Louise Doughty is brilliant at writing about underlying resentment and the things we secretly notice about people but rarely articulate. I suspect she will remain best known for Apple Tree Yard but her latest novel ‘Platform Seven’ is a very effective domestic psychological thriller and likely to be another commercially successful one too. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Thriller
After a break from Man Booker International Prize shadowing duties last month, I have returned to reading translated fiction with ‘Based on a True Story’ by Delphine de Vigan translated from the French by George Miller. It is about a middle-aged Parisian author, Delphine, who is befriended by a woman known throughout only as “L.” who claims to be a professional ghostwriter. L.’s presence gradually takes over every aspect of Delphine’s life to the point where their close friendship turns into something far more sinister.
It’s easy to see how politics can provide ripe subject material for novelists. From Whitehall to the White House, the settings of these stories are inevitably concerned with power, money, intrigue and risk-taking, all excellent topics for dark humour and high drama. Given that recent political developments in the United Kingdom have become stranger than fiction, it seemed like an appropriate time to read ‘House of Cards’ by Michael Dobbs. Originally published in 1989, the story follows chief whip Francis Urquhart who will stop at nothing to become Prime Minister, getting rid of his potential opponents in any way possible, mostly by orchestrating various scandals for them to fall into. However, tenacious journalist Mattie Storin is getting closer than she realises to uncovering his web of lies and deceit. Continue reading
‘Blood Wedding’ by Pierre Lemaitre and translated from the French by Frank Wynne tells the story of Sophie Duguet, a nanny who is becoming increasingly forgetful and paranoid. When the child in her care Leo is found brutally murdered, she has no recollection of what happened and goes on the run fearing that she killed him during one of her frequent blackouts. However, it soon becomes clear that something very sinister has been causing Sophie’s alarming behaviour and changing her identity won’t be the solution to her problems. Continue reading
Last year, I went to an event in London to celebrate the work of classic crime fiction novelists Eric Ambler and Margery Allingham and I’ve finally got round to reading two of Ambler’s best known novels ‘Epitaph for a Spy’ and ‘Journey into Fear’, reissued as Penguin Modern Classics for his centenary in 2009. ‘Epitaph for a Spy’ tells the story of Joseph Vadassy, a Hungarian refugee and languages teacher who is on holiday in the south of France. When his camera is swapped with one whose film contains sensitive photos of secret naval installations in Toulon, Vadassy comes under suspicion of being a Gestapo agent. To convince the police that he isn’t guilty of espionage, he must find out which of the guests staying at the Hôtel de la Réserve is the real spy. Continue reading
Last week, I attended another bloggers event at the Groucho Club in London to celebrate the work of classic crime writers Margery Allingham and Eric Ambler with short talks delivered by Barry Pike, a founder and Chairman of the Margery Allingham Society, and Simon Brett, a crime writer and Ambler expert. I developed an interest in classic crime fiction after reading Martin Edwards’ compendium of the genre The Golden Age of Murder last summer which outlined the lives and works of key members of the Detection Club in the early 20th century including Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley among others. I was therefore very keen to learn more about two other crime writers whose names were familiar to me but whose novels I had never read before.
‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes opens with an elite intelligence agent codenamed Pilgrim being brought out of retirement to investigate the brutal murder of a woman in the rundown Eastside Inn in New York whose identifying features have all been dissolved with acid. Meanwhile, Pilgrim is also attempting to track down a Saudi Arabian doctor known as the Saracen who was radicalised after his father was publicly beheaded and is seeking revenge by unleashing a deadlier version of smallpox on the United States. It later transpires that the two investigations are closely linked. Continue reading
‘Disclaimer’ by Renee Knight tells the story of Catherine Ravenscroft, a woman who starts reading a book entitled ‘The Perfect Stranger’ which she doesn’t remember buying and has mysteriously turned up on her bedside table in the chaos of moving house. However, although supposedly fictional, the story is about a real life-changing event which happened to Catherine twenty years ago. Neither her husband Robert nor her son Nicholas know about it and the words in the disclaimer “any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is unintentional and purely coincidental” have been deliberately crossed out in red ink. The author of the book is Stephen Brigstocke, a retired teacher who wants to make Catherine pay for what happened all of those years ago. Continue reading
Hyped as this year’s ‘Gone Girl‘, ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins tells the story of Rachel Watson, who takes the same commuter train every day to London. The train always stops at a red signal where she observes a seemingly perfect couple who she names Jess and Jason in their house which is coincidentally a few doors down from where she used to live with her ex-husband, Tom. Except one day, Rachel sees something shocking from the train and becomes more closely entwined with their lives when “Jess” suddenly disappears.
