Thrillers: what’s hot, what’s not

I’ve mentioned before how this particular genre tends to suck me in, but there’s truly nothing like a page turner! I’ve found more and more as I’ve gotten busier and busier with work and other things in my life that I’m demanding more from my reads. I really need something to grip me and hold my attention – otherwise I’m just not motivated to read. It’s unfortunate, but sadly true. So it’s why I’m really drawn to this genre, and why I’ve grown to love it so much as I’ve grown as a reader. It never really used to appeal to me, as I thought that it was too much blood, gore and violence rather than the abundant subtlety and psychological issues that a good thriller brings to the table.

 

So, I thought I’d compile a list (I also love a good list – see Ally’s BBC books) of thrillers I’ve read lately, and give you all the lowdown of what I thought, and maybe even give you some ideas about what to read next!

 

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

IN A WORD: heart-pounding (Okay, I know it’s a compound word, but it’s really true of this book!)

Probably one of the most famous psychological thrillers published in the last two years, this debut novel truly astounded me. I was lucky enough to get a proof copy of this one from my work, and I totally devoured it. In fact, for my other blog, I wrote a piece about my top 5 reads of 2015 and I simply had to put this one at the top of my list. You can find the blog here. Here’s what I said about The Girl on the Train:

 

“Really, there was never any doubt about what would be my number one read of 2015. Paula Hawkins’ debut The Girl on the Train gripped me from its very outset, and it has clearly gripped readers worldwide as well, as 2015 saw The Girl on the Train become virtually an overnight phenomenon. It topped bestseller lists around the globe with its familiar take on voyeurism, a classic trope of thriller and crime fiction. Deemed “the Gone Girl” of 2015, this was a book that had me up all night reading.

The book is told from many perspective, but the main one is Rachel, a bit of a hapless young woman whose life has gone all wrong – separated, forced to live in her friend’s spare bedroom, she takes her source of joy from the train commute which she takes every day, and stops by her old neighbourhood. In this old neighbourhood, from her view on the train, she overlooks the lives of one particular couple, whom she deems “Jess and Jason”. Their lives seem so picture perfect from Rachel’s seat on the train – until one fateful day. When Rachel sees something. And she can’t keep quiet. And it means that she has become an inextricable part of these lives she’s only witnessed from afar.

No plot spoilers here – but I will only say that, if Alfred Hitchcock has taught us one thing, it is that voyeurism is a dangerous sport. This book takes us on breathless trips through the darkness, stumbling train trips, blackout drunkenness to frantically searching the memory bank for the real and full truth right until the end. I have left out some extremely important players in this game – and, trust me, they all have roles to play as the thriller winds its way to a close.

A brilliant, edge of your seat thriller this was – and, undoubtedly, the book of the year.”

 

If you haven’t yet read it – believe the hype!

 

  1. Maestra by L.S. Hinton

Maestra

IN A WORD: vulgar

 

The hype surrounding this one was unbelievable. I’d just about never seen a book as heavily advertised prior to its release – book trailers as extravagant as film trailers, postcards in the mail, bus stop advertisements, author interviews and even attractive men and women in the cover’s signature red swimwear spruiking the book on the shores of Bondi Beach!

 

 

Of course, I fell victim to the hype of this one. I was burning with curiosity about the fuss and uproar around Maestra, so I managed to secure an advance copy and finished reading it just the week before the book hit the shelves. Sadly, I was quite disappointed.

 

Maestra tells the story of Judith Rashleigh, a woman of many faces. She works in a prestigious art gallery, but she has found herself increasingly jaded and bored by the industry. So, she takes an after-hours job at a bar in a less-than wholesome area. The core of the book revolves around a major conspiracy in the art world which Judith uncovers whilst working for the gallery, and before she can do anything about it, she is promptly fired. So, when she is offered a trip to the French Riviera by one of her clients at the bar, she accepts, with disastrous consequences.

