Tag Archives: mystery

Review: Baggage

91vkke5j99lRecap: Anna Ray has a secret. For years, she’s carried it around with her, and every on February 17th, she relives the same traumatic incident from her childhood that she can’t talk about. And then she relives the other traumatic incident from her adulthood — the day her husband killed himself. Those two deaths have permanently cursed February 17th for her, only to be made worse when yet another person she knows well dies on the very same date.

Her cousin, Jeannie, has already flown in to stay with her for the week that haunts Anna so much. Now the two of them together become wrapped up in a murder investigation a professor at the college where Anna works. He just so happened to have had a crush on Anna and used to date Jeannie. Investigators won’t leave them alone, even as one of Anna’s students becomes a prime suspect in the case. But the date and the baggage of February 17th also won’t leave Anna alone, and ultimately she has to come to terms with what this all means for her.

Analysis: Author S.G. Redling does a good job of showing us how torn Anna and Jeannie’s characters are and how much baggage they really have. But with all that baggage, it was frustrating to me that the reader doesn’t learn exactly what happened in Anna’s past until the very end. I think it would have made the story’s climax more climactic had we had more insight beforehand. The details about that traumatic childhood incident also could have been explained more plainly — I found that section a little confusing and had to re-read it several times.

That said, Redling builds great suspense as the end of the novel nears, and it has a very Gone Girl thriller feel. The twist at the end is great mystery writing and exactly the kind of twist any reader hopes for. The relationship between Anna and Jeannie is also great, though I found it hard to believe that growing up, Anna never told Jeannie exactly what happened on that February 17th of yesteryear.

MVP: Jeannie. She’s a bit of a hot mess, like Anna, but she’s there for her. She’s a good role model for Anna and completely nonjudgmental, which is exactly the kind of woman Anna needs in her life.

Get Baggage in paperback for $10.58

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Movie vs. Book: Dark Places

Libby Day didn’t have an ordinary childhood. She grew up alone — not because her parents both died, nor because she was left behind, but because her mother and two sisters were murdered by her brother. “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas” is her claim to fame even 25 years later, and in many ways, the murders still rule her life. She spent decades surviving off money earned through life insurance policies, donations and book sales from the memoir she wrote. Now her money is running out. Her brother is still in jail. They still don’t talk. And Libby hasn’t started a new life because she can’t let go of her past.

But she then learns a “Kill Club” exists, where people investigate some of the nation’s most infamous crimes and murders. The Day murders are a favorite in the club. When Libby realizes she can take advantage of the club by accepting money from them in return for speaking to other people associated with her brother’s murders, she does it. She is desperate for money. But she soon realizes that most members of the “Kill Club” think she’s weak and a liar. They believe her brother isn’t the killer. Being seven at the time of the murders, Libby doesn’t remember much, so she sets out to re-investigate the murders herself and encounters an entire secret history of the Day family that she never knew existed.

Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places includes many of the same things that readers liked about her more famous bestseller Gone Girl: rotating — and untrustworthy — narrators and perspectives, suspense, mystery, a big twist and general creepiness. Gone Girl has its bloody, gory moments, but Dark Places trumps those. The killing scene is gruesome, and there are sections about sacrifices to Satan that can’t help but cause goosebumps. Generally speaking, the film does a good job of portraying the same creepiness the book offers, but still doesn’t compare.

The casting is a little off. Charlize Theron as Libby Day is all wrong; she is too beautiful, too confident, too “cool” to be the unconfident misfit that is Libby Day. Similarly, Chloe Grace Moretz is too angelic to play a Satan-worshipper. But it’s more than just the casting. The flashback scenes including killing scene is hokey. Shot in black and white and shaky, it looks more “Blair Witch Project” than “Psycho.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the movie, other than to say it just doesn’t feel right. There are a few characters that are left out or killed off, including Libby’s Aunt Diane. Some of the interviews Libby conducts are also excluded. I understand those choices were made for time purposes. Otherwise, the movie follows the book closely enough. But there’s something about it — maybe it’s the fact that the book is just so creepy, so dark, so twisty that it’s hard to create a visual version that can even remotely compare. The movie doesn’t allow us to connect with the characters like the book does — and suddenly I found myself more curious about when the movie would end than “Did her brother really do it?”

Get Dark Places on your Kindle for $7.99.

Or in paperback for $8.33.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie vs. Book, Reviews

Review: The Girl on the Train

Recap: Rachel rides the train two hours a day from home to her office in London. Much of that train ride is spent drinking, and most of it is spent thinking about, staring at, or creating a fake backstory for the people who live in a house she passes on her ride. Rachel has become obsessed with the attractive couple who lives there, not only because they’re along her train route, but also because they live down the street from her old house, where she once resided with her ex-husband.

