Archive for the ‘thriller’ Category

Some nightmares are real.

‘If you’ve only just arrived . . . then why do you want to leave?’

Elissa arrived in Memory Wood on the most important day of her life. The eleven-year-old chess prodigy was competing at the English Youth Grand Prix when she was snatched, and woke up in a makeshift cell underground.

Elijah has lived beside Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. He’s only ten but he’s spent his life so far exploring every inch of it, and that’s how he finds Elissa.

When he appears in her cell, Elissa assumes Elijah will save her; that he’ll run and call for help. But Elijah doesn’t want her to leave.

And not only that, but Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found beneath Memory Wood.

As time runs out for Elissa and her abductor’s behaviour becomes more erratic, she knows she must act. Elissa draws on all her resilience, her powers of logic and her strength to try to outwit Elijah, even as he tries to make her the friend he’s never had. He is her only hope of survival and their deadly game of cat and mouse, of deception and betrayal will determine whether either of them will leave alive . . .

The Memory Wood

Sam Lloyd

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Elijah is ten and has lived beside the Memory Wood his whole life, exploring it and learning its secrets.  Sometimes he even make friends with the girls he finds there…….

Elissa loves chess and is competing in English Youth Grand Prix when she goes out to the car park to retrieve an item from her mum’s car.  She is grabbed and thrown into a van, where she passes out.  Upon waking she finds herself blindfolded and chained to a wall in a dank room.  Elissa quickly uses her chess skills to map out the room and assess her situation before encountering her captor, who explains her new reality.  Then she meets Elijah who wants to be her friend…….

Detective Superintendent Mairead MacCullagh is the officer in charge of the police investigation into Elissa’s disappearance, and she’s also dealing with personal problems.

The story is told from the POVs of these these characters, each chapter winding tightly together to tell the tale.  More of the story is revealed slowly in the first half, with subtle little nuggets of information to pick up on that keep leading to surprising discoveries.  The second half is a race against time, culminating in a shocking ending that was a total surprise I didn’t see coming.

Wow!  I’ve just found another must-read author to add to my list.  A dark and creepy psychological thriller, this is an incredible debut novel from a new author, very well plotted and scary.

Read it.  I dare you.

Thirteen-year-old Sharlah Nash knows that the first time her brother killed eight years ago, he did it to save their lives.

Now retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife Rainie Conner have offered Sharlah a new life of safety. She desperately wants to believe this is her shot at happily ever after.

Then two people are murdered in their local convenience store and Sharlah’s brother is identified as the killer.

Telly Ray Nash is on the hunt for Sharlah and as the death count rises it becomes clear that nothing and no-one, including Pierce and Rainie, will stop him getting to her.

Now, Sharlah has one chance to take control.

She can run for her life… or turn and face the danger right behind her.

Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner

Headline

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

A grisly murder occurs at the convenience store near the home of Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner.  Both retired FBI agents, they offer their help to the local sheriff to track down the gunman caught on camera.  The shooter turns out to be Telly Ray Nash, the estranged brother of their foster daughter Sharlah.

Telly Ray and Sharlah ere split up by foster services after their father murderer their mother, then was killed by Telly Ray.  After his foster parents are found dead, it’s thought he snapped and went on a rampage killing spree.  When recent photos of Sharlah are found on hisx phone, Quincy and Rainie know he’s coming for their daughter next.

I thought I figured out near the beginning of the story who the shooter was.  Then came new information that changed my mind to another shooter.  Then further in the story I went back to my original theory.  Then with more information, a new theory emerged.  A huge twist emerged at the ending when the shooter is revealed and it was an awesome twist.

It served to remind me you don’t second guess genius and that’s what Lisa Gardner is  – a genius at writing psychological thrillers.

The President
For President Jonathan Bennett, reaching the White House was the realization of a lifetime’s ambition. He’s leader of the free world and the most powerful man on earth. But public support for his administration is wearing thin. And if the terrible truth about his rise to the top was exposed it would bury him. He will not let that happen.

