Tag Archives: thriller

Broken Allegiance by Mark Young

Broken Allegiance by Mark Young: Tom Kagan is haunted by the death of his young son, and to cope he throws himself into his work as a cop in the organized crime unit. His latest case involves a string of murders among Hispanic gangs in Northern California. I’m not sure what all I can say about this. It’s a cop thriller. There’s the evil gangster, the good gangster, the gangster who could be good but can’t seem to extricate himself from the gang. The main villain, Ghost, is truly scary. There were points when I honestly wasn’t sure if everybody was going to be okay. I liked Mikio, loved Garcia, and kind of wanted to punch Gato in the face a few times. In short, it was good, but not in a way that lends itself to a lengthy review. If you like cop thrillers, you’ll like this one.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris: Will Graham is good at catching serial killers, but the stress forces him into early retirement from government service – until a new one emerges, killing entire families at a time. In some ways this is your standard thriller, with the cops racing to catch the bad guy before he kills again, but the killer himself has an interesting and somewhat tragic backstory. Even more fascinating to me was watching the crime solving done with early pre-DNA technology. It’s a similar appeal to the Sherlock Holmes stories, solving mysteries without fingerprinting. Of course, these were all written with the then-latest technology in mind, but that adds an extra layer of interest to me as the years go by. I suppose if you’re only interested in the latest and greatest, this could come across as slightly dated. All the same, I really enjoyed it, even if The Silence of the Lambs was, in my humble opinion, a lot better.

For all the advertisement on the cover about this being the first Hannibal Lecter book, he’s barely in it at all. It’s not too surprising that the “ask a serial killer for help catching a serial killer” bit was reused to greater effect in The Silence of the Lambs. In fact, it would probably be helpful to read that one first in order to understand all the hullabaloo about that character in the first place – you certainly don’t get much of a taste (ha!) of it here.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith: Tom Ripley is sent to Europe to find Dickie Greenleaf and convince him to come home to his parents. The men were acquaintances once upon a time, and Dickie’s father, at the end of his rope, finances Ripley’s trip. Instead of admitting that the two barely remember each other, Ripley slowly inserts himself into Dickie’s life, ultimately deciding that he, Tom Ripley, is more deserving of such a life. The ensuing series of close calls and further deceptions makes for quite the suspenseful read. I kept turning the page, wanting to see how Ripley would get out of this particular scrape, and whether, in the end, his caper would succeed. Definitely recommended if you like (somewhat disturbing) psychological thrillers.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 20 hrs 18 min on 16 discs): This final installment of the Millennium Trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander in the hospital recovering from severe gunshot wounds as Mikael Blomkvist scrambles to uncover the conspiracy that has been quietly ruining her life for the last fifteen years. Unlike the previous two books, this is more of a legal and political thriller, culminating in a gripping and often maddening trial. There is quite a lot of commentary on women’s rights and journalistic integrity as well, making for some thought-provoking passages. The ending was satisfying but realistic. Lisbeth will always be Lisbeth, after all. The side story about Erika Berger’s stalker seemed a bit unnecessary, but it didn’t overshadow the primary plot. This is one of those series I want to go back and read again now that I know how it all turns out, to see if I can spot any clues. Great stuff.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 18.5 hrs on 15 discs): Oh Lisbeth, how I’ve missed you. This second installment of the Millennium Trilogy finds two of Mikael Blomkvist’s friends murdered and Lisbeth’s fingerprints on the gun. Thus begins a complicated story of Lisbeth’s past, prostitution, and Swedish government secrets. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the various people Lisbeth has touched and who line up to be in her corner during this her darkest hour. When I think of “strong female characters” I don’t think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer; I think of people like Lisbeth. She’s fascinating and flawed and wonderful to read about. I doubt she’d be all that impressed with me were we to meet, but I’ve enjoyed witnessing her adventures so far. In fact, the very last couple lines of the book had me laughing with joy. Can’t wait to read the third book, but part of me is a little reluctant because I don’t want to say goodbye.

A note on the audio: Something about Vance’s voice makes me picture Liam Neeson as Mikael Blomkvist, as opposed to Daniel Craig. Also, I sometime confuse Daniel Craig with Christopher Eccleston. My brain does not work.

The Spenser Collection: Volume II: Back Story and Widow’s Walk by Robert B. Parker

The Spenser Collection: Volume II: Back Story and Widow’s Walk by Robert B. Parker: (unabridged audiobook read by Joe Mantegna): This is sort of a silly way of doing things, as Widow’s Walk came out a year before Back Story and very clearly happens earlier in time, and yet appears on the latter half of this audiobook. Luckily, I was warned to listen to discs six through ten first, so I was not confused. In Widow’s Walk, a lawyer friend hires Spenser to help prove the innocense of a woman accused of murdering her husband. In Back Story, Spenser is hired to solve a 28-year-old murder and soon discovers the trail went cold due to a massive cover-up. And you know, I really enjoyed these. Spenser – and his friend Hawk even moreso – is absolutely hilarious. Mantegna was clearly having a ball. It took me a while to get used to his cadence but once I did, I had a great time. The random asides and interjections amused the heck out of me. Even better, though there’s a long series of Spenser novels, I never once felt like I needed to have read any of the previous books.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Revenge by Mark Young

