Tag Archives: Thriller

The Alienist

3 Oct

My latest book to read and review is “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr.

The scene is New York City in 1896. Young male prostitutes are being brutally murdered. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt turns to prominent alienist, Dr Laszlo Kreizler, for assistance.

Kreizler, along with a journalist named Moore, who is the narrator of the story, two police detectives, and police department secretary Sara Howard, join forces to track down the killer.

The book is a tense psychological thriller, though I did find I got bogged down a little with the actual psychology part of it. Carr gave his main character, Kreizler, a tendancy to lecture and I found that my attention wandered away at times.

The digressions into New York CIty’s past, both criminal and otherwise, were interesting. As were the vibrant descriptions of 19th century New York’s underworld and its inhabitants.

On the whole, I found “The Alienist” to be an enjoyable read.

Escape Clause

18 Dec

“Escape Clause” by John Sandford is the 9th Virgil Flowers novel.

Two Amur tigers are stolen from a zoo.  Virgil is tasked with tracking them down and returning them before the are reduced to component parts for Chinese medicine.  To add to the confusion, Virgil’s girlfriend Frankie’s sister has turned up and getting herself into all sorts of trouble interviewing illegal immigrant workers at a canning factory.  Then when Frankie is beaten up by thugs, all hell breaks loose for Virgil and the BCA.

Baring one or two little niggles, I loved this book.  The plot was just this side of believable to make suspension of belief fun not ridiculous.

There was lots of Jenkins and Shrake.  Two characters I adore.

I found the skinny dipping scene a trifle creepy and the character of Sparkle’s boyfriend, Bill, pretty much unlikeable.  Mostly he tripped my ethics and morality buttons, seeing as he’s supposedly an ordained priest!

But apart from those quibbles, “Escape Clause” was a fantastic read.  Lots of drama, plenty of Sandford’s trade mark humour, and the scene where the main bad guy gets his comeuppance has to be read to be believed.

In a word: Fun.

Highly recommended.


4 Dec

Most people would be familiar with Hugh Fraser as an actor than a writer.  He was the dashing and urbane Captain Hastings to David Suchet’s Poirot.

Hugh has turned his not inconsiderable talents to writing.  “Harm” is his first novel.  Rina Walker is an assassin.  The story swaps between 1956 when she started down the path, and 1974 when most of the novel takes place.  In 1974 Rina goes to Mexico to take out the head of a drug cartel…everything goes to hell and Rina finds herself fighting for her very survival.

“Harm” is well written and well plotted and zaps along at an almost frenetic pace.  Hugh Fraser also has a lovely way with the English language, his turn of phrase being both colourful and picturesque.

“Harm” is an excellent addition to the thriller genre.  A warning for the more faint hearted.  It is violent.  Graphically so in some places.  And some of the violence is sexual.  It may not be your cup of tea, so considered yourself duly warned.

Die of Shame

5 Jun

“Die of Shame” is an excellent stand alone novel from Mark Billingham.

When a member of a counseling group for addicts is murdered, DI Nicola Tanner has to work against time, an unhelpful therapist, and the rest of the group, to find out why the person was murdered, and who did it, before someone else dies of shame.

Well plotted, well written, and a deeply absorbing read.  The book swaps view points between past and present, but the changes are well delineated, so as not to cause confusion to the reader.

I’d worked out who the killer must be, but couldn’t get the motive, not until close to the end, but the massive plot twist right at the very end came out of nowhere and broadsided me.

DI Nicola Tanner is a bit different from Mark Billingham’s other characters.  I found her unsympathetic, and a bit of a pain in the arse, to be honest.  So a cameo appearance by pathologist Phil Hendricks was a more than welcome interlude.

Fantastic book.  Highly recommended.

In the Dark

26 Apr

“In the Dark” is a stand alone thriller by Mark Billingham.  Except it really isn’t.  The main character is DC Helen Weeks, who becomes a major character in the Tom Thorne series later on.  I love the fact Mr Billingham created a character he felt was too good to only use once.

Helen is heavily pregnant when her partner goes out on a night out to farewell a retiring fellow police officer and is killed by a car at a bus stop, when the car is shot at by gang members.

But is everything what is seems?  Confused and grieving, Helen’s cop sensors still pick up that something is wrong.  She sets out to find out the truth.

Meanwhile, a young man, who happened to fire the shots into the car, finds his world collapsing around him.

Eventually their paths cross as “In the Dark” twists its way towards it’s finale.

I admit to feeling a little let down by the penultimate chapter, but it did not detract from making the book a powerful and absorbing read.

Like the majority of Mark Billingham’s books, “In the Dark” is set in London, giving added pleasure for Londonphiles like myself.

Highly recommended.

The Rhesus Chart

10 Mar

Bob Howard works for The Laundry, a secret department of the British Government.  They are, basically, an occult version of MI5.

No-one believes in vampires, so when a nest of vampires appears in Canary Wharf, all hell breaks loose for Bob and his comrades.  As the body count rises, Bob and the boys may have met their match.

“The Rhesus Chart”, by Charles Stross, rips along nicely.  An excellent story.  A spy thriller with lashings of Lovecraft and humongous helpings of humour.

The characters are well rounded and interesting.  I am particular fond of the Vicar, Peter.  I do hope he makes a return appearance.

The only thing I found a little heavy going was the jargon.  It did detract a little bit from my enjoyment.  However, the committee names and the acronyms, WOMBAT (Waste Of Money, Brains, And Time) was my personal favourite.  This one will be finding its way into my regular conversation, you can count on it.

“The Rhesus Chart” is part of a series, and I am now going to get the others to read.  You can’t get higher praise than that.

Highly recommended.

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