When I read ‘Carrie‘ and ‘11.22.63‘ a couple of years ago, I said I would like to read more of Stephen King’s other fiction in between his first novel and what was his most recent novel at the time. Originally published in 1987, ‘Misery’ tells the story of Paul Sheldon, a writer who is attempting to move away from his popular series of historical romances featuring Misery Chastain towards serious literary fiction. After being badly injured in a car accident, Paul is “rescued” by Annie Wilkes, a nurse who also happens to be his “Number One Fan”. However, Annie is devastated to learn that Paul will be killing off her favourite character and forces him to write a new novel where Misery is brought back to life. Or else. Continue reading
Following the success of Gillian Flynn’s third novel published in 2012, the film adaptation of ‘Gone Girl‘ was released in cinemas this week. Directed by David Fincher with a screenplay written by Flynn, the film has garnered positive reviews in the press and is already being tipped to win Oscars next year. There’s no doubt the film will be talked about as much as the bestselling novel, but is it worth the hype? Continue reading
‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’ by Joel Dicker tells the story of Marcus Goldman, a young author suffering from writer’s block after the success of his debut novel. His former professor and mentor Harry Quebert is arrested and charged with the murder of his fifteen-year-old lover Nola Kellergan who is found buried on his property in New Hampshire thirty-three years after she disappeared. Marcus becomes obsessed with solving the mysteries surrounding Nola’s disappearance and starts investigating what really happened all those years ago. Continue reading
Set in Tokyo, ‘Parade’ by Shuichi Yoshida tells the story of four twenty-somethings who share an apartment together. However, when a homeless teenager called Satoru moves in, nobody seems very sure who the newest resident really is, why he is living there or if he is connected with the shady activities of their neighbours and the recent violent attacks on local women. Or, as Yo Zushi writing in the New Statesman put it: “Imagine if Friends had ended with the revelation that Chandler was a psychopath – and that Joey, Monica, Ross, Phoebe and Rachel weren’t bothered by it.” Intrigued? I certainly was.
‘Apple Tree Yard’ by Louise Doughty tells the story of Yvonne Carmichael, a middle-aged geneticist who begins an affair with a man she meets while she is giving evidence to a Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament. It is revealed at the beginning of the book that the affair has been exposed in dramatic circumstances while Yvonne is on trial at the Old Bailey. However, even though it is clear that she is doomed from the beginning, the story behind how she became embroiled in the most serious of crimes and who her lover really is still offers many twists and turns.
I was fascinated by the original premise of ‘Red Joan’ by Jennie Rooney which is based on the true story of Melita Norwood who was famously unmasked as the KGB’s longest serving British spy at the age of eighty-seven in 1999. In Rooney’s fictionalised version of events, Joan Stanley, an eighty-five year old woman living in the suburbs of south east London, receives a visit from two British intelligence operatives who have come to question her about her past after so many decades of silence. The story is cleverly told through a series of flashbacks as the links between Joan’s past and present are gradually revealed.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003, ‘Notes on a Scandal’ by Zoe Heller is a tightly-written psychological thriller driven almost entirely by the characters rather than the actual events. The story is told retrospectively from the point of view of Barbara Covett, a History teacher at a North London comprehensive school. Lonely and nearing retirement, she forms a friendship with a new pottery teacher, Sheba Hart. However, Sheba’s affair with one of her fifteen-year-old male pupils has far-reaching consequences for everyone, especially Barbara.
Even though I have been a book blogger for quite a while now and am generally meant to be on top of all things bookish, I have been very slow at getting round to reading the book that pretty much the entire world (no exaggeration) has been discussing for the last year or so. I got a bit fed up of my mum and my sister going into another room to talk about ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn so I thought I had better get round to reading it so that I could join in with the conversation.
What a book to start the year. I loved it. I was particularly intrigued by the original concept of the novel – travelling back in time to try and stop John F. Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas on 22nd November 1963 – and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I would go as far as saying ‘11.22.63’ was probably the most enjoyable and imaginative book I’ve read for a very very long time. Continue reading
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, ‘The Last Hundred Days’ by Patrick McGuinness tells the story of a young British expat living in Romania at the time of the fall of Ceaucescu in 1989. Offered a job at a university, the unnamed narrator soon becomes embroiled in a web of corruption and betrayal. Loosely based on McGuinness’ own experiences, it is a shocking, sometimes brutal account of life under the shadow of a dictator and his rapid downfall. It is a story told with bleak authenticity. Continue reading
Earlier this year, I watched the first season of the TV series ‘Borgen’, a political drama set in Denmark, and got completely hooked to the point where I began to convince myself that I could speak Danish. However, with the exception of reading the Millennium Trilogy a couple of years ago, I am definitely lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to jumping on the Scandinavian crime fiction bandwagon and this week, I tried to rectify that by reading ‘The Redbreast’ by Jo Nesbo. Continue reading