The Assassin
As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from his foster home and inducted into a top secret Cold War programme. Code-named Orphan X, he was trained to become a lethal weapon, then dispatched around the world to do whatever was required to keep his country safe. When Evan discovered the mission was rotten to the core, he got out using his skills to hide in plain sight while helping those who can’t help themselves

The Reckoning
But Evan knows about the President’s dark past. And that’s dangerous knowledge. To save himself and his country, Evan must ask himself one simple question: how do you kill the most well-protected man on earth? And, when he knows you’re coming for him, how do you stay alive long enough to try? One thing is certain: a desperate call for help from another unfortunate in urgent need of Evan’s protection isn’t going to make it any easier . . .

Out of the Dark: Orphan X #4

Gregg Hurwitz

Michael Joseph

Borrowed from Auckland Libraries

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

After finding out why the President wants him dead, Evan knows the only way he can live is to kill the President of the United States.  A simple task. NOT.

The Nowhere Man also has the task of helping a mentally challenged man – Trevon – find safety from a drug lord.  He hideously murdered Trevon’s entire family and framed him to send a message to others not to cross him.

I liked seeing past characters – some surprisingly helpful – and I enjoyed leaning of Joey’s scorched earth plan for her school friend’s rapist.  The whole family sound sleazy and I have no doubt she’ll succeed.   I loved the character of Trevon and adored how close his family was.  I hated the drug lord and wished he’d suffered more.

More of the incredible action and breath-takingly fast paced plots that are every Orphan X story.

Impatiently waiting for Orphan X #5!

Hellbent: Orphan X #3 review here

Naomi seems to have everything. A beautiful daughter, a gorgeous house, a perfect life. Behind the scenes, though, she and her husband are drifting from one another and struggling to conceive their second child.

Then Naomi meets a parent at her daughter’s nursery. Sean understands her, or so she thinks. Looking for a connection, for a friend, she joins him at a swimming lesson with their children. That day, Naomi makes a terrible mistake.

Weeks later, when Naomi attempts to contact Sean, he has disappeared without a trace. But as she begins to piece her life back together, it becomes clear that someone else knows her secret. Someone who wants to make sure she never forgets what she did at the pool.

Happy Ever After

CC Macdonald

Harvill Seeker

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The story started off slow and became more interesting over time.

As more detail was given the events became clearer.  I then had to keep reading to see what happened next.  I did not connect with the characters and Naomi annoyed me with her ‘baby baby baby’ focus.   Maybe it’s because I don’t have a maternal bone in my body but I didn’t ‘get’ her.

I really, really enjoyed the ending as I did not see that twist coming.   The last few pages – oh, that was so vindictive of Sean – a great way to mess with Charlie’s mind.

The story takes awhile to get interesting but keep reading, as it’s worth it.

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is almost ten years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust #2

Philip Pullman

David Fickling Books and Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Pantalaimon witnesses a murder. The father of one of Lyra’s fellow students is going bankrupt due to a lack of quality rose oil. A web of intrigue connects these two seemingly random events with a shadowy religious order. And thus, begins The Secret Commonwealth, the second volume of Pullman’s The Book of Dust series. I want to say trilogy, but authors are tricky beasts.

The events of La Belle Sauvage are about 20 years in the past. But Oakley Street is still present, keeping a watchful eye on Lyra. So too is Malcolm Polstead, now a lecturer at Oxford, though at a different college to the one Lyra attends. Lyra and Pantalaimon have a difficult relationship, in part due to her forced abandonment of him in a previous adventure and also due to her reaction to a couple of books popular for their philosophy. So Pantalaimon sets off to find Lyra’s imagination. This event, early in the story, sets Lyra on a course both dangerous and lifesaving. The web of intrigue is closing around her. In her quest to find Pantalaimon she heads for the Blue Hotel, a legendary building said to be home to separated daemons. Where the plot takes an even bigger twist.

Pullman tells a deft tale. The Secret Commonwealth is at times a whodunnit, a spy-fi, a thriller and a bit of a travelogue through his alternate world. And at almost 700 pages there is plenty of plot and character development. Villains display elaborate backstories that make their motivations and actions sensible. I liked that Pullman retained his heroes from the previous volume and trilogy, as well as his gentle nod to events that happened in reality.

