Tag Archives: suspense

Reading: Sunday Silence by Nicci French

22nd January 2018

In the seventh, penultimate, book in this series, husband-wife writing team Nicci French begin Frieda Klein’s story where it left off in the heart-racing cliffhanger of Dark Saturday.

After defying the law to clear her name in the last installment, London psychologist Frieda is horrified to discover a body beneath the floor of her sanctuary, her home. After several years of trying to convince the police and the commissioner that a serial killer is still alive and toying with her, Frieda feels no satisfaction in their newfound agreement, especially as more bodies are discovered. Yet something feels different about the incidents that follow that threaten her inner circle, and Frieda realizes that Dean isn’t the only danger.

While full of the cast of characters – the ragtag friends and family of Frieda – readers of this series love, Sunday Silence falls short in delivering the taut, suspenseful narrative of the other books. The identity of the second killer is made clear early on, and the push to outwit him isn’t anything new.

Since the series began with Blue Monday, I was anticipating closure to the main story line in this book, and it didn’t come. Instead, the majority of the book focused on a much less interesting, less terrifying, less well developed character than I’ve come to expect. With the number of mysteries I read, I need more than a slightly odd, middle aged guy with a power complex to be the bad guy. Who is he? How did he arrive at the moment he commits a crime?

That said, the opening of this book offers a glimpse of the final showdown to the series, Day of the Dead, out July 2018, and I’m here for it.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out Goodreads to see what others thought of Sunday Silence.

P.S. While you can read these as standalone books, reading them in order is a much fuller experience.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

26th June 2012

*I borrowed this book from my brother while I was in NYC & read it on the subway.

Tom Ripley is a bit of a snake. He lives in New York, bumming money from an aunt he detests and running a fraud, just for the fun of it. He’s a bit concerned he’s been caught when he thinks someone is following him, but it turns out to be the father of an acquaintance. Dickie Greenleaf fancies himself a painter and has taken off for the coast of Italy, Mongibello to be exact, to paint and drink his days away. Dad isn’t amused. He runs a business he wants Dickie to run, and his wife is very ill. Though Dickie sends the occasional letter, he has given no indication that he’ll head back home any time soon. When Tom’s offered an all-expense-paid trip to Mongibello to lure Dickie home, he is as happy as the proverbial cat with its cream. He’s off to Europe on another man’s dime…legally. But Dickie isn’t having any of it, and Tom decides to work this from a slightly different angle. What if he can become pals with Dickie and live off him instead? The only problem is Marge. A writer in love with Dickie, Marge is always around, and she isn’t Tom’s biggest fan. It is evident that Tom’s jealousy and sense of entitlement will be his downfall, but he might just be sly enough to get away with murder and impersonating the man he’s killed

Not having seen the 1999 film version of The Talented Mr. Ripley with Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this novel, but my brother had asked several times why I hadn’t read it, so I picked it up to read on the subway while I was in the city.

Tom is quite easily one of the scariest characters I’ve ever come across (I’d put him up there with Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume). Why is Tom so scary? First of all, his delusions of grandeur are quite shocking. He honestly thinks he is meant for the high life. He doesn’t understand why Dickie would deny his birthright when it’s so simple for him. Dickie doesn’t have to work for his money but pulls a hefty allowance from his father. The irony is that Tom doesn’t work either, spending money grudgingly sent from his aunt. The difference? Dickie comes from money, and Tom doesn’t. Tom also expects Dickie and Marge will love him, so when neither is enamored with him, his disappointment and anger are stark and aggressive. Dickie warms to him, but Marge never likes him and isn’t afraid to tell Dickie.

However, I didn’t dislike Tom as much as I marveled at his audacity. Who was this man? How could anyone expect what he expected from life? Plus, this novel is written in such a way that Tom seems innocuous, murderer or no. He doesn’t kill in self defense, yet Highsmith doesn’t mete out justice in the way you anticipate. In fact, the suspense comes in as Tom goes about fixing his life and juggling the lies he’s told, always a few steps ahead of the authorities. I would argue that the only real punishment is that Tom must stop impersonating someone he is not, going back to being “old Tom.”

The implication is that Tom’s craftiness and Dickie’s flaws cancel out one another, as though the fact that Dickie is callous and unfeeling makes his death deserved in some way while Tom’s sly nature and adaptability prove him far worthier.

For a suspenseful novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley was a really interesting psychological adventure as well, undercut by themes of homophobia and a skewed morality, making me curious as to what Ms. Highsmith’s other books are like.

Read this: to escape to Europe/follow a well-mannered killer/delve deeply into a narcissist’s psyche/before you watch the film.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

23rd February 2012

*I bought this book and placed it as decor on my nightstand…where it remained for almost two years.

When I first began blogging, a bunch of bloggers were salivating over this book. At the time, I thought you were all nutters and wondered why in the hell this book was suddenly getting so much attention. A couple of weeks ago, I found out when I read this sensation novel morning, noon, and night, barely leaving its pages to eat. The Woman in White is one of those books which the reading of I can only compare to having the flu. Palms are sweaty. Your limbs ache from staying in whatever reading position you choose for far too long. There is a distinct desire for someone other than yourself to do any cleaning/cooking/feeding. You do not leave your pajamas.

Why? I’m going to purposefully simplify this plot: Dude gets a job teaching art. Said dude runs into a woman in white the night before he leaves for his new post. Chick is kind of crazy and has escaped from an asylum. Art teacher is unsettled, but he’s off to his new post, which includes two young women, an older sister, Marian, and her half-sister, Laura…who looks exactly like the crazy chick. She’s supposed to marry a titled man about whom the family has received anonymous warnings. There are serious things a-happenin’, and art teacher gets out of the mix, leaving the sister and the family lawyer to tell the tale of what happens after Laura and the count say “I do.”