Revenge by Mark Young: Travis Mays walks away from his life in the police force after a sting operation ends in tragedy. He moves from central California to middle-of-nowhere Idaho, where he teaches criminology at a Washington university to fund his life as a recluse in a small cabin. One day he signs up for kayaking lessons; his guide is the lovely Jessie White Eagle, a Native American of the Nez Perce tribe whose brother has recently gone missing. What follows is a rather twisty tale of murder and deception. I understood the killer’s beef with Mays, but a whole lot of plot hangs on the chance meeting between Mays and White Eagle. If Mays hadn’t signed up for those lessons that day, quite a bit of this story would not have happened. Anyway, I enjoyed this one more than I’d expected, zipping through chapters with ease. It helps that the author has experience both as a cop and a journalist. Sure, I didn’t know what all the lingo and acronyms meant, but I gleaned enough from context that it didn’t distract me, and indeed added to the realism. My only real complaint was how much difficulty I had keeping the various characters straight. There are a lot of players here and all of them are interconnected, often in convoluted ways. I also wish there was more information on the Nez Perce, though instilling an interest in further learning is never a bad thing in the book. All in all, if you’re looking for a decent thriller, this is worth picking up.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Trackers by Deon Meyer

Trackers by Deon Meyer (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance, translated by K.L. Seegers; 16 hours on 14 CDs): Recently divorced housewife Milla gets a job writing reports for the South African government. She doesn’t know what she’s writing for; she’s given a subject to research and some additional intelligence and compiles it into a coherent story. When she meets one of the subjects of her reports and falls in love, things get really complicated. Lemmer is a paroled bodyguard who is asked to watch over the transport of a couple of endangered black rhinos. Mat is an ex-police private detective searching for a woman’s husband who suddenly went missing several months before. Yenina is a high-ranking government official attempting to intercept a mysterious shipment planned by some religious extremists. What do these all have to do with each other? Honestly, even after finishing the book, I’m not entirely certain. Milla’s story had me cheering her on despite the somewhat morally ambiguous circumstances surrounding her. Lemmer was amusing but his story felt unfinished; however, I understand this was not the first Lemmer book and probably not the last, so I can live with that. I was pretty lost for the entire detective story, and the epilogue really didn’t illuminate much for me. I was fascinated to learn more about South African history and culture, and as I said, Milla’s story was very good. It just felt more like separate stories set in the same universe rather than one coherent novel. Perhaps something was lost in translation.

A note on the audio: I’ve enjoyed Vance’s narration of several other books, and this was no exception. However, it did cause me to discover something: you know how in the Matrix movies, Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving) talks kind of … strangely? Turns out that’s Weaving’s attempt at an American accent. I only know this because Vance is British as the day is long, and all his American characters talk like Agent Smith. It’s rather unintentionally hilarious, but luckily did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. I guess not all British people can be Hugh Laurie. :)

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance, translated by Reg Keeland; 16 hrs 21 min on 13 discs): Mikael Blomkvist, fresh from a libel conviction, has stepped down from the editor’s desk of the magazine he founded, Millenium. Shortly thereafter, Swedish industry tycoon Henrik Vanger hires him to research the disappearance of his niece Harriet nearly 40 years before. Meanwhile, 20-something antisocial genius Lisbeth Salander is slowly attempting to put her own life together. Eventually the two meet and begin working together on the case. The plot is complicated, with almost too many Vangers to keep track, but I definitely enjoyed it. I felt the suspense and was saddened by the sad parts and cheered at the victories of the Good Guys. I learned that I know pretty much nothing about Sweden and Swedish history, and was a little concerned at how misogynistic the society is portrayed. There was quite a bit of graphic rape, murder, and mutilation, to the point where some of it felt rather gratuitous. (Likewise with Blomkvist’s sex life: does he sleep with every single woman he meets or just most of them?) Still, I found the story engrossing and just had to know what happened next. More importantly, I have a real affection for Salander and I look forward to reading of her later adventures in the rest of the trilogy.

A note on the audio: I’ve listened to Vance read other books, and he was likewise excellent here as well. I particularly enjoyed his voice for Lisbeth, since it was both undeniably female without being a caricature.

The Collectors by David Baldacci

The Collectors by David Baldacci (abridged audiobook read by Tom Wopat and Maggi-Meg Reed; 6 hrs on 5 discs): A Congressman is assassinated, then shortly thereafter an employee at the Library of Congress dies under mysterious circumstances. His friends start looking into the case and soon find themselves running for their own lives. At the same time, a woman is running a high-stakes con at a well-fortified casino. This is technically the second Camel Club book, but I didn’t once feel lost or confused having not read the first installment. My favorite parts all took place within the Library of Congress, as I’ve never visited any of its reading rooms or rare book collections (you don’t see many books on the regular tour). The suspense was pleasantly constant, the characters likable and distinct, and the ending satisfying while making way for the next book in the series. A nice piece of entertainment.

A note on the audio: Wopat did an excellent job. Reed was quite good as well, though I was a little confused as to why a second narrator was brought in to voice a single character. The abridgement was fine and I never felt like I was missing anything. Over all, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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