Tag Archives: thriller

The Abigail Affair by Timothy Frost

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I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book at first.  The beginning hit the ground running with a murder of a model in the mansion of an extremely wealthy foreigner.   Then we met Toby, the main character. I thought I’d quit the book after reading a few pages, but I’m glad I didn’t.  The Abigail Affair by Timothy Frost is a fun spy – thriller – suspense – amateur sleuth kind of story.

Toby is kind of a goofball, but he is very likable and has a lot of humorous lines.  The writing style reminds me of something similar to the “young adult” genre in some parts, but this is not a book that is appropriate for children (some swearing, sexual innuendo, violence). The plot became more and more exciting as the book went on, there were actually some places were I honestly couldn’t put it down. The trouble with reading e-books is that if you don’t pay close attention to the counter along the bottom, you don’t realize that the book is ending. So, I was constantly aware of how much “time” I had left because I was really enjoying the action filled and fast paced story.

There were some parts that were unbelievable (like a CIA agent ever admitting they work for the CIA), but all in all, it was a fun, exciting book to read with a lot of humor mixed in thanks to Toby, the poor little rich boy who needed to grow up fast and thanks to a crazy Russian multi-billionaire, the Royal Navy, the FBI, CIA, MI6, a the prince of England and an assortment of other colorful characters, he did in the most delightful way.

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77 Days in September by Ray Gorham

I rarely buy ebooks, especially those that are self-published. The reason being, the editing is usually poor, if done at all. But, I took a chance with 77 Days in September and not only purchased it, but paid $3.99! So I was really hoping it would be worth it.

I was pleasantly surprised. The plot was what I was looking for (end of the world/apocalyptic type), the characters were mostly likable and the story-line, though predictable, was interesting. It’s one of those books that makes you take a moment to think about how prepared you would be if there was some sort of disaster.

The book takes off quickly and moves along at a good clip. There was only one type/grammatical error that I could find and that was the use of “your” instead of the correct “you’re” when Hector was taunting Kyle about Kyle’s wife thinking Kyle was dead. The sentence was Your wife’s probably busy sleeping with the neighbors for food, and I bet she’s got the pantry stocked. Probably thinks your dead or something.” I noticed it mostly because it’s one of my pet peeves 🙂

I appreciated Kyle’s loyalty to his wife in the story between he and Rose. It’s something that I’ve found is very rare in most books and I really developed a higher opinion of the author because of it. I also appreciated the lack of foul language in the book. I don’t know why authors feel the need to cheapen their works by having most, if not all of the characters swearing in every other sentence. It’s distracting and frankly, sounds stupid. There are instances in certain books where it just fits with the character and the story, but for the most part it just muddies up good dialogue and cheapens the entire book. So thank you Mr. Gorham, for rising above and relying on your writing abilities to tell the story.

The only part of the book I didn’t like was the weird conversation that Jennifer had with Carol about Doug’s behavior towards her (Jennifer). It just seemed way out of left field and didn’t really make any sense considering the type of person Jennifer was and the type relationship she had with her husband. It might have worked better if the author had built up to it a bit with Jennifer “loosing it” in other parts of her life. The scenes with Doug were just weird and unlikely – she needed to either be submissive or beat the crap out of him.

Am I glad I read this book? Absolutely. Do I think it was worth the $4? Sure, why not? I read a lot of books of a huge assortment of genres. Books by established authors, new authors, self-published and I’d rate this closer to the top of the self-published group. I’d read more books by this author and think he is pretty solid, well on his way to a successful career, if that’s what he wants.

And for my favorite lines in the book:

“We’ve been so conditioned to think that the government is always going to be there to fix things that we just expect everything to work out. But now that the government can’t take care of us, we’re almost too helpless to do anything for ourselves.”

Amen, brother. I don’t think people understand how important it is to be able to take care of yourselves and your family/friends/loved ones in an emergency. This country was built by strong, self-reliant people and we should honor those people as well as those who have fought to maintain our great land by helping prepare ourselves and do our part in being responsible, self-reliant citizens. 77 Days in September is one of many stories of what could really happen if a major disaster struck. And the people who will survive, like those in the book who survived, will be the people who realize that.

 

 

 

The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

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“The jogger ran north along the water’s edge, the sand heavy underfoot after the night’s rain. At the promontory he turned and headed back down the beach. In the distance he saw a figure walking towards him. Suddenly the person stumbled and fell, then just lay there not moving. Feeling uneasy, he ran forward.

