Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Thriller”

Miss Kate’s CBR4 Review#12: The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill


I read this book last year around the time the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (who will always be Harry Potter in my heart) came out. I haven’t seen the movie, but intend to! As soon as it hits Netflix instant. I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. I love them, but they are hard to come by these days. I don’t need gore, just some good old fashioned chills. Scare me. Is that so much to ask for?

For the most part, The Woman in Black delivers. Set in Victorian England, Arthur Kipps is a solid man, a solicitor with a happy family. One Christmas while his kids are sitting around telling ghost stories, he is cajoled into telling his own. He recounts an experience that terrified him so much he had not spoken of it since.

As a young man, Arthur is sent is sent to the tiny coastal village of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of the late Mrs. Alice Drablow. While at the funeral, he sees a mysterious woman dressed in black. After the funeral, he makes his way to Eel Marsh House, a creepy mansion on an island only accessible via causeway. There he attempts to go through his late client’s papers, and wrap everything up before he goes back to London.

During his stay, things start to happen. There are spooky noises in the house, and strange, unexplained movements in the nursery. He sees the Woman in Black again. He also hears the sounds of an adult and child crashing a pony trap and sinking into the marsh. Arthur makes a friend in a local man, and discovers the secret of Eel Marsh House and the tragedy that occurred there years before. Without telling you any more, the story ends tragically.

The Woman in Black is chilling in it’s atmosphere. Hill is able to pull the the reader into the story pretty completely. Although there are only a couple of startling, jump-out-of-your-seat moments in the book, there is a creepiness that pervades each page. It does end very abruptly, and at first I was bothered by it. But really, extending it, I think, would give it less of an impact.

The Woman in Black is a very short book. At just over 120 pages, I’m eager to see how they were able to stretch it to fill a whole movie.  I recommend reading it alone, at night, preferably in a creepy mansion!

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #26: The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

The Heat of the Day (1948) is a novel of fire and glass, of broken people in a shattered city. Set in London during the Blitz, it deals with careless talk and even more careless silence. Stella is something in the government, her son is something in the army, her lover Robert may be something shady and on his trail is Harrison, who is something in British Intelligence and who wants something from Stella. Surrounding their stories is that of Louie, who is whatever the newspapers tell her she is.

Identity is shifting and nebulous, while the burning of London casts its own shadows. Motivations, and even events, are hidden, often reported second or third hand, while the characters play their roles as if they have nothing to lose and very little to live for.  Both time and space are fragmented –spaces are unstable because of the constant threat of obliteration, and the only time is the present, with future and past in the dark, as if outside a spotlight on a stage.

The Heat of the Day is a strange novel, alienating in some ways and awe-inspiring in its craftsmanship in others. I really liked it – it reminds me of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, perhaps an obvious comparison due to the examination of illicit wartime passions and secrets – but it is far more complex in structure and politics.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 26 #Casino Royale by #Ian Fleming

Personal Note: With this review I have achieved my personal goal of 26 books for the Half Cannonball completion and with a month to spare even. This is my 4th year participating in the Cannonball Read but the only one I’ve actually kept up with all the reviews. I couldn’t have achieved this feat alone and I’d like to thank Gwar, coffee, Godtopus, and myself – in that order – for helping me through. We did it, guys!

Now, on with the review!

Despite being an avid fan of the James Bond movies I have never actually read any of the books the films are based on. With my anticipation for the 23rd movie, Skyfall, at a fever pitch I decided to rectify that oversight by going all the way back to the beginning. First published in 1953, Casino Royale introduced the world to everyone’s favorite chauvinist Secret Service agent James Bond. Bond has been tasked with taking down a money launderer named Le Chiffre in a high stakes game of Baccarat at the Royale-Les-Eaux in France. You see, Le Chffre has been a naughty boy and has mishandled quite a bit of money he was entrusted with by the not-at-all-nice Russian agency, SMERSH. Bond is the best Baccarat player in the British Secret Service so he gets sent to win against Le Chiffre, thus bankrupting him and forcing to SMERSH handle his demise.

