Blogs: Thriller

Her bookjacketThe 2015 books are starting to arrive and I zipped through my first psychological thriller of the new year. Harriet Lane’s Her sucked me right in with a deceptively ordinary story of two mothers (though if you prefer to read about parents who dote on their children, you'd best skip this book). What a fabulously entertaining, suspenseful, well-written book. The story centers on the build-up of revenge plotted by one of the characters towards the completely oblivious other.

Told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, the interplay of reality and perception is pretty chilling. It’s sort of The Bad Seed with middle aged women. Her is a story that builds from the misunderstandings and disappointments in our lives and the twist lies in the overlooking of those matters.

I’m ready to be pulled into more psychological suspense novels in the coming year; here are a few that I'm eagerly anticipating. I hope they turn out to be as unpredictable and surprising as Her.

string diaries coverEver wish you could be someone else?

Racing through a dark and stormy night with her daughter and bloodied husband, Hannah Wilde has strong opinions on that question. Their neverending search for refuge is fueled by more than the will to survive. Armed with a stack of diaries passed down through four generations and a few questionable allies, she must put an end to a century long pursuit or forever rest in peace.

The String Diaries is a  page turning, horror tinged thriller. It’s the intriguing tale of one man’s unsettling obsession with the unattainable. 

Check it out!

 

Istanbul is my favorite city to wander through. When I think of Istanbul I think of fishermen lining the Galata Bridge, crossing the Bosporus and the Golden Horn by ferry, moving from Europe to Asia and back again. It is a city of mosques and palaces, and where shops spill out onto the sidewalks. You wake to the call to prayer and spend your day immersed in history knowing that you are never far from a pastry shop.  It is also a great place to visit by way of a story. Try these for a taste of Istanbul.

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. Charles Latimer is a writer living in Istanbul between the wars. He gets a plot idea when the body of a notorious criminal washes up on the shore, but as he researches the story he starts to doubt that the body was really Dimitrios and sets out to find him.

Istanbul Passage book jacketIstanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon . It's 1945, WWII is over and the cold war is starting. Leon Bauer, an American businessman, has spent the war years in Istanbul. During the war he did odd jobs for the CIA. He is asked to help with the delivery of a Romanian the Americans want to keep from the Soviets. The delivery goes wrong, his CIA contact is dead and he has to decide what to do with the smuggledIstanbul Memories book jacket man with the Nazi past that everyone now wants.

Baksheesh by Aykol Esmahan is the story of Kati Hirschel. She runs the only mystery bookstore in Istanbul and is shopping for an apartment. A man is murdered in the apartment she wants to buy and she’s a suspect. The dead man was involved in shady business dealings and Kati starts to investigate.

On the serious side, Orhan Pamuk writes literary novels set in Istanbul.  He also wrote a memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City, about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in Istanbul.

 

 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot cover

Is that electrical tape on your webcam or are you happy to see me?

One of the more anticipated the books from my stackWhiskey Tango Foxtrotcenters around a too close for comfort techno-conspiracy. Strangers, drawn together by creative happenstance, are forced to make a choice with global implications. The future of information is in their hands.

 

Not into techno-thrillers? Me either, but think again. Shafer’s book is addictive for the plot curious and its ensemble of characters. They find themselves at unique, yet relatable, crossroads of their own making. Then again, maybe someone, something else is calling the shots. As the suspense builds and time to act disappears, there’s no going back .

 

Out of sight bookjacketParaphrasing the FantasticFiction website: "lovers of mayhem, suspense, and just plain wonderful writing" ...should hustle over to the Elmore Leonard shelf, grab anything and enjoy your waning vacation time. 

It's like that feeling you have when you're hungry but don't know what you want (it's always chicken). You want a good book but don't have a clue? Get Elmore. Check out his page on the FantasticFiction website for his oeuvre. The films adapted from his books indicate the range of his audience: Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson); Out of Sight (George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez); and Killshot (Diane Lane,Mickey Rourke). From old guys to new girls, take your pick.
Be Cool book jacket
 
Leonard is the dean of dialogue, terse and tasty. So sit yourself down, put your feet up and immerse yourself in another world. Return to that place when time and forever were the same word. Try to remember when multitasking wasn't in the language. Then, Be Cool.

 

Cop Town cover"The good-ol-boy system was great so long as you were one of the boys." Karin Slaughter's Cop Town, my latest read, not only held my attention with its action-packed suspense, but also made me think about what it means to be a woman in today's society. 

If you've been following me since the inception of the My Librarian program, then you know that I love to read thrillers, mysteries, and police procedurals, the darker the better. Karin Slaughter has always been one of my go-to authors. Her Will Trent series is one of my favorites, and Beyond​ Reach, from her Grant County series, featuring doctor Sara Linton, contains one of the best, didn't-see-it-coming twists of an ending that I have ever read. Slaughter's latest has all of the elements of her previous books, a killer, a setting in deep south Georgia, quite a bit of violence (not for the faint of heart!), but it also speaks to the strides that women have made in the last 40 years in America.

Maggie Lawson and Kate Murphy are police officers in the almost all white, male-dominated Atlanta police force of 1974. They encounter resistance at every turn, from lewd remarks, to groping, to physical beatings in Maggie's case, all from their male colleagues (who are often drinking on the job). What makes their struggle even more poignant for me are their journeys outside of work, most notably Maggie's. She struggles to break free from her cop-infested, somewhat abusive family, but, as a woman in the south in 1974, she is unable to open a bank account, secure a car loan, or rent an apartment without her 'nearest living male's information'. When that nearest living male is her reviled uncle, and fellow officer, Maggie is seemingly out of luck.