‘Are you all right?’

The face that turned towards him was expressionless, the eyes cold.

For the jogger, time seemed to stand still. Deep down inside him something came alive, something he had tried to bury for years.

Then he saw the muzzle of the gun. It was pointed straight at him. He sank to his knees; everything in his mind went still.”

When I read this paragraph from the The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt,  I immediately began to picture myself on the Swedish island of Gotska Sandön, the most isolated island in the Baltic sea.  It is impossible not to be immediately drawn in to the story and while it is not  fast-paced, it is alive with suspense and mystery.  Jungstedt takes time to develop the relationships between the characters and is descriptive without being too wordy.  This is important to those who may be reading this book out of sequence as it is easy to catch up on the earlier back-stories of the characters so the story makes more sense.

The story starts off with carpenter, Peter Bovide, who is camping with his wife and two young children, taking a run along the beach in the early morning fog.  In the distance, he sees a stranger who appears to be in need of help, but when Peter approaches, he is shot in the head and several times in the stomach.  Anders Knutas, the Detective Superintendent of the local police department is on vacation so the crime scene is secured by his deputy, Karin Jacobsson.  Jacobsson is new to the position and is excited to lead such an important investigation but her joy is short-lived as Knutas abruptly cuts short his vacation and returns to the island.

The investigators, along with news reporter, Johan Berg, slowly begin to work their way through interview after interview of the victims family, friends and co-workers and it isn’t until another murder takes place that the motives begin to become clear.

While the book is well-written, some of the clues to solving the crime were a bit too obvious, however the plot was tight, flowed well and was logical.  Sometimes, the characters behaved a bit unprofessionally and maybe a bit unbelievable.  For example, I cannot imagine a detective going to confront a murder suspect without a weapon AND turning his cell phone off (or alone, for that matter).  I’ve noticed the lack of carrying a service weapon quite often in Scandinavian crime novels and I’m not certain if this is, in fact, the case or if the writers haven’t researched the actual police procedures.  It just comes across as a bit strange to readers in countries where the police are well-trained, well-armed and have strict investigation techniques.

There was an interesting (but timely) side story that touch lightly on the issue of foreign workers in Sweden.  Some of the attitudes sounded familiar and I found it interesting how many similarities between two seemingly very different cultures.  It also paints a very different side of Sweden, one that might be shocking to people who have not visited or are not knowledgeable about the Swedish culture.

The translation from Swedish to English was very good, though a lot of British-English phrases were used despite the translator being American.  Translated books often have a special charm and sometimes the sentences may come across as child-like and the sentence structure a bit awkward at times.  This doesn’t deter from the story itself, but is something to be aware of if the reader does not often read books translated from another language.

Swedish crime thriller author Mari Junstedt is is the author of the exciting & suspenseful  crime series featuring police detective Anders Knutas.  Since the 2003 release of Unseen (Den du inte ser), the first novel in the series, she has been recognized as part of the élite group of Swedish crime writers.  The Dead of Summer is the fifth book in Jungstedt’s Gotland crime series.

Translated by: Tiina Nunnally

Published by: Stockholm Text Publishing AB

Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 9789187173202

Imprint: Stockholm Tex Publishing AB

 

The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen

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The Gingerbread House

 The Gingerbread House 


by Carin Gerhardsen and Stockholm Text

If you like thrillers, mystery and being completely surprised at the end of the story, I think you will love The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen.  Gerhardsen skillfully crafted a thriller with a bizarre lot,a dark & dreary setting, with interesting and likable characters and managed to carry over the suspense when her book Pepparkakshuset (in Swedish) was skillfully translated by Paul Norlen into English.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I really enjoyed it.  Gerhardsen  has a writing style similar to some of my other favorite Scandinavian writers, Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbø and Åsa Larsson  I read The Gingerbread House while on vacation at the beach, a setting that couldn’t be further from the cold, dark Stockholm in winter, where this story takes place, but it was easy for me to immediately become absorbed in the story.

The Gingerbread House is the first in a series called The Hammarby Series, based around Detective Inspector Conny Sjöberg and his team solving cruel and brutal murders in the southern parts of Stockholm.   This evocative story explores schoolyard bullying among young children and the effect it has on them when people look the other way. Many of the scenes in this book are based on Gerhardsen’s own childhood, it is obvious with the depth & range of emotions and attention to detail.  She paints a picture in an urban setting with strong portraits of authentic characters crafted in-depth and detail, ensuring the books will linger in the reader’s mind long after they finish reading it.  I found this true!  My Swedish isn’t good enough to read the rest of the books in this series, so I will be waiting (im)patiently for the English translations.