To aid Bond in this mission is Mathis, an agent in the French service, Felix Leiter, an American CIA agent, and the enigmatic Vesper Lynd, another employee of Her Majesty’s Secret Service who acts as cover for Bond’s background. What follow is an interesting story that warms up as it goes along and helps set the stage for subsequent novels in the series.

What struck me the most while reading Casino Royale was how closely the 2006 movie followed the book. This is one of the very few Bond films that actually is based almost entirely the novel. Almost everything that happens in the movie from the point Bond and Vesper get to the Casino Royale all the way to the ending is the basis for the book. Even the harrowing scene of torture is taken straight from the pages. The only main difference is the ending which is much more low key than the explosive finale in the movie but still carries the same emotional weight. In fact, the novel’s final line was memorably used in the movie as well.

Casino Royale is my favorite Bond movie and the book is quite a bit of fun to read as well. While Bond is an unabashed chauvinist as well as misogynistic he still comes across as a hero. The book does a good job of setting up who Bond is and why he does what he does. Some of the hallmarks of the series are demystified right away, especially the vaunted Double O status of Bond’s code number. As he tells Vesper all it means is he has assassinated 2 targets for the Service.  While Bond can be cold and calculating, his mind is always working the angles and Fleming’s description of the man is fascinating. At one point Bond gets in to a meandering conversation with Mathis about the futility of the job and for the first time I saw Bond as a haunted man, not the super human the movies make him out to be. It’s adds an interesting dimension to the character.

I highly recommend Casino Royale to Bond fans as well as espionage thriller fans. The book is lean and quick but it grips you from the start. I look forward to reading more of the Fleming novels in the future.

Robert’s #CBR4 Review #12: Ring by Koji Suzuki

Ring by Koji SuzukiThe challenge of translating a novel from another language is balancing the style and tone with the literal text. Lean too far towards literary flourish and you’re radically altering the content of the book. Stay too true to the literal text and you lose the nuance of wordplay in the original language that probably can’t carry over directly.

The English translation of Ring by Koji Suzuki poses an even greater challenge. The novel centers on a newspaper reporter and a philosophy professor who use the scientific method and many hours of research to solve the riddle of a potentially deadly video tape. Is the blunt prose the intended effect of Suzuki to best represent the non-fiction world of the two main characters? Or is it an unintended side effect of translating a medical sci-fi novel so couched in Japanese culture?

Ring, the inspiration for the popular Japanese horror series and blockbuster US remake, is a quiet investigative thriller. Read more…

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #92: Troubleshooter by Gregg Hurwitz

This is my first taste of Hurwitz’s character Tim Rackley, a U.S. Marshall with a past charged with hunting down an outlaw biker gang with a deadly secret agenda. Right at the beginning of the novel, Rackley is given a personal motive to smash the gang, when several of its members ambush and shoot Los Angeles police deputy Andrea Rackley, our hero’s 8-month-pregnant wife, and leave her in a coma. The gang, known as the Smiling Sinners, murder and terrorize with impunity, wiping out rival gangs and picking off innocents without a second thought as they enact a carefully-devised plan with national ramifications.

For some reason, the FBI has planted an agent on Rackley’s team of detectives who appears to be stonewalling the team, and it is not until well into the book that we finally learn why, adding another and darker level of tension to the story.  Rackley is also up against a celebrity lady lawyer who works for the Sinners and manages to stymie the detectives at every turn. Fortunately, our hero has a cluster of unorthodox friends who he is able to call on when the team hits a wall, and slowly but surely he is able to pick off bad guys—leaving the gang’s psychotic knifeman Den Laurey still on the loose.

Hurwitz makes sure that his novels are realistic, and his knowledge of motorcyles, weapons, drug smuggling, undercover police operations, even embalming techniques, is carefully researched and expertly—if luridly–displayed. He does not stint on blood and gore and his writing is not for the squeamish. Nonetheless, his multi-layered plot boils with tension, and the excitement will keep you up all night, or two or three, before you turn that last page.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #44: Freedomland by Richard Price

Cannonball Read IV: Book #44/52
Published: 1998
Pages: 736
Genre: Crime/Thriller

A friend recommended this book to me years ago, but I never got around to picking it up. I found it in a used book store a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try.

