Indiebound or on your Nook.

UPDATE: Giveaway closed. Congrats to Brian Brady for winning a copy of this book!

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

16th February 2012

*This book was sent to me by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking in exchange for an honest review.

Banks are failing. New York City is full of former financial-type men and women looking for work as the American economy takes hit after hit. Paul Ross is (relatively) lucky. After his firm goes under, his father-in-law, the wealthy and influential Carter Darling hires him on as general counsel for his hedge fund, Delphic. Though Paul wishes he didn’t have to rely on the Darling’s generosity, he also knows his wife Merrill is accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and he doesn’t want to disappoint her. However, when the apparent suicide of a close family friend and business associate leads to questions about the Darling’s business practices, Paul and his wife Merrill have to decide between family and freedom.

Financial thriller. The words almost sound like an oxymoron, but The Darlings is a taut, suspenseful telling of the lives of New York City’s elite and the problems in which they find themselves in one of the city’s biggest crises. Alger breaks down one small part of the financial crisis in a Madoff-like tale of greed, sex, and deception. Though the breakdown of the legal and financial problems is extensive, it is certainly not exclusive, and the inclusion of detail is interesting.

That said, the movement of a book that depends on action does naturally have to slow for these explanations, and The Darlings seems to suffer from wanting to explain the intricacies of a pyramid scheme, seek empathy for its characters, and set readers on edge, waiting for the conclusion of the story.

While it certainly kept me up, wanting to figure out who was telling what lies, I also felt as though some of the character lines were unfinished. Sometimes that doesn’t bother me if, for example, the characters are simply extraneous, but Alger’s supporting characters were, at times, more pitiable and intriguing than the main, and to finish the book without hearing from them seemed, much like the main characters’ attitudes, graceless and self serving.

The Darlings is certainly a timely book, and though very different from Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (a book I loved), novels set in New York and Washington during the financial downturn seem immediate and almost otherworldly.

Have you read The Darlings? I think this is a book that will garner a wealth of different opinions. Is this one you might pick up?

Read an excerpt here. Buy a copy from Indiebound  or on your Nook.