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Ritual

ritual-pbkHaving enjoyed Poppet so much I thought I would read all Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffrey thrillers. I like to do things in order.

I feel a bit mixed about Ritual. It was a good thriller. I enjoyed the plot and thought it was well handled, keeping the identity of the killer hidden until the very end. Caffrey has transferred from London to Bristol and his first case is a hand recovered from the harbor. The coroner confirms that the owner of the hand was alive when it was cut off and may still be alive. All the pieces are skillfully woven together so that you only see the whole, gruesome picture at the end.

Caffrey is working with Flea, the police diver, and the events that are between them in Poppet begin here. So, it was nice to start to piece that story together as well and I like the connecting thread between the books. There is also a little bit of follow up to the actions Caffrey took at the end of Birdman and the impact on him that has had. Rather than being a series of individual thrillers connected only by the central character, like the Reacher series, it has the feel of episodes in a series building up to something bigger.

There was one thing that bothered me though. The Jack Caffrey in this book didn’t seem like the same character as in Poppet, Birdman or The Treatment. Some of that was physical characterization. After reading those three books I had an image in my head of Caffrey as tall and blond. In Ritual, Hayder describes him as dark-haired. That might be inconsistent, or it might be me misremembering. The tall thing is more clear-cut though. In this book, Hayder repeatedly describes Caffrey as tall. Then she describes him through Flea’s eyes as being medium height. It really bothers me and I’m not sure why.

Overall, it was alright. I did enjoy it, but perhaps not as much as some of the others.

Headhunter

headhunterIn Headhunters by Jo Nesbo, Roger Brown is a top recruiter who finances his lifestyle by art theft. He arranges interviews for executives who own expensive art and steals it while they’re occupied. He’s a successful recruiter with a reputation for never failing to place his candidate, but it doesn’t make enough money to pay for the house and his wife’s art gallery.

Unfortunately for him, a psychotic ex-CEO of a defence company wants a job with another defence company and is willing to go to any lengths to get it. Through a series of misunderstandings and bad decisions, Brown ends up being hunted through Oslo.

I saw the film of this book a few years ago and it’s what prompted me to read Jo Nesbo’s books. I actually read quite a few of his Harry Hole series before I got onto Headhunters, and I enjoyed them a lot. This is even better. I think this is the best of his that I’ve read. It’s written in first person from the point of view of Roger Brown and the voice is engaging and compelling. The plot tension is handled well and a couple of key twists are held back to the very end. Pacing is fast but not breathless. At least half the book is spent on the set up and you’re completely caught up in Roger’s world. He’s not the nicest guy but he’s smart and ingenious and not above doing whatever he has to. I liked it a lot.

The Treatment

200px-ThetreatmentThe Treatment is the second in Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffrey series. Caffrey is still obsessed with the paedophile next door and the mystery of what happened to his brother all those years ago.

Caffrey gets a case that seems a little too close for comfort. A family is held prisoner in their own home for a weekend. No one notices because they were supposed to be going on holiday. Instead, the mother is restrained and locked in a cupboard, the father is restrained on the landing while the son is abused. Then the perpetrator takes the child out of the house and is seen by a passerby. The police sweep the area but can’t find anything.

Whilst investigating this case, Caffrey is also trying to work out what happened to his brother. The cases are linked and Caffrey gets information that takes him out to a remote farm in Suffolk. Some of his actions are ill-advised and Caffrey is risking his job to pursue his obsession.

An extra complication is that Caffrey is dating one of the women that was a victim in the last book, Birdman, and she’s dealing with her experiences in a very public way. His secrecy and obsession with his brother isn’t making things between them better.

The plot twists and turns and the killer is hidden in plain sight. There are a few plausible candidates and Hayder shows how easy it can be to miss what is really going on. I wasn’t keen on the heavy-handed use of dialect for the character of Caffrey’s boss but that was the only thing that spoilt my enjoyment of the book. The resolution of all the plot lines was brutal and I found it very affecting.

Birdman

birdman-re-issue-november-21Birdman is Mo Hayder’s debut novel and the first to feature Jack Caffrey, a handsome yet troubled detective. I enjoy a thriller and Mo Hayder is easy to read. Which should not be confused with easy to write.

Someone is murdering women and sewing live birds into their chests. Disturbingly, Hayder is able to present several plausible suspects. There’s a lot going on in the book aside from the investigation; there’s Caffrey’s struggle with the unresolved disappearance of his brother, and his overlapping romantic relationships. The plot is handled well and the real murderer is introduced early and hidden in plain sight.