Her ex, Tom, has since remarried and has a child with his new wife, Anna. But Rachel isn’t as estranged from Tom as he and Anna would like her to be. Rachel’s drunken days and nights have done nothing but lead to dozens of phone calls to Tom and countless embarrassing moments.

But one day, Rachel witnesses something while she’s on the train — a moment involving the woman with whom she’s obsessed. So when that woman goes missing the next day, Rachel realizes she might have a very important and useful clue. She reports it, and quickly finds herself completely wrapped up in the mystery. But with all her drinking and knowledge not more valuable than that of a girl on the train, investigators and those involved don’t know whether to trust her.

AnalysisThe Girl on the Train has been touted as “the next Gone Girl.” It’s a bestseller that has flown off the shelves in the last several months. It’s obvious why. Its similarities to Gone Girl are strong — chapters alternating between the perspectives of several different characters, unreliable narrators, and a suspenseful mystery, mixed with a fair amount of violence. But there are differences too. The end of the novel is sadder than Gone Girl, but better justified.

Ultimately, The Girl on the Train is a page-turner, even to the final pages. Just when I thought the story was over, it wasn’t. The book is full of twists and turns, and each character is more pathetic and crazy than the next. Even as we, as the reader, are inside the heads of several characters, they each have so many issues, it’s hard to tell what they’re actually thinking and where the story will actually go. Dark and twisty, The Girl on the Train is compelling and raises the question how well do you really know anybody?

MVP: Rachel. She is a hot mess. Most of the book, I cringed on her behalf, wondering why she couldn’t get it together. But I wanted her to be right, and despite her repeated failures and embarrassment, she’s never gave up, and resilience is commendable.

Get The Girl on the Train in hardcover for $16.17.

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

4 Comments

Filed under Reviews

J.K. Rowling’s Detective Series to Be Adapted into TV Series

Harry Potter may not be coming back to the big screen — or any screen — time soon, but J.K. Rowling’s other novels are soon expected to make their TV debut.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the BBC has announced it will adapt J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike novels into a BBC One TV series. The detective series was written under Rowling’s pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The TV show will start with the telling of the first novel in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was published last year. Rowling will be involved in the project, working with BBC and Bronte Film and TV. So far only two novels in the series have been published — The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. A date for the TV series has not yet been announced.

But Bronte Film and TV is also helping Rowling adapt her other adult fiction novel, The Casual Vacancy, into a three-part series that will air on BBC One in February 2015. The Casual Vacancy is not part of the Cormoran Strike Series.

So…who will be watching?? Considering how much I loved The Cuckoo’s Calling, I know I will!

3 Comments

Filed under Author News, News Articles

Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Recap: It’s a death that has as much media coverage as the death of a One Direction member would warrant. Lula Landry, one of newest, youngest, and most gorgeous models in Britain has died. Lying on the ground next to her apartment building in London, Lula Landry appears to have fallen from her balcony. But was she pushed or did she jump? Considering her troubled history with drugs and mental instability, it is widely assumed that she jumped. After all, who would want to kill Lula Landry? But with all her fame, money, and beauty, the better question is who wouldn’t want to kill her?

That’s where Detective Cormoran Strike comes in. He’s hired by Lula’s adoptive brother, John Bristow, to delve deeper into Landry’s death. The offer couldn’t come at a better time for Strike, who’s been recently dumped, kicked out of his apartment, and is on the verge of bankruptcy. Considering how long it’s been since he’s had regular work, he’s a bit rusty. But when a new temporary secretary, Robin, starts working for him, she becomes more of an asset than he ever imagined a secretary could be.

Ultimately Strike and Robin unravel the case of Lula Landry, with lots of key players and lots of evidence previously overlooked by police.

Analysis: In one of only two books in her post-Harry Potter days, author J.K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) proves yet again that her easy-to-follow writing and complex web of characters with oh-so-many motives makes for a book that’s tough to put down. The more each character is described, the more we want to know what happens.

That being said, The Cuckoo’s Calling is — for the most part — your average detective novel. It also feels quite a bit longer than it needs to be. Written in third-person, the book comes from the perspective of Strike, so as readers, we get to play detective right along with him.

But Rowling/Galbraith does one thing that sets The Cuckoo’s Calling apart from the rest of today’s detective novels: considering Strike’s recent professional misfortune, it’s unclear if he’s actually capable of doing the job. Usually in a mystery like this, the detective is described as being one of the best, so it’s no surprise when he solves the case. Here, there’s some uncertainty – can Strike solve the case? Is there even a case to be solved? Those are the questions that keep the book moving.

MVP: Strike and Robin, collectively. The two make a good team. Even with little history or experience working together, their determination makes for a solid bit of detective work, while a friendship between them blossoms.

Get The Cuckoo’s Calling in hardcover for $15.19.

