Tag Archives: crime

Review of ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes

I am PilgrimThanks to NetGalley and Transworld for the ARC of this book.

I’ve been wanting to read this book since I heard reviewers rave about it on the Radio 2 Book Club way back in August 2013, so I was really excited when I got a copy through NetGalley. However, I have to confess it has taken me ages to get around to reading it because I was put off by its length (624 pages). I should not have let this delay me picking it up because it’s great.

‘I Am Pilgrim’ is fabulous thriller reminiscent of the finer works of two of my favourite authors William Boyd and Robert Harris. It follows an American secret agent who has to find and stop an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist who is planning to release a smallpox virus in America and destroy the West. Mostly he must work alone to save the world and he is brilliant, but he is also able to acknowledge his mistakes and short-comings.

It’s a real page-turner, exciting and full of foreshadowing and clues without being predictable. I really enjoyed it.

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Review of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ by MJ Arlidge

Pop goes the weaselThanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I read ‘Eeny Meeny’, the first in this series, last year and was intrigued to find out how the author would continue the series, as the storyline and crime in the first book were very personal to the main detective, Helen Grace.

Having read ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’, I think it would have been better if the author had left ‘Eeny Meeny’ as a stand alone book. i really don’t think Helen Grace is interesting or sympathetic enough to warrant a series, and a lot of the time I really dislike the choices she makes. For example, after hearing a witness provide her with a statement about child abuse, rather than returning to the police station to write up this evidence, she visits her dominator to be whipped in order to regain control and release stress; this really doesn’t ring true. I would imagine that a woman who spends her working life investigating horrible sexual crimes, prostitution and murder would choose to stay as far away from these things as possible in her personal life.

I really dislike the way this series focuses on a revels in details of sexual violence, particularly towards women. I feel like the author describes these things in an unnecessary gratuitous fashion to give people vicarious pleasure rather than for the sake of a really great narrative. The portrayal of the vulnerability of women is quite disturbing. Even though the murderers are women, they have been pushed into their crimes as a result of the horrible violence they have suffered and are therefore victims rather than empowered. Even the heroine Helen Grace has suffered sexual assault in the past.

I really hope Southampton doesn’t really have the horrible dark underbelly of prostitution and violence depicted in these books; they have an unrelentingly pessimistic view of the world. I hope that in future books in this series, Arlidge chooses to focus on different types of crime and murder, because the current focus on gratuitous violence and sexual crimes is really unpleasant to read.

Review of ‘The Stranger’ by Harlan Coben

I always enjoy reading Harlan Coben’s books, particularly his stand alone books as the storylines are usually less formulaic than his Myron Bolitar series.

‘The Stranger’ is a standalone book about a man who is approached by a stranger in a bar who tells him that his wife faked a pregnancy and miscarriage 2 years earlier. When he confronts his wife with this information she vanishes. His search for her reveals the usual Cobenesque twists and turns, deceit and secrets with a final dramatic climax.

It’s very easy to read, quite enjoyable but not one of Coben’s absolute best books. I think probably when you’ve read all his books they begin to lose impact a bit because they do tend to tread the same ground but with slight variations on the same themes. However, it was definitely a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

I thought that the storyline based around a group of people who blackmail people over things they have ordered on dodgy websites was not very believable. The baddies seemed too omniscient. Plus, as usual with Coben, the plot relied on severa unrelated bad events all coinciding rather fortuitously. However, if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s a fun read.

Review of ‘Found’ by Harlan Coben

FoundI love Coben’s crime thrillers for adults, but I haven’t been a very big fan of his young adult series focussing on Myron Bolitar’s nephew Mickey. However, this third instalment of the series is definitely the best so far. The premise is slightly less far fetched in this book and we get some answers to unsolved mysteries from the previous two books.

This book is a bit less action packed than the preceding books and does a better job of focussing on the school and basketball life of Mickey and his friends. The series revolves around Mickey saving missing or endangered teenagers, and the case in this book is much more believable. However, it is still a really daft premise especially the way they are directed towards teenagers they must save by pictures of butterflies appearing somewhere.

The book has a very satisfyingly conclusion, finally resolving the plot line introduced in the first book which placed a question mark over the death of Mickey’s father. I feel like now this has been resolved future books in the series will probably be better; this book definitely feels like Coben is beginning to get the hang of the young adult genre which I think he struggled with in the first couple of books.

Review of ‘A New York Christmas’ by Anne Perry

A New York ChristmasThanks to Bookbridgr and Headline for the ARC of this book.

At this time of year I like to read books set at Christmas to help get me in the mood for the forthcoming festive season. However, despite its title, this book has very little to do with Christmas, it has a bit of snow in it, but could really be set at any time of the year.

This is a very simple crime novella. It’s incredibly easy to read but lacks any depth. Once the murder occurs it is immediately obvious to the reader who the culprit is and this makes the lead character, Jemima Pitt, look incredibly naive, stupid and overly trusting, because she doesn’t immediately realise who did it, so it’s hard to have much respect for her.

