Tag: Thriller

To Read, and what to Read, that is the question!

I was so excited to get three new books this week that I started one last night, the one sat atop my TBR, which, as it happens, was SLOW HORSES by Mick Herron. And, oh dear. I was either not in the mood for this one, or, it isn’t really my kind of read. Not sure which. But, only a couple of chapters in, and already, I’m struggling with the prose. It’s written in short, sharp, almost jarring sentences that are very abrupt.

While this might be the author’s way of making you feel the sense of urgency as our erstwhile spy, River, runs around Kings Cross Station chasing a suspect bomber, it made it difficult to read. There is no flow to the story. Things are either half described in a sort of shorthand way, or, worse, over detailed in their description.

And where the opening chapter should be tense and strained as our spy chases down a suspect, it reads like a badly edited telegram from another era. All sharp and disjointed. And when River chases the bomber down into the underground, instead of being caught up in what should be a terrifying moment, it all kind of fizzles to an abrupt end. Yes, even as the bomber blows himself up, along with, we are told, 120 other people aboard an underground train.

The target pulled a cord on his belt.
And that was that.”

Really? And that was that? Who’s writing this, Donald Trump speech writer?

Then, further in, the author tells us about a hypothetical person sat atop a double-decker London bus, looking up into a three story building’s windows—Slough House—and what they might see there. Several pages then go on the explain how dull the paint job is. Emphasising the colours of the walls—grey and yellowing from nicotine stains—how dirty the windows are, how there is little or no life beyond the glass, and then, about the front door that’s not a front door.

All this torpid description goes on, and on, and, dare I say it, on—ad nauseam.

Hardly the stuff of either a spy novel, or a thriller. What’s more, I really don’t need to read 3 pages of how the rain was dripping down his collar and soaking his back. Because he’s on a stake out for a journalist’s garbage bag.

Let’s remind ourselves. This is a two-time CWA Dagger award-winning series. Yeah, really? No!

I’m shelving this one along with STASI CHILD by David Young, which also had a torturously slow start and a very unlikeable set of characters. All I can say is, I’m probably not in the right mood or headspace, and will set them aside till after the new year.

I think I need Inspector Chopra and some Mumbai whimsy in my life right now.

My Latest Book Haul

Oh, I do love to go book shopping and because I love to buy books as much as I love to read books, I have to temper myself. And while I haven’t actually set myself a budget, I do try to only order 3-4 books a month, given that’s usually how many I read. That said, however, because of this damn virus, and all but being housebound, I am reading more, and yes, therefore, buying more.

What can I say, we’re all probably as bad as one another and why not. Who needs an excuse but hell, I’ll take this one and run with it. So this latest book haul includes:

All The Devils Are Here — Louise Penny

This is Louise Penny’s latest, and the sixteenth Three Pines Mystery (Sept, 2020) featuring the redoubtable Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. And, Toto, we’re no longer in Québec this time around, but the city of eternal light, Paris.

“On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.
When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d’Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.”

Slow Horses — Mick Herron

Oh, how I love me a good spy novel. I gobbled up a ton of John Le Carré back in the day, and then for dessert, consumed nearly all of Len Deighton’s series of books, Hook, Line, and Sinker. And then Game, Set, and Match. So I was happy to discover Mick Herron and the Slough House series.

“London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

River Cartwright, one such ‘slow horse,’ is bitter about his failure and about his tedious assignment transcribing cell phone conversations. When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. But is the victim who he first appears to be? And what’s the kidnappers’ connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone has his own agenda.”

Bad Day At The Vulture Club — Vaseem Khan

Another favourite series of mine is the Baby Genesh Agency books by Vaseem Khan. Funny, whimsical, clever, and oh so endearing, not only because our erstwhile hero, Inspector Chopra─who has an elephant for a sidekick─but because the stories, set in Mumbai, India, are so very different to the usual run of the mill for a crime series.