This is a great read, not only for the young adult market it supposedly is aimed at. Any fan of modern fantasy should have Pullman and this series on their shelves. I thank Penguin Random House for the review copy. Nice one.

To some he was Orphan X. Others knew him as the Nowhere Man. But to Jack Johns he was a boy named Evan Smoak. Taken from an orphanage, Evan was raised inside a top-secret government programme and trained to become a lethal weapon. By Jack. And yet for all the dangerous skill he instilled in his young charge, Jack Jones cared for Evan like a son.

But Jack knew too much about a programme that had gone rotten – he was a loose end that needed to be dealt with. But if you go after the only person who ever treated him like a human being, you can guarantee that the Nowhere Man will be coming for you. Hellbent on making things right . . .

Hellbent: Orphan X #3

Gregg Hurwitz

Michael Joseph

Borrowed from Auckland Libraries

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The man hunting Evan made a huge mistake.  He went after the man who made Evan who he is, the man Evan thought of as a father – Jack Johns.    Jack loved Evan like a son, so sacrificed himself for him.  But not before giving Evan one final mission…….

While Evan hunts down Van Sciver, the man trying to kill him, he answers a call on his RoamZone from a father desperate for help with his son.  Though not fitting the Nowhere Man’s criteria of who to help – needing help for yourself, not someone else – Evan accepts and finds himself in a deadly fight with the most feared street gang in the world, Mara Salvatrucha.

The plot is very clever, tightly wound, moves rapidly, and with lots of action.  There are some familiar faces – does Candy NEVER die! – and we finally find out why the President ordered Van Sciver to kill Orphan X dead, though the details of the why are unclear.

I loved the story and need to read Orphan X #4!

The Nowhere Man: Orphan X #2 review here

He was once called Orphan X.

As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children’s home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves.

One day, though, Evan’s luck ran out . . .

Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what’s happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help.

With time running out, he will need to out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he’s never encountered to have any chance of escape. He’s got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying . . .

The Nowhere Man: Orphan X #2

Gregg Hurwitz

Michael Joseph

Borrowed from Auckland Libraries

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Evan is the Nowhere Man, helping those trapped in impossible situations who cannot help themselves.  His latest mission is successful and he finds details of another innocent who needs help.  Then he is captured, drugged, and wakes up in a locked room, with no idea where he is or who captured him.

He has to discover who took him, where he is, why he was taken, how many guards he needs to kill………  There are a lot of chess moves in the plot and the action is incredibly fast and clever.  One move with a Perspex prison was so clever – I didn’t see that coming!  An unexpected face saves the day and Evan must feel so betrayed.

I really enjoyed the story and the ending – wow!  I can’t wait to read Orphan X #3!

Orphan X: Orphan X #1 review here

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the off-the-books black box Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets—i.e. assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him.

Orphan X: Orphan X #1

Gregg Hurwitz

Minotaur Books

Borrowed from Auckland Libraries

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The fifth book is being released this year so I thought I should catch up and read the first four. I’m so pleased with that decision.

The hero is Evan Smoak, who was enrolled in a top-secret operation known as the Orphan Program.  The goal of the program was to train orphans to be assassins for American government agencies.  He was the 24th recruit in the program and known only as Orphan X. The program was officially shut down after Evan discovered he was being lied to and not all of his targets were bad guys.

In an effort to make amends, he now helps people trapped in impossible situations to get free.  Each person he helps is told to pay it forward by giving someone in need of help his phone number – 1-855-2-NOWHERE.

The action begins with Evan taking on a corrupt LAPD officer and never slows down.  The plot is breathtakingly fast and very tightly woven, full of twists and turns as you try to figure out who to trust.  As well as his vigilante justice side, we see how he hides in plain sight and meet the boring, mundane Evan Smoak.

I really enjoyed the story and the only fault was it kept me reading ‘just one more chapter’ – making me stay up far too late and causing tiredness the next day.