The premise is pretty simple for such a long book: A white woman (Brenda) wanders into an emergency room with bloody hands saying that she was carjacked by a black man in a mostly black neighborhood. Then she tells the cops that her four-year-old son was in the back of the car. This sets off a long string of events that causes a huge racial conflict between the black neighborhood (Dempsey) and the neighboring white town (Gannon) that Brenda lives in (and her brother is a cop in).

Read the full review in my blog.

Siege’s #CBR4 #34: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

In which Siege returns to extoll the virtues of Stephen King’s shorter works.

Sophia’s #CBR4 Review #18: Hostile Witness by Rebecca Forster

I picked up Hostile Witness (2004) by Rebecca Forster because I saw that it was free on Amazon. It’s hard for me to resist anything that’s free, but you tend to get what you pay for so I wasn’t expecting much when I started reading. What I found was a courtroom mystery/drama that kept me interested until the end. I’m not hooked enough to go looking for more books in this series, but I wasn’t disappointed.

Josie Baylor-Bates is a former criminal defense attorney. Still haunted by the actions of one of her former clients, she is dragged back into the world of criminal defense by the daughter of her old college roommate. The sixteen-year-old girl is accused of killing her step-grandfather, a California Supreme Court Justice. Josie tries to figure out what really happened, protect the girl from the system and her parents, and deal with her own demons.

I read this one awhile ago and don’t have much else to say, but you can read the rest of the review here.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #37: Desert Places by Blake Crouch

Cannonball Read IV: Book #37/52
Published: 2003
Pages: 289
Genre: Horror/Thriller

I’m a huge fan of Blake Crouch, but I didn’t think this was his best novel. I think it’s one of his earlier ones, so maybe that has something to do with it. Andrew Thomas is a writer who finds a strange note in his mailbox one morning. It says that there is a body buried on his property with his blood on it and if he doesn’t do what the note says, the police will be notified about the body.

Read the rest of my review in my blog.

Petalfrog’s #CBR4 Review #41: Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

I’ve been putting off this review for several weeks now, mainly because I’m burning out a bit towards the end of the Run, and partially because I really wish I loved this book more. A quick aside, for the first time in my life, while sifting through Kindle books (after finishing Stuff) I thought to myself “ugh, I don’t feel to read.” This has literally never happened to me. I read everyday, even if it is just a page or two… so yeah, I think the “necessity” of the Run is having some effects, but it’s all good because I’m on a Jonathan Kellerman now, and those I never tire of!

Anyways, back to Huntress Moon (LOVE the title). So, as I mentioned before, Alexandra Sokoloff sent me two books (one e-book, one hardback), after I reviewed the first book of hers I read, Book of Shadows. Then I read her debut, and wasn’t super in love with it, but it was a debut, so no biggie. Huntress Moon is her most recent work, and while I vastly prefer it over The Harrowing, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as Book of Shadows.

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

— From GoodReads

The book’s narrative trades back and forth between Matthew Roarke and “the mysterious young woman” (all in third person), and while we get a really deep understanding of Roarke and his motivations, I felt that I never fully understood the woman. At one point she befriends a single father and his young son, striking up a very strong bond with the son (who lacks a reliable mother figure), yet it is never quite clear why she went so deep with them so quickly. It’s implied she has major mental health issues (borderline personality disorder, if I’m remembered correctly), which could explain her quick draw to the man and his son, or it could be as part of a larger mission. We do eventually find out her larger mission, and again I wish I knew more about that. How did she find out about what was going on? Did she deliberately bring Roarke into it? I really enjoyed all the parts with Roarke, but at the end of the book was craving more answers about the woman. I also felt the ending felt a bit sudden, and again left me wanting more (which is a good thing I think!).

Overall, a nice suspenseful read with some exciting and interesting moments, and a somewhat out of the blue ending and resolution. I am still excited to keep reading more of Alexandra Sokoloff’s books.
Read more of my reviews (and other stuff) here!

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