The story starts out with a fairy-tale like description of a preschool just south of Stockholm. A stately building surrounded by tall pines, round corners and white posts making it sound like a wonderful place for young children to spend their days.  Gerhardsen goes on to describe a lively group of children bursting out of the doors, all bundled up in colorful winter gear, full of energy after a day of preschool and now on their way home.  Most of the children go running off to their homes. A few, however, linger behind, one of them being 6-year-old Thomas Karlsson, who quickly becomes the target for a brutal beating, even by preschooler-aged children standards and so begins the story.

40-ish years later, a chance encounter on a train brings Thomas Karlsson face-to-face with the lead bully all those years ago, “King Hans” as the children used to call him.  While Thomas lives in a dim, cramped room, all alone with no family, no friends, he can see that Hans appears to be healthy, strong and happy.  On a whim and without really even knowing why, Thomas decides to secretly follow Hans home. The next day, Hans is found murdered, head bashed in and his life over in a matter of minutes. Then follows a string of what seems to be unrelated murders of people in their forties.

The book switches between a number of characters: the murderer, the chief inspector, a detective, and at times, we are given an insight into the victims but it wasn’t at all confusing. I really understood the different perspectives of each character.  Each character has their own storyline going, but each story blends in to the main storyline quite well.  The book was exciting, just when I thought I had it figured out – I’d turn the page and couldn’t be more wrong!

I’ve been a huge fan of “Nordic Noir” as it’s been called since long before the whole “Stieg Larsson” craze (which I loved, by the way).  The Gingerbread House, is in fact, published by the same publisher & edited by the same team that produced “The Millenium Trilogy” with the wonderful Lisbeth Salander.  There’s just something about the Swedish culture that lends itself to taking what could be your run-of-the-mill mystery/thriller and turning it into something dark, mysterious and thrilling.  If you’re like me, a fan of mystery, thrillers and intrigue but like that little “extra something Scandinavian” thrown in, I think you will really enjoy this book.  Put it on your “must read” list, you won’t regret it!

Thanks to Netgalley and Stockholm Text for sharing the galley with me to read.

The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos

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The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos.  Published by Grove/Atlantic and The Mysterious Press.

Imagine a group of best friends planning a yearly get-together to play golf, hang-out, no wives, no kids.  Just old friends from college, each going their own way after graduation but finding their way back to each other once a year to reconnect.

Evan is a successful lawyer.  Will a struggling music producer.  Jeffrey is a dot.com millionaire and Nolan is an up and coming state Senator.  Things are looking up for all four:  Will and Jeffrey are married and expecting their first children, Evan is on the verge of a huge promotion and Nolan is working his way from state Senator to Washington D.C.  Good, stable men with degrees from an Ivy League school, making their dent in the world.

Now imagine stopping at a convenience store to grab a quick snack.  Jeffrey goes inside while two wait in the car.  A few minutes later, he comes out pulling a girl by the arm and pushing her into the car.  They’ve all just unwittingly become involved in a kidnapping and robbery.  Suddenly that dent has become a crater and no-one knows why.  Not even the Jeffrey who seemingly has no reason to rob a convenience store, let alone kidnap someone.

As this suspenseful story unfolds, secrets revealed, past betrayals come to surface and lives are irrevocably changed.  This much-anticipated, fun, casual “guys weekend” has turned into a nightmare than none of them could have ever imagined.

Or, could they?  Jeffrey seems confused, dazed and completely unclear on what made him commit such a horrible crime.  As each hour passes, the group knows they are digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole they may never climb out of.  They see their futures crumbling in front of their eyes and feel helpless to stop it.

As the story winds its way through fond memories of their Princeton days to the casual drifting apart that comes with growing up to horror at what their friend has done, both to them and to the girl he kidnapped, the reader slowly realizes that nothing is as it seems.  Does the girl escape and turn them into the police?  Do they kill her to hide the crime?  Or does something happen that is so unexpected that takes the story from a good crime/thriller to one that will leave you shocked and strangely satisfied at the end?

I really enjoy thrillers and this one didn’t disappoint.  The characters were all believable, the plot solid and the ending definitely unexpected.  I’m always delighted to find new authors (or new-to-me) to read and Michael Kardos is definitely being added to my list.