The Parsees are among the oldest, most secretive and most influential communities in the city: respected, envied and sometimes feared.

When prominent industrialist Cyrus Zorabian is murdered on holy ground, his body dumped inside a Tower of Silence – where the Parsee dead are consumed by vultures – the police dismiss it as a random killing. But his daughter is unconvinced.

Chopra, uneasy at entering this world of power and privilege, is soon plagued by doubts about the case.

But murder is murder. And in Mumbai, wealth and corruption go in hand in hand, inextricably linking the lives of both high and low.

So, what do you think? Three more excellent reads to look forward to. And you, dear reader, what are you reading or looking forward to reading next?

Waiting on Wednesday

Bonjour tout la monde: For today’s Waiting on Wednesday post, I want to talk about a new series I’ve just discovered written by British author, David Young. The first book in the series is STASI CHILD, featuring Lieutenant Karin Muller of the East German police. The premise alone was enough to get me hooked. I mean, after all, Lt. Muller is working with what we always think of as the bad guys, the Stasi; the State.

What’s more, this is set in an era—the mid 70s—in which I was actually living and working in Germany and had, on several occasions, visited East Berlin, as it was back then. So I instantly felt an affinity with the location and time period of this series.

Book Summary

1975: When Oberleutnant Karin Muller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But she soon realizes that this is a death like no other before it—the girl was evidently trying to escape from West Berlin.

As a member of the People’s Police, Muller’s power in East Germany only stretches so far. The Ministry for State Security, the Stasi, assures her the case is closed, all they need to know is the girl’s name. Yet they strongly discourage her from asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear the crime scene has been staged. But this regime does not tolerate curious minds, and it takes Müller too long to realize that the trail she’s been following may lead her dangerously close to home.

STASI CHILD
David Young
Minotaur Books
Hardback, 416 pages
Thriller

Cold Storage by David Koepp

Book Summary

When Pentagon bio-terror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction. He contained it and buried it in cold storage deep beneath a little-used military repository.

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. Only Diaz knows how to stop it.

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards—one an ex-con, the other a single mother. Over one harrowing night, the unlikely trio must figure out how to quarantine this horror again. All they have is luck, fearlessness, and a mordant sense of humour. Will that be enough to save all of humanity?

What I Thought

COLD STORAGE is an incredibly fast read, not just because it’s only 308 pages long, but because it’s that kind of a story. A book you simply cannot put down. I read this in a day. Yes, seven hours on a Sunday, from beginning to end. I really didn’t want to stop as there was too much at stake. Yes, I know, it’s not real, but the science in COLD STORAGE, along with the excellently researched background to the alphabet soup government departments and processes, were spot on. 

The context for this story, a mutated, fast breeding ELE fungus capable of eradicating all life, as we know it, on this fair green earth, is so plausible as to scary the bejesus out of me! Based on reality, and stretched to the what-if point like any good author should, Koepp takes the reader on a wild, scary ride. But then, tempers the real-life horror with two flawed, familiar, and sympathetic characters—Teacake and Naomi—that you are immediately drawn too and root for. 

All the fingernail biting tension is further tempered with plenty of dry humour including the line that I think COLD STORAGE is going to be most remembered for: “The fucking deer just took the fucking elevator.” Uttered by the astonished Teacake (great name btw) who was a character I took an instant liking too.  

While it’s true Diaz and his partner, and senior officer, Trini Romano, get an opener to the book that will blow your socks off (and, might I suggest, not be read before bedtime! Trust me.) It’s Teacake and Naomi who, for the most part, carry the weight of the story. It’s the investment into their two lives that make us care, care about what happens, and adds the heart to what could be an otherwise chilling read. 

Over all, this is a riotous read. Suspend your disbelief at the first page, jump in with macabre glee, after all this is fiction, and have a fun, frightening, all to plausible ride on the horror-tinged train.

COLD STORAGE
David Koepp
Ecco
9780062960467
Thriller