 

Although the book got off to something of a promising start (I could tell that it certainly wasn’t the best book in the world, but I felt that it could have been enjoyable), I found that in the second half it deteriorated dramatically. It lost all sense of plot sensibility and became purely about graphic and masochistic sex scenes and explicit scenes of violence, all of which, to be honest, I found repugnant. I tried my best to enjoy the book – I liked the fact that Judith was a complex character who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, and I did enjoy the initial art/auction house conspiracy, but it became less and less about this with each page turn. Honestly, it was a touch ridiculous.

 

The fact that this was marketed as a “thriller” is the only reason it has even made it to this “Thrillers” post – because it certainly wasn’t thrilling. If anything, it is more of an erotic novel with some crime as a subplot. An attempt at making a high-end Fifty Shades of Grey that went terribly wrong!

 

  1. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go

IN A WORD: surprising

Initially, I thought that this book was going to be an immense disappointment. It turned out that it was a real test of my patience and it was well and truly rewarded. I managed to secure a proof copy of this one also when work was doing a clean-out, on the basis that its tagline was something similar to “if you liked Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, you’ll love this one!” It’s no surprise that there are a lot of books that have this tagline, but I thought I’d give this one a try just for something to read one day down the line.

 

The book begins with the tragic death of five-year old Jacob in a hit-and-run. Jenna Gray is desperate to escape and is haunted by the memory of the accident, and she flees to the remote Welsh coast to a rental property. Meanwhile, the police who are investigating the death of young Jacob, lead detective Ray and junior Kate, have no choice but to abandon the case due to lack of leads. We ascertain that they could not establish any witnesses, no license plate and no tire marks. However, they are determined not to let Jacob have died in vain, and it haunts Ray that he has had to leave the case behind. Eventually they manage to crack the case – and it is not at all what you may think.

 

The first half of this book lead me to believe that this book was going to be an immense disappointment – there was nothing thrilling about it whatsoever! How on earth was this being marketed as a thriller?! It made sense only as crime or detective fiction, and not a very well-written one at that.

 

However…this all changed with the massive plot twist which occurs almost exactly halfway through the book. I’m certainly not going to reveal what this is, as it would totally ruin the book – but it certainly dramatically shifts the book from one kind of book to another, and from here, I devoured the book in a matter of hours. It was haunting, chilling and rocked me to the core.

 

It truly is a testament to patience, which is a bit of a shame given just how many people, unfortunately, will give up on a book if it is not gripping them within a chapter or two. That is certainly not an attitude which will reward you 100% of the time as a reader! I Let You Go is a testament to this – have patience, and the book will reward you!

 

Mackintosh’s newest release, I See You, is due for release in July this year.

 

  1. The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry

IN A WORD: stunning

 

This was another advance copy that I managed to snare before the book hit the shelves. I had read only good things about this debut novel from Australian author Jane Harper, and I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I was completely unprepared for just how amazing this book is! The reading copy is a plain red cover which simply states that the book is “The Book of The Year”. To this point, the book is not lying.

 

The book takes place in the fictional Australian rural town of Kiewarra, where Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has returned from the city to the biggest and most horrifying event the town has ever seen – Aaron’s childhood mate, Luke Hadler, has been accused of murdering both his wife and his young son in their family home before turning the gun on himself. Aaron has returned merely to pay his respects to the family, but it isn’t long before he is investigating the murder himself, as he senses that all is not as it seems.

 

From here, there is revealed a complex cast of characters which makes The Dry both a classic and captivating work of crime and detective fiction – the readers get to know each of the character’s quirks and qualms, making each of them suspicious – from the local bartender, to the cruel-hearted farmers who lived adjacent to the Hadlers, we are simply hooked as to what truly happened to Luke and his family on that fateful day.

 

As is also typical of a fantastic work of crime fiction, our investigator is not exactly who he seems either. This case means that things that happened many, many years ago in Aaron and Luke’s childhoods become even more poignant, and even more incriminating – and they show that secrets can never truly be kept secret.

 

A captivating novel which shows a strength of penmanship well beyond any other debut novel that I have ever read; which truly shows many issues that plague rural Australian towns and the psyches of many, this was a book I read in one sitting as I just did not want to put it down. It was simply perfectly written from start to finish and I cannot recommend it enough. (No wonder Reese Witherspoon has snatched up the film rights to this book already!)