In Cop Town, the struggle for women's rights is just as strong of a plot point as the search for the killer. Yes, this is a work of fiction, so some of the details may be exaggerated, but I can easily believe that life was like this for women in the south in 1974. Make no mistake - many of the characters in this book are appalling in their prejudice, even the females. But I highly recommend this book to you. It will not only take you on a suspenseful ride, but may just leave you appreciating what you have.

 

 

ThrillersA dark and stormy night. A toppled lamp with an outstretched hand lying on the floor by its base. A knock on the door when you are least expecting it. All of these elements can add to a great thriller. I have been reading thrillers for more years than I care to count. I devour them. I do branch out and read other types of books, but I am always drawn back to the thriller. As it says in my My Librarian profile, I like it when bad things happen, but I prefer them to stay on the page. Sometimes I wonder, why is that?

Perhaps spending my childhood reading through every Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden mystery sparked my interest. Aside from a brief foray into science fiction and vampire lit (a requirement for every teen, I've come to believe), I stuck with suspense. As I got older, the books only got darker, more intriguing, and, yes, sometimes a bit violent. I'm a pretty perky person by nature, and sometimes folks are surprised to hear that I most enjoy reading about terrible things happening to people. I just figure that I get to relieve all of my dark tendencies on the pages of my books, and that leaves room in my heart and my head to enjoy the life that surrounds me!

If you've never given thrillers a chance, might I be tempted to persuade you? If you like to become attached to a character, you are not alone. Series thrillers are abundant, and allow you, dear reader, to become involved with the often colorful cast of characters. Seeing as it is summertime, why not start a new series, preferably read by flashlight in your backyard tent late at night.

 

The Girl with the Dragon TattooI’ve been reading Scandinavian mysteries for years (even before The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo burst onto the international scene). I’ve always been drawn to the dark, murderous mayhem in these books, but I’ve also wondered about the crimes that abound in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic mystery books. Are there really so many violent occurrences in those cold climes? Or is it rather that all of those sunless days of winter just breed writers searching in the dark for soulless murderers?

Since I spend my days at the library, I decided to do a bit of research on this. First, looking at crime statistics in those countries, I compiled this chart from statistics in 2012:

Homicides per 100,000 people rate

population

Iceland 1 0.3 320,137
Denmark 47 0.9 5.59 million
Sweden 91 1.0 9.517 million
Finland 118 2.2 5.414 million
Norway 111 2.3 5.019 million

Okay, compared to the  U.S. (14,612 per 100,000 for the rate of 4.7!), Scandinavians are a peaceful people. In terms of sheer numbers, the United State is the ninth most murderous country. Yes, there are tons of books set in this country about horrific murders and violence but sheesh, there was only 1 murder in Iceland in 2012 (or possibly up to 3, I couldn’t find the actual number),but I counted at least 20 murders set in Iceland written by their popular authors.

I can only think that those long, dark winters create the perfect atmosphere to spin tales of violence. Here are some of the Scandinavian mysteries I’ve curled up with during Portland’s long, rainy winters. Skal!

 

Earlier this week I attended the reading of a will. Unfortunately, the reading wasn't received well, and it looks like we are headed to trial. Thankfully, I get to witness the debacle from the comfort of my easy chair.

I'd like to share what I am reading this week. The best seller lists call out to me, and this week I am enjoying Sycamore Row by John Grisham. Featuring several of the characters from A Time to Kill, Sycamore Row takes us back to Ford County, where we realize that racism is still alive and well in the late 1980's. Seth Hubbard, termminally ill with cancer, has ended his life, and left behind a handwirtten will leaving almost all of his 21 million dollar fortune to his black housekeeper, and that does not sit well with his family. This story reminds me that, although we as a society have made great strides with regards to racism, we still have a long way to go.

Grisham's writing evokes the south in glorious ways, from the drawl of its residents, to the wrap around porches on the most stately of the town's houses. We also get a taste of the wrong side of the tracks, the areas where the poor blacks live. Put it together and throw in the trial and you've got a simmering pot of racial tension disguised in the genteel conversation of the south. 

If you've been wondering what happened to young lawyer Jake Brigance, think about placing your hold for Sycamore Row.  Access the title here, and take your pick from the book, the audio CD, or the ebook!  And while you are waiting your turn in the holds queue, maybe revisit some older John Grisham titles, and rediscover one of the great storytellers of the day.

 

Before I go to sleep bookjacketBefore We Met and Before I Go To Sleep, You Should Have Known How to Be a Good Wife but there were These Things Hidden Under Your Skin and Rebecca, The Silent Wife was Watching You with Sharp Objects in the Apple Tree Yard under The Cover of Snow so even though you knew The Husband's Secret you would no longer have The Innocent Sleep you so desperately needed after reading so many psychological suspense novels!

Whew. I almost used all of the titles of my favorite thrillers in one sentence! Gone Girl was one of the first of this genre to get a lot of press and now there are more and more of these unpredictable books to keep you quickly turning those pages. 

I'm always trying to find books with the most surprising plot twists. These books go by different names: psychological dramas, suspense novels, chick noir, domesticYou Should Have Known bookjacket thrillers, twisted marriage novels, but they all have some common elements. The characters are ordinary (or sort of ordinary) people in extraordinary situations. The setting needs to be at home, not some international, espionage-y kind of place. The most common backdrop is a marriage - how well do you really know your spouse? Often there is a murder or a disappearance or a disappearance that turns into a murder. Amnesia is pretty common.

The best sinister psychological dramas are well-written with full character development and a twist that catches you by surprise; they’re the ones that keep you up reading way too late at night. Hope you find these as fascinating and wonderfully unpredictable as I found them to be. If you've read other suspense novels that should be on this list, please let me know!

 

 

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