Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “thrillers”

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #55: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

I picked this book up because of the cover, checked it out of the library because of the blurb, and stayed glued to my couch for hours because of the opening sentence (“Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine.”) I haven’t heard many people talking about The Rook yet, so I figure I should get things started. I loved this book. It wasn’t perfect and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a favorite, but it was unbelievably engaging and creepy, and I became rather attached to all the characters by the end of it. I kind of hope there’s not a sequel, but I’m sure there will be. Authors these days.

The Rook is the story of Myfanwy (Welsh, pronounced Miff-an-ee) Thomas, or rather, the person who is now inhabiting the body of the former Myfanwy Thomas. New-Myfanwy wakes up in a park in London with no memory of who she is, surrounded by dead people wearing rubber gloves. She finds a letter in her coat pocket addressed to “You,” and upon reading it, discovers that Former-Myfanwy had been aware she was going to lose her memory for quite some time and had made extensive preparations. The letter sends new-Myfanway to a bank and gives her a choice: pick this safety deposit box and you can leave London and live a new life, rich and free (with the possibility that someone may try to track you down in the future and kill you); pick that safety deposit box, you find out who I am and how to take over my life. New-Myfanwy chooses the latter and soon finds herself one of the leaders of a top-secret shadowy pseudo-government agency called The Checquy which trains young Britons with superpowers and keeps the world safe from paranormal threats. Oh, and also she has superpowers herself. With help from former-Myfanwy’s letters, Myfanwy must navigate her new life and somehow unravel the mystery of who is trying to have her killed, and why.

Okay, so writing it out like that makes me remember it even more fondly, and I think my opinion of the book just went up even more. I kind of want to retract my previous statement — this book might be on its way to my favorites shelf after all.

There is a shit ton of urban fantasy being written these days, and most of it is not my cup of tea — too urban, too gritty, too formulaic. But The Rook manages to avoid all those things I don’t really like, instead providing heaping spoonfuls of atmosphere (mysterious, creepy, beautiful, elegant, to abuse a few adjectives), characters that felt like real people, and genuinely frightening (and at times horribly disgusting) threats. But really it was the storytelling that got me. The main conceit of the novel — Myfanwy learning about her life through letters her former self had written — was extremely effective. I might even call it charming. It made the book feel like a story, and all the magic that implies. Something else I loved about The Rook is what it did for Myfanwy, who should be added post-haste to every list of badass female characters. I want to say more about this particular line of thought, but I’m trying to keep this review spoiler free. You’re just going to have to take my word for it and go read this book.

Plus, if all of that doesn’t sell you, one of the characters in this book is one person who happens to inhabit four different bodies at the same time. I mean, come on. How cool is that?

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 18 #Gideon’s Corpse by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

There are definitely draw backs to being a completionist fan boy. While the duo still has a strong gold-to-crap ratio going, Preston & Child are definitely starting to lose their “must read” label for me. Maybe it’s just that they are publishing at least one book a year at this point but the output is starting to get sketchy. Gideon’s Corpse is the sequel to the 2011 Gideon’s Sword. That book was not very good, and while Gideon’s Corpse is better it is still so far fetched it’s hard to take seriously at times.

Gideon Crew is a nuclear physicist/professional thief/con man that does free lance work for Effective Engineering Solutions (shortened to EES), a sort of think tank in Manhattan, in stopping various calamities. Also he has a medical condition that is going to kill him in a year or so when his vein of Galen pops and he suffers a massive brain hemorrhage and dies instantly. This is an inoperable condition so Gideon is basically a walking dead man which makes him take risks other people probably wouldn’t.

Picking up just seconds after the end of Gideon’s Sword, Corpse immediately throws the reluctant Gideon Crew back in to the fray as he is tasked with trying to talk down a hostage taker that he happened to work with at Los Alamos. This leads in turn to the discovery that a nuclear bomb was manufactured and is going to be detonated in a US city in a matter of days.

Gideon reluctantly joins the investigation for no other reason than he knew someone involved and EES pairs him with the improbably named Stone Fordyce, an agent with the FBI. The dynamic duo heads to Los Alamos to follow up on a long shot lead and, lo and behold, end up pulling a thread that gets the bad guys hot on their trail. They frame Gideon and soon he is on the run trying to piece together who is behind the attack and how to stop it.

The first half of Corpse is kind of silly but enjoyable. I was less enthused when Gideon goes on the run because the interplay between him and the FBI agent was entertaining.  At one point the duo take a break from the investigation and Gideon makes them dinner at his cabin near Los Alamos and they listen to jazz and chat through the night. I swear I thought they were going to have sex and thought to myself “This is an intriguing development.” Alas, a same sex romance would have been an unconventional choice and this book is anything but that. The boys keep it as a platonic bromance although the frame up on Gideon definitely complicates their friendship.

All thrillers need an 11th hour twist and this one is a doozy. I won’t ruin it here but the twist made my suspension of disbelief completely stop and for the last 50 pages or so I read with complete detachment from the proceedings. Towards the end, you learn one of the characters was in on it from the beginning. This was completely expected and given the conventions of the genre I suspected this character immediately after they were introduced. However, the book is written in third person shifting between a few different characters. I had to go back and re-read the chapters with from this hidden conspirator’s perspective because I could swear the writers cheated. How can a hidden conspirator stay hidden when the reader is privy to their thoughts? By making extremely careful word choices in describing those thoughts. I still think it was a bit of a cheat, but it is a testament to Preston & Child’s skills that they made it work. But just barely.

The Pendergast series is the flagship brand for Preston & Child, but even it is getting a bit long in the tooth. This winter sees the publication of Two Graves, the finale of the so called Helen Trilogy. Once upon a time, the writers had a pretty good size group of characters to write about in the Pendergast series but over the years most of them were killed off.  I think the Gideon Crew series is an attempt to have a series that is not so interwoven and dark as the Pendergast series. In doing so, the result is so light it reads more like a script treatment than an actual novel.

Gideons Corpse is better than the first novel in the series but that is damning it with faint praise. Unless you are also a Preston & Child fan boy like myself there is really no reason to give this one your time. This is Thriller 101 stuff and even the hilarious and logic shattering conclusion isn’t enough to recommend it.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #24: Savages by Don Winslow

Savages is part prose, part poetry and a smorgasbord of drugs, blood, guns, sex, youth, race, money and power.  It’s a quick, bloody Game of Thrones style power struggle and, much like in Game of Thrones, there are no guarantees main characters won’t be slaughtered along the way.  Basically, the Walmart of cartels tries to take over Ben & Chon’s wildly successful mom & pop hydroponic pot growing business and when they’re rebuked, the cartel kidnaps Ben & Chon’s shared lover Ophelia.  Chaos and savagery ensue as Ben & Chon mount an elaborate multiphase plan to recover their lover.

The book holds your interest, if only because the players are trainwrecks you can’t tear your eyes from.  You never know who the smartest guy in the room is, and every player makes both brilliant moves and excruciating miscalculations during the course of the story.  Certain characters capture your attention more than others.Like Ben, the Berkley pihlanthropist/businessman/botanist who prides himself on his peaceful business and superior intelligence analysis who sinks into violence over the course of the novel. Or Ophelia, the bored little rich girl who half-heartedly wants to escape her shallow, bohemian existance for the sake of notoriety.  And La Reina, Queen of the cartel, seems more focused on proving her power than wielding it.

More, including the movie trailer and casting breakdown…

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