I LET YOU GO

5/5 stars

MEMBER OF THE TWISTER HALL OF FAME

  • Author: Clare Macintosh
  • Published May 3rd 2016 by Berkley

 

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

Clare Macintosh, the author of I Let You Go, is the real deal. According to her Goodreads profile, she spent twelve years in the police force, including time in the criminal investigations unit (CID). She knows what she is writing about.

I Let You Go, her debut novel, was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015 (U.K.). It won all kinds of awards and is still an extremely popular book. For good reason.

Here’s what it’s about: after a tragic accident, Jenna Gray’s only hope is to start afresh—and in a tiny, remote Welsh village it seems possible, just for a moment, that she might be able to find a new life. But her grief isn’t going to stay in the past for long… THAT IS ALL I CAN TELL YOU without spoilers.

This book checks all my required boxes for a top notch domestic thriller!

  • UK setting (SO MUCH LOVE)
  • Heavy on the psychological aspects (YES)
  • Just enough police procedural
  • Sympathetic protagonist
  • Unreliable narrators (MUST HAVE)
  • Breath taking plot twists
  • Compelling mystery (UNPUTDOWNABLE)
  • Expertly-cleverly-plotted writing (TECHNICAL TERM)

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DING DING DING…..We have a winner! The book takes a minute to set up and you may find it a bit slow, but relax, you’re in good hands. (And wake up! You might want to really pay attention at the beginning since there may or may not be a few clues already sprinkled in. )

I found this book compelling and irresistible. Although the subject matter is heavy, it carries an important message and Clare Macintosh is up to the challenge.

AMAZON link

 

THE KIND WORTH KILLING

5/5 stars

“I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.”
― Peter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing

This first-rate domestic thriller has never gotten the attention it deserved. It won a couple of awards when it was released in 2015, but The Girl on the Train was published around the same time and that press junket steamrolled over any serious consideration The Kind Worth Killing was gaining as the go-to novel that year.

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A modern take on the Patricia Highsmith classic, Strangers on a Train, the story is told mostly through the voice of Lily. I read this over two years ago, and I still remember Lily! She is a terrifyingly, unreliable narrator due to her psychotic tendencies. Here’s the weird part: I started sympathizing with her and hoping she would get away with murder in the end. This is a talented writer, people! To turn readers into serial killer sympathizers, kudos to the skillful Peter Swanson!

If I summarize this book, it would be filled with spoilers. You’re most likely familiar with the Highsmith book or the Hitchcock movie, so you already know the plot. It is a cat and mouse game played with the highest stakes. But there is so much more in the way of characterization (especially Lily!) and plot twists and shocks and murder and…MAYHEM! Amen to that.

Now is the time to pull THE KIND WORTH KILLING out of your TBR stack. You will be rewarded with lots of creepiness and an unputdownable story.

AMAZON LINK: The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel

THE DINNER

5/5 stars

  • Author: Herman Koch, translated by Sam Garrett
  • Published February 12th 2013 by Hogarth (first published January 2009)
  • TWISTER HALL OF FAME MEMBER
“Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.”
— Herman Koch (The Dinner)

This is one of my favorite books in the domestic noir genre. It is not a book for everyone. It is biting, raw and the darkest humor you can imagine. Almost the entire story is set at a restaurant table.

There are two unhappy couples having dinner together and acting as if everything is fine. As we go from appetizers to dessert, the reader gets a sense that something is very wrong here. A simmering beneath the surface kind of tension. It continues to build until all the secrets are exposed. I could not put this book down except for minutes at a time and then I was constantly wondering “what in the world is going on here?”

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Each couple has a son. These sons are cousins to each other, because their dads are brothers.  The sons have done something horrible. Really bad. And the parents are here not just to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant, but to work out how this situation their sons are in should be handled. All four members at the table have a different agenda, a different perspective, a different personality flaw.

The narrator, Paul, is sarcastic and funny and relatable. He could be someone you know. But when you find out the true Paul, who he is when no one is watching, you realize you probably don’t know anyone like him and you certainly don’t want to.

To me, this book is a rare find. It is written so well, even though it is translated from Dutch to English. Amazing, my English major heart rejoices! A brilliant and literary, domestic suspense story.

AMAZON link    The Dinner

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

5/5 stars

  • Member of the Twister Hall of Fame
  • Author: Paula Hawkins
  • Published January 13th 2015 by Riverhead Books

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on the Train: A Novel Amazon Great Kindle Deal!