Jemima has accompanied her friend Phinnie from London to New York for her society marriage to a rich business heir. Whilst she is there Jemima becomes embroiled in a search for and a murder involving Phinnie’s estranged mother. There is also a very simplistic and utterly predictable secondary love story.

Reading this book was a fairly pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but the book is thoroughly lightweight and forgettable and the crime element lacks any tension or suspense.

Review of ‘Eeny Meeny’ by M J Arlidge

Eeny MeenyI listened to the audiobook version of this book. It’s a very compelling crime story which starts with a very interesting and original premise but trails off a little towards the end as it starts to fall into some of the usual crime thriller tropes.

The book starts with the kidnapping of Sam and Amy, who are locked in a disused swimming pool and left with a gun and a mobile phone. They receive a phone call telling them that only one will survive and one must choose to shoot the other in order to gain his or her freedom.

I thought the book was going to follow Sam and Amy’s storyline, but very soon one of them is dead, one has been released and theirs is just the first in a series of similar kidnappings. The book actually follows police detective Helen Grace who is responsible for the police investigation into these crimes.

The book has a strong opening and the description of the plights of the people who are kidnapped is compelling if a little too grisly at times. I particularly did not enjoy the description of two of the victims eating maggots from a head wound, revolting.

However, I did not think the conclusion of the book was as strong as it falls into the trap of a major cliche which I really dislike in crime novels – that of involving the investigating police as victims of the killer and making the killer target the investigating officers. This is such an over-used plot device, I was really disappointed when a book which seemed to have such a fresh idea for a crime descended into such a cliched conclusion.

I also thought that the book had a few unnecessary scenes which I guess were supposed to be ‘titillating’ but which I thought were just cheap shock tactics such as a lesbian sex scene and the scenes where Grace visits an S&M prostitute. Particularly the latter didn’t fit in with the rest of the characterisation of her as a very efficient police officer.

For the most part the audiobook is well read. I was confused by the need to have four narrators when 90% of the book is told in the third person by the same narrator so the other narrators are only used for one or two chapters. I didn’t like the voice of the woman who read Amy’s chapter (she seemed to have a Northern accent, even though she is supposed to be from Southampton), so I was relieved not to have to listen to her much. This is the clip they use on the Audible sample, so don’t let her voice put you off getting this audiobook.

I have the next book in the series ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ from NetGalley and I’m interested to see how that book follows Helen Grace’s character progression.

Review of ‘Top Secret Twenty-One’ by Janet Evanovich

Top Secret 21Thanks to Bookbridgr and Headline for the review copy of this book.

I could probably just refer you to my review of Sizzling Sixteen by the same author, because essentially all the books in this series are the same. Unfortunately, this means that all the books have the same flaws: repetitive plots and a lack of character progression. However, I did feel that this book had a slightly more cohesive and interesting storyline than the previous Evanovich book I read, with a nice side trip to New York and Atlantic City involving Russian terrorists on top of the usual mooching around looking for idiots in Trenton.

I really think that by the 21st book in this series, Stephanie Plum should have evolved a bit, but she is still bumbling around making the same mistakes, still unable to choose fully between Morelli and Ranger, the two men in her life. At one point Stephanie ponders why her life has been drifting for so many years. If Evanovich realises this problem, why has she done nothing to rectify it? I just wanted to shout at the book, ‘Maybe, if you thought about more than what the men look like and picked a man with slightly more conversational skills than ‘Babe’ or ‘You’re a cupcake’, you’d find someone with whom you had a deeper connection and you’d be able to grow up and move on with your life’.

This book could probably be condensed into a fairly interesting 50 page novella, if Evanovich cut out all the filler:

  1. I don’t need to know what everyone is wearing
  2. I don’t need details of everything the characters eat or to know every time they are hungry (which is basically all the time)
  3. I don’t need a detailed description of every turn they make on their car journey, or where they park, or what car everyone drives
  4. I don’t need a detailed description of every place they visit where they fail to find the fugitive.

I don’t often appreciate the humour in Evanovich’s books, most of the time it is too stupid and falls flat. However, there was a Despicable Me inspired section with chihuahuas referred to as minions which made me smile in this book.

There’s not much to say about this book. Fans of Evanovich will enjoy it as another standard addition to the series but it’s as lacking in substance as the other books in this series. I keep picking them up, hoping they will have improved, but they don’t and I won’t bother reading any more in this series.

Review of ‘Sizzling Sixteen’ by Janet Evanovich

ImageI’ve read a couple of books in this series previously and not really thought that much of them, but I decided to read this (which I got very cheaply from a library discard sale) because I have received a copy of Evanovich’s 21st book to read via Bookbridgr and thought I should read this earlier book first.