Caffrey’s resolution of the crimes opens up some questions for the reader. Caffrey takes a personal path that might feel very satisfying of a need for retribution, for terrible crimes to receive terrible punishment. Birdman is a blend of horror and thriller and it is the horror ending we’re presented with; the evil that has risen is wiped out of existence. Only then can we sleep safe in our beds. But Caffrey is an officer of the law; he’s meant to serve it, not take it in his own hands. It’s an uncomfortable presentation of what a person might do when their sense of right and wrong is complicated. On reflection, this is a more thoughtful book that it appears, and I enjoyed it a lot.

 

Body Double

Body Double by Tess Gerritsen is a Rizzoli and Isles mystery. body doubleA woman is killed in a car and she looks just like Maura Isles. Naturally, she’s shaken by this and responds by investigating the case. Isles is adopted and so it’s entirely possible the victim is related to her.

In the course of finding out who the murdered woman is, Isles meets a policeman who had been the victim’s lover and who develops a (slightly creepy) attachment to Isles. She and Rizzoli also discover some truly horrible crimes going back decades.

I don’t want to give the plot away. It’s nicely twisted and the connections are surprising. Gerritsen is a solid writer who creates believable characters. I enjoyed this, as I’ve enjoyed all of her books, and if you like thrillers, then you’ll like this.

The Shining Girls

shining-girls-cover-lauren-beukes I’m terribly aware how heavily skewed my reading is in favour of white men. It must have an impact on my writing, and my language, and my worldview, and I’d like to have more diversity in my reading. I read widely in terms of genre, but not so much in terms of author. There are blog challenges similar to the ‘100 books in a year’ challenge which I could do, except that it’s a tough year and I don’t want to take on anything I know I will turn into a chore. That doesn’t mean I can’t pay more attention though.

Whenever I look for contemporary female SFF writers Lauren Beukes is always at the top of the list. The Shining Girls is a story about a time-travelling serial killer. Harper stumbles across a house in the 1930s and to stay in the house he has to match girls with the trophies in the house. Kirby was attacked by Harper but got away. She becomes obsessed with finding out more about her assailant. What she discovers can’t possibly be true. Until he comes for her again. She got away and Harper has to correct his mistake.

The time-travelling element is an interesting twist on the serial killer horror story and the construction of the novel means that you don’t get all of the pieces until the end. It’s cleverly done. The characters are interesting. Harper is complex. Beukes conveys him in a way that shows how he is compelled by house. You could almost think he doesn’t have any choice. But she also shows how his personality makes him so compatible with the house, as if it drew its own to it.

Kirby is a brilliant heroine. She’s likeable, dogged and smart. Her previous traumatic experience makes part of her want to hide away and part of her want to fight back which I found very realistic. I thought it was a sensitive depiction of the complicated and contradictory feelings people have after being made a victim. And Kirby has more trouble in her life than that. It doesn’t define her and she still has to cope with all the other shitty things life hands her.

It was really good. I enjoyed it, would recommend it, and will be reading more work by Lauren Beukes.

Scream for Me

I picked up Scream for Me by Karen Rose from the book drop at work. I was in the mood for something lightweight and thrilling.

Following the death of his brother, Detective Vartanian finds a collection of photographs that indicate that, when much younger, his brother participated in the gang-rape of several young women. When he goes to Dutton to investigate the murder of a woman, he realises that this death is somehow connected to those events.

Alex Fallon’s sister has gone missing and she comes to Dutton to care for her small niece and to look for her sister. The police think she’s an addict and aren’t interested in looking for her. Fallon had a twin who was murdered when they were teenagers and the MO for the current crimes is very similar. It becomes clear that the murderer is trying to reveal the rapists from Fallon and Vartanian’s childhoods, and that several important people are implicated.

This has been a strangely hard review to write. Partly because it’s a while since I read the book and it hasn’t stuck very well in my mind, and partly because I didn’t have very strong feelings about it. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, even though I thought the plot was a bit predictable. There were elements in it that should have had a high emotional impact but somehow fell flat. I guess I never believed that any of the main characters were in danger of dying. The ones that died were the minor characters that hadn’t had enough page-time to get the reader invested in them. It’s ok for a palate cleanser, but didn’t engage me enough that I’d seek out more.