This story is actually told from three women’s points of view. For all intents and purposes, you will only remember Rachel. She’s the main character and her drunken memories help to create, dare I say it?  The all-time MOST UNRELIABLE  NARRATOR in literary history.  That’s why I love this book so much!  Well, one of the reasons. Actually, every character in this book is unreliable. Who can you trust? NO ONE. Put the clues together and solve this mystery yourself.

The new label being thrown around these days is “domestic noir” and I believe describes this sub-genre much better than “psychological thriller”or “chick” noir (ick).  This is the tribe of books I have embraced. And millions others. We may be in danger of overdosing on domestic noir now.

The novelist, Julia Crouch, described the subgenre in her blog in 2013. “In a nutshell, Domestic Noir takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.”

Paula Hawkins set the domestic noir scene on fire with this book. We had all been waiting (2 years!) for someone to replace Gillian Flynn on the bestseller list and she did it. Girl on the the Train is a much more delicious variation on the textbook standard that Gone Girl had established. I think it is an easier, faster read than Gone Girl and not as cynically, bitterly dark and depressing as Gone Girl.

The highly anticipated movie version of The Girl on the Train left me deflated. I thought The_Girl_on_The_Trainit was shot in such a slick manner, way too glossy while the book was unabashedly gritty. I couldn’t get past that! Oh, Hollywood. What are ya gonna do about it?  I love Emily Blunt as Rachel. But, the movie is a miss. Read the book.

BTW: the Audible version is outstanding.

LIFE OF PI

5/5 Stars

  • Member of the TWISTER HALL OF FAME
  • Author: Yann Martel
  • Published August 29th 2006 by Seal Books (first published 2001)

Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t a suspense/thriller type story in the least.  There are some pretty gruesome descriptions of animals devouring each other, but that doesn’t really count. Does it?

I have to include this gorgeous modern day fable in my Hall of Fame simply because the entire story is a twist. Is Pi telling the truth? Did he really spend 227 days with a Bengal tiger on a raft in the ocean? The beauty lies in what the reader wants to believe.  No matter how you react to the ending, you will find evidence in the book to back up your belief.

Life of Pi is now studied in most high school English classes for good reason. Yann Martel combines literary devices masterfully,  you could read this book one hundred times and never catch all the allusions, metaphors, and symbols. It is a rich and charismatic text that poses questions on religion, survival, nature, morality and truth.

This is a book that has stayed with me for years.  If you haven’t read this book, WHY NOT??? Also, you could watch the movie! (The book vs. movie snob in me approves highly of the movie).

Amazon paperback Life of Pi

Amazon Kindle Life of Pi

Amazon dvd Life of Pi

ENJOY.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

       5/5 Stars

  • Member of my TWISTER HALL OF FAME 
  • Author: M. R. Carey
  • Published June 19th 2014 by Orbit

I kind of hate that one of the major surprises in this book is all over the internet as if it is common knowledge. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE SECRETS works even better if you just go in blind. Trust me! I listened to this book on Audible when it first came out, based solely on the blurb below:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

This book is a little bit of every kind of genre you can imagine.  And it works. It is bursting with ideas, characters, explanations. The plot is based on the scientific theory of evolution and it is explained in such a manner, you will have nightmares for weeks just thinking it might come true.

The character of Melanie is so endearing, she’s one of my favorites of all time. She’s smart, fierce and scrappy.  She loves Miss Justineau in a heartbreaking way that will resonate with your own first crush on a teacher.

There are some longish sections of violence and war, but as a reader I was so invested in Melanie and Miss Justineau, I had to see how the book would end. It will not let you down. The ending is brilliant and unforgettable.

There is a movie version which I have seen. Don’t even bother, it was nowhere close to the Audible recording as far as performance quality goes.

AMAZON The Girl With All the Gifts

GONE GIRL

5/5 Stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Well, this is it. THE book that started the psychological suspense craze in novels over the last 5 years. Gillian Flynn’s third book is a legitimate masterpiece. Even the movie was stunning (which rarely happens).

I’m a big fan as you can tell. (I’m also crazy about SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACESher first and second novels).

Exploring the malevolent side of ordinary people and taking a peek into their murderous motivations is an endless fascination for me.  After reading at least a few hundred similar books, I realize more than ever how special this one is. The New York Times called this book “ice-pick sharp”.  I agree.

It is biting and witty; a fast paced perfect story of love and marriage, murder and revenge.

Click here if you need your Gillian Flynn copies from Amazon!