 

  1. Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw

girl in the dark

IN A WORD: predictable

 

It’s almost a shame that the blurb to this book reveals as much as it does, as it sounded like it was going to be an amazing, mind-blowing read. That’s not to say that the book was terrible, as it certainly wasn’t, but it was average at best. I found it to be extremely predictable and that it could have been developed a whole lot more to add more intrigue and suspense. There were many eloquent turns of phrase (even more impressive when considering that it was originally written in Dutch) and there’s no doubt it was well written and structured, with alternating points of view and oscillations between the past and the present. Ultimately, though, it did fall short of the amazing, thrilling suspense novel that I thought that I was going to read.

 

Here is how the blurb of my edition (another advance copy) reads:

 

“A single mother and lawyer, Iris has a demanding boss, a young son with behavioral issues, and judgmental, aloof mother. Just a few years ago, Iris was confident and in control. But every day since Aaron’s birth, she’s condemned herself for being a failure – a bad parent who cannot cope with a difficult child. Though she loves her son fiercely, she despairs over his intense outbursts, which are becoming increasingly harder to control.

One thing that keeps Aaron calm is the large aquarium in Iris’s mother’s home. Iris has never understood why Agatha, usually so detached, would keep an oversize tank filled with exotic tropical fish, and of course, her mother won’t say – until an incident involving one of the fish leads Iris to make a shocking discovery.

She has an older brother. His name is Ray.

Why did her mother hide Ray’s existence from her? Did her late father know? And why does Agatha still refuse to say anything about Ray?

Curious about this sibling she has never known, Iris begins to search for long-buried truths. What she learns surprises – and horrifies – her. Her older brother is autistic – and in a hospital for the criminally insane for brutally murdering his neighbor and her little girl.

When she meets Ray, she meets a man who looks heartbreakingly like her own son. A man who is devoted to his tropical fish and who loves baking bread. A man whose naïveté unnerves her. There is no question that Ray is odd and obsessive, unable to communicate like the rest of us. But is he really a killer – “The Monster Next Door”, as the media dubbed him – a beast who committed a brutal murder because of a broken heart?

Told in alternating voices of Ray and Iris, Girl in the Dark is a compulsive, page-turning thriller about lies, murder, and the tenacity of a family determined to stay together, even as they are pulled apart at the most vulnerable seams.”

 

So there you have it!

 

I couldn’t leave this post just here, as a voracious book reader, there are many of these kinds of books which often top my TBR list, so here are five more thrillers that I am looking at reading at some point in the very distant future (as I continue to wage my war on my monster TBR pile, as I wrote about in last week’s post!)

 

 

 

  1. You by Caroline Kepnes

You

“When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight – the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way – even if it means murder.”

Bookstores! New York City! Facebook stalking! What’s not to like?! It sounds amazing.

 

  1. Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay

“How far would you go to protect your child? When her daughter is bullied, Laura makes a terrible mistake…

Laura loves her daughter more than anything in the world.

But nine-year-old Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless.

When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl.

In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will has devastating consequences for her and her daughter…”

In this case, the blurb and description revealing less about the plot makes it more intriguing – I just want to know what happens!

 

  1. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

“Her perfect life is a perfect lie.

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to ‘have it all’ and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for – or, will it at long last, set Ani free?”

This one looks like the perfect balance between gritty thriller and glamorous chick lit – which seem like two very odd things to reconcile, but, by all reports, Jessica Knoll has done that with Luckiest Girl Alive.

 

  1. The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

“A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?”

A good, old-fashioned case of mistaken identity! I really enjoy books where the concept of twins is key – I find it quite interesting so this one is quite high on my TBR.

 

  1. My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

“What if the most terrifying person you’d ever met was your ten year old sister?…

Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?”

I am partial to a bit of YA fiction, and this one sounds compelling! It’s had rave reviews from young adult book clubs and the Australian press, so I’m very much looking forward to eventually getting my hands on this one.

 

Note: I’ve taken all of my summaries of the TBR titles from Goodreads. And if anybody has read any of the books mentioned in the post, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments below and I hope that you all have a thrilling weekend! (Ha, ha!)

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