Every time I pick up a book in this series I expect to find something enjoyable which I missed in the previous books I read, or with the progression of the series the quality of the books will have improved. I am always disappointed. These books are just really stupid and you have to take them with a huge pinch of salt in order to read them; if you try to apply any kind of logic to any of the characters then you don’t get anywhere.

I think the main issue with this book and the series in general is that they are just so repetitive. Evanovich’s heroine, Stephanie Plum, is a bounty hunter and frankly it’s not really that interesting a job. Basically all Stephanie does is drive around hoping to stumble upon the people she is looking for, frequently stopping to buy fast food and occasionally getting herself in a dangerous situation from which she needs to be rescued by a man. Frankly, in reality if anyone ate as much rubbish as she does, she’d be the size of a house and definitely wouldn’t have 2 hot men chasing after her.

The two hot men are another of the big issues with this series; the last book I read in this series was number 7, this is number 16 and the storyline and romantic relationships have not progressed at all. Stephanie is still on again off again with Morelli and seriously tempted by Ranger but not acting on it. How long can a grown women, particularly one this inept and silly, string along two seemingly desirable men? It’s ridiculous. I hope when I read book 21 that she will have finally made a choice between the two, or they both will have realised that she is a loser and moved on.

The storyline is totally inconsequential and almost exactly the same as the other books I’ve read in this series. I guess Evanovich knows how to cash in on what for some people is obviously a winning formula.

Review of ‘The Book of You’ by Claire Kendal

The Book of YouI received this book as part of the GoodReads First Reads programme.

This book gave me nightmares. It’s brilliantly written and quite compelling, but the subject matter is horrifying. If you plan to read it, make sure you don’t read it late at night while you are on your own in your house!

The Book of You tells the story of Clarissa who is being stalked by the terrifying, obsessive Rafe. It’s divided into alternating narratives. One from Clarissa’s first person point of view, writing in her journal recording Rafe’s behaviour and addressed to him. The other is third person, describing Clarissa’s day to day life which revolves around being a juror in a rape trial.

These types of dark, chilling psychological thrillers written from a woman’s point of view about the horrifying mental and physical violence perpetrated by men are becoming increasingly popular. I think fans of Into the Darkest Corner, Before I Go to Sleep and Apple Tree Yard will really like this book. I’m not sure why these type of books are becoming so popular. They are definitely compelling but they are also really disturbing.

Reading about the powerlessness of women against obsessive, delusional and violent men is terrifying. At least these men usually get what’s coming to them at the end of the book, but not before they’ve put the woman through enough trauma to scar them for life.

The Book of You stands apart from these similar narratives because of the clever use of the secondary story of the rape trial and the parallels between the testimony of what happened to the victim and what is happening to Clarissa in her life. The treatment of the rape victim makes Clarissa more reluctant to go to the police because she sees how the victim is doubted and treated like the rape was her fault.

If you can stomach the subject matter, this is a very well-written and captivating read, a perfect addition to this genre.

Review of ‘Bad Monkey’ by Carl Hiaasen

Bad Monkey coverThanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

I’ve enjoyed reading Carl Hiaasen in the past, his writing is fast-paced, irreverent and very easy to read.

‘Bad Monkey’ follows Andrew Yancy a policeman who, after assaulting his girlfriend’s husband, is demoted to restaurant inspector. When a severed arm turns up on a fishing boat he resolves to solve the case in order to try to get reinstated as a policeman.

As with Hiaasen’s other writing this is a humourous lightweight crime caper.  It’s easy to read and gets into the story quickly. I enjoyed the first third of the book but then I felt the plot started to meander a bit and lost its original fast pace. I got a bit bored in the middle of the book and I could have put it down and forgotten all about it without wondering what happened to any of the characters. However, the pace picks up again in the final third of the book, with the arrival of a hurricane in the Bahamas.

The book is set mostly in Florida with occasional jaunts down to the Bahamas. I found the Bahamian vernacular really hard to read. For example, Hiaasen uses ‘dot’ rather than ‘that’ and I spent the first few minutes of each conversation in the Bahamas trying to figure out who Dot was. I don’t think it’s necessary to write the dialogue in this way.

The sections in the Bahamas are filled with really bad cliches; including a voodoo witch and the eponymous ‘bad monkey’. I didn’t think these characters were really necessary or added anything to the plot. Using these ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ inspired ideas seemed a bit lazy.

The crime story is also not very original or exciting. The twist about what really happened to the arm which Yancy is investigating, is very obvious and predictable, (spoiler: why else would there be so much emphasis on the poncho?); so I was glad that the reveal came after two thirds of the book and it wasn’t saved to be the big final plot twist.

The most interesting and amusing plot line is actually unrelated to the central crime plot. It revolves around Yancy’s attempts to scupper the sale and completion of a monstrous house on the plot next door to his own house.

I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for a light, funny crime caper. I think it would particularly appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.