Or get it on your Kindle for $5.99.

8 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Review: The Oracle Code

Recap: An archaeological dig in Afghanistan is where we find Professor Thomas Lourds and his friend Boris. Boris has recently discovered a set of scrolls, said to be the scrolls of Alexander the Great. But they’re written in ancient writing — writing that Boris cannot read or understand. That’s where Professor Lourds steps in.

Boris believes the scrolls will lead them to the tomb of Alexander the Great. But before Lourds can get a good look at the scrolls, their archeological group is attacked. Soon an all-out battle takes place, leaving Boris dead and Lourds to work alongside a young Russian newspaper reporter, Anna. It becomes clear to them that someone — particularly a Russian ex-military man — is after the scrolls and wants to see the two of them dead. To add to the hysteria, President Nevsky, of Russia, has invaded Ukraine, with plans to bring back the USSR.

Professor Lourds’ task of revealing the meaning of the scrolls has become a matter of life and death. Not to mention, it’s the only way he can honor Boris after he has died. But can he uncover the meaning? And do the scrolls, in fact, lead to the grave of Alexander the Great?

Analysis: The format, pacing and writing style in Charles Brokaw’s The Oracle Code is very similar to Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons). Even the character, Thomas Lourds, bears striking similarities to Robert Langdon — though the knowledge of symbols is replaced with a knowledge of ancient languages and mythology. While enjoyable, I couldn’t help but compare the novel to Dan Brown’s work.

What I found is that Brokaw took the action that existed in Brown’s Angels and Demons, but left out much of the analytical research and explanations of The Da Vinci Code. That was a good move on Brokaw’s part; it certainly kept the story moving. That being said, I found myself hoping for more explanation of Lourds’ work. Brokaw presented several scenes in which other characters comment on Lourds’ sleep-deprived state. He explains that he was up for hours working on the scrolls, and he shares what he learned from them. While it was great to finally learn what was in the scrolls, I wanted to know what Lourds was doing in those late-night hours to interpret them. How did he figure out the language and the scripture?

The last moments in the book also felt rushed, making it a bit difficult to keep up. The epilogue, however, does a good job of wrapping up the few subplots that the last chapter seemed to bypass, certainly leaving it open to yet another Code book with Thomas Lourds as the leading man and a historical mystery as the leading lady.

MVP: Anna, the reporter. A complex character with a shocking story line, Anna personalizes the story that’s otherwise about a set a scrolls. Her courage is commendable and her loyalty to getting the scoop admirable.

Get The Oracle Code on your Kindle for $2.99.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: Deuce Delaney

Recap: As young teenagers, we all made mistakes, but not like middle schooler Deuce Delaney. Deuce — whose real name is Mansfield, but prefers “Deuce” — sets off stink bombs, steals money to buy tranquilizer guns, and does some of the normal teenage stuff too, like smoking, drinking, and terrorizing his younger sister.

In this modernized story about the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf,’ Deuce starts off as a boy with an imaginative mind. He thinks he sees a ghost or creature near his secret hiding spot in the woods. He follows clues through a sewer to find out what the creature is. But the story quickly moves past the ghost story to one of a boy who can’t escape trouble. Deuce is constantly being grounded. He gets his friends into trouble. In an attempt to do well, he joins clubs but is soon kicked out of them. He gets suspended from school, fails a class, and has to attend summer school. And that’s where he meets another troubled boy like himself, named Russell.

That’s when things start to escalate. When Deuce tries to put out a fire in his school, he is blamed for starting it. He realizes that Russell probably had something to do with it. But Russell mysteriously dies, and Deuce is the only one who knows how. He must prove it to those who don’t believe him.

Analysis: Deuce Delaney is a coming-of-age story, combined with mystery, action and thriller. Sadly, the most exciting parts of the novel are saved for the beginning and end. Upon beginning the book, Delaney reminded me of Now and Then in that it combined themes of growing up with uncovering a mystery. But that ghost/creature story was completely dismissed until the end.

Much of the middle of the novel was devoted to Deuce’s mishaps and troublemaking. I understand that this is what the author, Michael Murray, intended. Showing what a “bad kid” Deuce is serves to explain why people in authority positions wouldn’t believe him in the end when he uncovers the mystery. But while this character-developing portion of the book serves a purpose, it’s very long; so long, in fact, that the reader forgets about the “creature” from the beginning altogether.

That being said, the writing itself is well-done. Told in first person, the author does a good job of writing or speaking as a 13-year-old would. It’s a little disorganized, but very self-centered and straightforward, which is fitting for Deuce’s personality. At the end, Deuce proves his point, but it leaves me wondering how much he really learned and if he grew from this experience at all.

Get Deuce Delaney for your Kindle for only $2.99.

2 Comments

Filed under Reviews