Sir Whatsit is a vile man, but his Italian buddy who comes to live with the couple is even more dastardly. There are big plans to get money from the new bride, and these men will stop at nothing, NOTHING, I tell you, to get their hands on that dough. And you thought the crazed woman in white was gone? Surprise. She’s back. And it’s spooky. Plus, art teacher who’s in love with the blond, slim Laura (of course) is back to lay claim on his lovey-dovey. Bad guys get told. There’s a happy ever after.

Lessons learned: Men are evil. Men without money are evil-er.

Another lesson learned: Ugly women are smart. Mostly. Except when they’re busy being weak. Pretty women are always weak.

This novel is Gothic and sensational and fun and long and suspenseful, and ultimately, I loved it.

For a free egalley of this, go to Project Gutenberg. If you want to know the ins and outs before you read and don’t want my ridiculously-simplified plot, go here:

Man of La Book

The Lit Bitch

things mean a lot

Yvette Can Draw

An Accident in August by Laurence Cosse’

12th July 2011

*I received this galley from the publisher. An Accident in August is available 08/30/11, but you can preorder here.

When Julia with Europa Editions contacted me about reading and reviewing An Accident in August by Laurence Cossé, I was excited because it would be my first review copy from Europa Editions. I was also slightly unsure because the premise was based on the accident wherein Princess Di lost her life. Though I typically love fiction based on fact, there are some topics based on real events of which I am not wild – 09/11 and Princess Di’s death are two. However, I had heard quite a bit about Cossé and thought I’d give it a try. I am so glad I did.

An Accident in August is not about Princess Di. Instead, Cossé focuses her story on the theory that a slow-moving vehicle at the mouth of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel was the proximate cause of Princess Di’s fatal accident.

The story opens with Lou, sitting in her car parked in her garage, shakily replaying an accident she had on her way home from her job in Paris. She was driving cautiously through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel when a vehicle came up quite suddenly behind her, striking her and then ricocheting into the tunnel wall. Lou speeds home, shaken up and not thinking rationally. After all, the accident wasn’t her fault.

The next morning, Lou listens to the radio and understands the occupants of the car were none other than Princess Di, her companion Dodi, their bodyguard, and chauffer. From that moment on, Lou is panicked, knowing she should go to the authorities, yet desperate to avoid the scrutiny she knows will come, and her actions, though seemingly well-thought-out and rational, bring her ever closer to the brink of ruin.

This is the sort of book that only a brief synopsis will prevent giving away vital pieces of the plot Рand there were a lot of scenes that caught me by surprise with their intensity. Coss̩ (along with the translator Alison Anderson) has created a taut, quietly-suspenseful story about the nameless, faceless characters in a tragedy Рthose to whom we never pay much attention but whose lives are irrevocably altered. An Accident in August is riveting, tense, and thoroughly unexpected.

jenn aka the picky girl

P.S. Prepare to do some Googling, if like me you like to find the truth behind a story.

**Cross posted at the Europa Challenge Blog**

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

14th April 2011

Michael is a young man with a special talent for opening things – well, everything except his mouth. At age 8, something horrific happened to him, his mother and father, that caused him to be unable to talk. It’s not physical, but it may as well be. Michael spends the rest of his young life raised by his uncle after both his parents are dead.

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton opens with Michael telling the reader his story from prison. Michael’s talent? Picking locks. At first, he buys a couple standard locks from a junk shop and opens them. Then one night, he falls in with the wrong crowd (who previously shun him because he doesn’t speak) and breaks into a man’s house, leaving no trace the lock has been picked. The others run off when the police are called, but Michael gets caught and won’t give up his accomplices. His punishment is working for the man whose house he broke into, a man whose daughter Amelia, Michael has seen a drawing of and whose face he can’t forget.

Michael’s skill attracts all the wrong people, and he is forced to become a box man, or safe cracker, in order to safeguard the one person with whom he has been able to communicate – Amelia.

I first read about The Lock Artist at Jen’s Book Thoughts and again at Jenn’s Bookshelves. I was convinced I had to read it and bought it at Murder by the Book about a month ago. I began it late one evening and finished it the next day. It was one of my #fridayreadstakemeaway choices.

Hamilton writes one hell of a suspenseful novel: the pacing had my palms sweating, and I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Michael, dubbed Miracle Boy by the town where he is raised. Though holding the *big event that happened in the past that affects the present* doesn’t work for some books (I’m looking at you, Little Bee), Hamilton kills it, but he also inspired a very odd feeling in me: The more I read about Michael’s inability to speak, the more I felt as if I couldn’t speak. Yes, I know this sounds absolutely crazy and abstract, but think about it. You aren’t speaking when you read. The longer you read, the longer you remain silent. And I honestly had to stop and say a few words out loud at one point. That’s how insanely skilled Hamilton is. I identified with Michael; even though I knew he was making the wrong choices, I felt he had no other option. Why his hands are tied behind his back and the reasons for his speechlessness, well, you’ll just have to find out by reading.

But do me a favor. If you don’t feel all meta or abstract or whatever, don’t come back here and make fun of me for having to take “talking out loud breaks.” Or do. Whatever. I’ll just be happy you read The Lock Artist.

Read this one: immediately / asap / when you get a chance / if you’re bored

jenn aka the picky girl