But wow! I DID NOT expect that epilogue!  I need to read Orphan X #2!

 Spring, 1919. James ‘Max’ Maxted, former Great War flying ace, returns to the trail of murder, treachery and half-buried secrets he set out on in The Ways of the World. He left Paris after avenging the murder of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, a senior member of the British delegation to the post-war peace conference. But he was convinced there was more — much more — to be discovered about what Sir Henry had been trying to accomplish. And he suspected elusive German spymaster Fritz Lemmer knew the truth of it.
Now, enlisted under false colours in Lemmer’s service but with his loyalty pledged to the British Secret Service, Max sets out on his first — and possibly last — mission for Lemmer. It takes him to the far north of Scotland — to the Orkney Isles, where the German High Seas Fleet has been impounded in Scapa Flow, its fate to be decided at the conference-table in Paris. Max has been sent to recover a document held aboard one of the German ships. What that document contains forces him to break cover sooner than he would have wished and to embark on a desperate race south, towards London, with information that could destroy Lemmer — if Max, as seems unlikely, lives to deliver it.

The Corners of the Globe: The Wide World Trilogy #2

Robert Goddard

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Spring, 1919, and former RAF pilot James “Max” Maxted is on the trail of the German spymaster Fritz Lemmer. But Max is playing a dangerous game, that of double agent. He wants to avenge the murder of his father, Sir James Maxted, killed recently in Paris and to take down the spy ring that Lemmer has constructed before, during and after WWI. His first task is to recover the Grey File, held by a German Captain aboard one of the battleships interned at Scapa Flow. Max knows this is a test and that Lemmer doesn’t entirely trust him.

Thus opens the second of Goddard’s The Wide World trilogy. The story flits between Max, his associates in Paris, and his family. All must face threats from hostile parties as they attempt to get to the crux of their own mystery. Naturally, a lot of this was foreshadowed in the first volume, The Ways of the World.

Goddard has a generally breezy style well suited to the political thriller/whodunnit and I found this novel to be a satisfactory page-turner. The characters are fairly well rounded and not complete stereotypes. The plot moves at an acceptable pace, and the mystery stays mysterious – kind of important as this is the middle book of a trilogy.

I liked The Corners of the Globe and want to read the finale, The Ends of the Earth in which I expect the main protagonists to have a Japanese vacation.

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?
Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

The Widow

Fiona Barton

Corgi

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Jean Taylor has had two years in the spotlight after her husband Glen had been accused of being involved in the disappearance of three year old Bella Elliot. Her mother Dawn had been inside doing household chores when Bella ran outside, following her cat into the small front garden. When Dawn went to call her a few minutes later, there was no trace.  Now Glen is dead after being hit by a bus and public interest in the case has returned.

When Dawn rang 999 to report Bella’s disappearance to the police, Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes headed up the investigation. The Police rapidly came to the conclusion that this is no simple abduction.  Glen Taylor became a Person of Interest to the investigation when a neighbour of Dawn’s remembered down a blue van similar to Taylor’s van in the area at about the time of Bella’s disappearance.  As the investigation continues into Glen and Jean Taylor’s background, discrepancies appear. Their computer is seized by the Police so that forensics can do a search of the hard drive.

Kate Waters, a reporter for the Daily Post, wants to tell Jean’s side of the story.  Jean finds herself targeted by reporters who want to know everything she’s been holding back all these years.  She eventually gives in to the pressure of the press and sells her story to Kate.

Told from the perspective of these three characters, the story shifts back and forth in time – from the crime in 2006 to glen’s death in 2010.  I found it easy to keep track of whose point of view it was, even with the time shift, as each chapter was labelled by perspective: The Detective, The Reporter, The Husband, and The Widow, and what date it was.

I found this a well written page turner that was hard to put down as I had to find out the whom and why regarding Bella Elliot’s disappearance and possible death. The book had a good plot and flowed along at a steady pace, holding my interest right up until the ending which was a bit of a surprise ut very clever and it wrapped the story up neatly.

I recommend this book to any fan of psychological suspense novels.