Category Archives: Suspense

The Turn Of The Key – Ruth Ware

Turn Of The Key – Ruth Ware “Full of spellbinding nuance and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.” Quoted from the dust jacket it’s a pretty claim to meet… Scout Press publishing 2019, 336 pages

It has a first person narrative… and the issues of reliability of the person telling you the story is put to question straight away when she tells you where she’s writing from. You see, the novel is not written in chapters, it’s written a a series of lengthy letters. So there really isn’t too many clear points of transition. Which is a bit off-putting as these narratives are a bit lengthy. The book puts itself out there as a ‘suspense’ novel. But as far as suspense goes… we’ll I’ve found the book to be easily put down, and come back to later. But one glaring contradiction in this is the pacing… it’s strange, as I read, the story folds out slowly (part of the reason for being so easily put down) but the timeframe of the story seems abnormally compressed. I’m two thirds of the way through this and she’s only been watching these kids for three days.

Also, there hangs over this story a broken promise. According the the promotion and the blurbs a undertone of surveillance is suppose to be woven into this tale, but I really didn’t see that come up. Although the house is connected to a network that the parents who are away on business can access, they don’t. The mom checks in remotely only twice, when the kids are getting ready for bed… a very normal thing to do… though she does this with her cellphone through the house’s speaker system… I see nothing  overtly ‘surveillance’ about that. Also the husband, Bill doesn’t appear to access the house system at all, when, if the accusation about him is true… he would probably be accessing the cameras.

The story is about a young woman who is looking for a change and finds an opportunity that is… wait for it… too good to be true. And of course it is. The young lady works watching children in a nurse at a daycare facility in London.  While surfing the Internet one day, she comes across a live-in nanny position in Scotland that offers free room and board with an annual salary of over fifty thousand pounds! So, she puts together a ‘mostly true’ resume (CV), and applies for the position. She is selected for an interview and the process goes quite well. She is selected for the position of watching three children, Maddie,  8 Elizabeth, and the infant Petra.

The house in Scotland is a melding of new design and technology,  apps the parents are accomplished architects, an old mansion that they had purchased and have been remodeling. So there is this whole old house with its haunting and the new house with its glitches.  Both of these conditions are gaslight ingredients our poor young nanny who is less ‘perfect’ than she puts herself out to be. And that works it’s way through the novel, the nanny who seems perfect, for a position that seems perfect, for a family that seems perfect, watching children who seem perfect in a house that seems, well, perfect… none of which is true.

   The ghosts wouldn’t like it … I heard it again in Maddie’s reedy little voice and shook my head. Ghosts. How absurd. Just folktales and rumors, and a sad old man, living here after the death of his child.
   It was more for want of anything else to do that I opened up my phone and typed in “Heatherbrea House, child’s death, poison garden.”
   Most of the early results were irrelevant, but as I scrolled down and down, I came at last to a local-interest blog, written by some sort of amateur historian.

Lethally Wedded – J A Jones

Jones, J.A.. Lethally Wedded . Second Reef Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I want a t-shirt for finishing this story! I really feel like I deserve some sort of reward for finishing this story since the story itself didn’t provide any. This tragic tale of mail-order bride woe is narrated in the first person with different  characters telling their part of this lackluster yarn. DWM, Stan, fifty-something lonely man seeks SWF bombshell for marriage sex and citizenship… no mystery here.

Stan meets Tatiana online. She’s living with her friend Julia in an apartment managed by Victor after the death of her husband Boris. So you can see the level of imagination we have going on here…  I would not be surprised if in the first draft of this, Julia was named Natasha.

So, Tatiana come to America and between the luxury brand product placements and commercials for Costco… a story is told. Boy meets girl, girl meets dog trainer, girl meets love of her life rock star, boys rich mother dies, girl plans to kill boy… and at this point Stan is so poorly defined, I really don’t care if she offs him or not. These characters are so flat that I’m hoping for a quick death so I can get out of this book that much quicker.

I should have shelved this book halfway through. But, it has one saving grace… it’s lack of depth and detail makes it very skimmable. So, in for a penny, I stayed to see the big ‘twist’ at the end… I’m not going to spoil it here, but if I did… you would thank me for not letting you experience this lack of a mystery for yourself.

   “Are you really sure about this?” Holly said as she picked at her premade Costco salad of kale, tomatoes, and something that looked like grass.
   “It’s just a ninety-day fiancé visa,” I said as I picked up my slice of greasy pepperoni pizza. Costco made arguably the world’s best pizza, mozzarella cheese melted just right, a tiny bit burnt, the crust crunchy. For only $1.99 a slice! The generous slice of pizza completely covered the paper plate. It was like getting half a pizza for $1.99. Such a deal. I took a bite and wiped at my mouth with a paper napkin as the grease threatened to drip down my chin. “I’m just bringing her over for a visit. You’ll get to meet her, tell me what you think.”
  “What about the ring?”
   “I just wanted an excuse to see you at my favorite lunch spot,” I said, treating her to one of my killer smiles.

The Jealous Kind – James Lee Burke

The Jealous Kind – James Lee Burke, published by Simon and Schuster 2016

This book has something to say I can feel that in me… but I just don’t seems to be cracking it open. I feel it’s like a Rubik’s cube that needs to be unlocked, and I could do it, it is within me to break through the veil, but it would take more effort than I’m will to expend… and I’m asking myself is James Lee Burke the author to to tell me… I feel he’s speaking man to ,an but to a man who can relate to this particular time frame… the lesson transcends geography but not the timeframe, where as Hemingway speaks make  to make in a way that transforms both location and time…

The paradox of detail … not enough detail and it could be any place, anywhere, anyone… too much detail locks a story in time or place… the character seems less a character and more a portrait of a specific person.

This story start with Aaron Broussard doing something that he’s not been able to do before… stand up to bullies. Being that this is James Lee Burke, the bullies are the well-heeled set. But its not for himself that he stands his ground but on behalf of Valerie Epstien, a damsel in distress. Well, maybe not distress, but certainly on a bad date.

But it I thought it strange that the scene that opens this story, a swimmer of the coast of Galveston in the late 50’s, is almost the same scene as the opened to James Lee Burke’s novel Crusader’s Cross one of the Dave Robicheaux novels.

Now there is a a murder lurking in the background of this story, but its not so much at the heart of this story for me to really consider this a ‘mystery’ per say. So… somewhere around the halfway mark I’ve put this back up on the shelf… perhaps I’ll pull it down and pick up where I left off… when I’m older and wiser and too advanced in years to benefit from the good advice I’m sure is there just hidden beneath the surface.

“I was trying to tell you you’re everything that’s good. That’s why I couldn’t understand how you could go out with Harrelson. I’m not the same since that night at the drive-in.”
“Don’t talk stupid. People don’t change,” she said. “They grow into what they’ve always been. They just stop pretending, that’s all.”
My head felt small and tight. My cheeks were burning. I couldn’t speak.
“Some people are the jealous king,” she said. “They don’t love themselves, so they can’t love or trust anyone else. There’s no way to fix them. That’s why you’re really upsetting me.”
“I think that’s the worst thing anyone ever said to me.”
“I’m going upstairs now and lie down,” she said. “You can let yourself out.”

Someone We Know – Shari Lapena

Someone We Know – Shari Lapena, Viking 2019 and I borrowed my copy from the library. A perfect place to try new authors.

This isn’t a whodunit mystery in a traditional sense, there simply aren’t enough clues for us to reasonably follow but it’s a solid character driven mystery much like her novel The Couple Next Door… but where that story focused on the police procedure and plot driven, this is more like an Unwanted Guest in that the story is strongly driven be well written and multilayered characters both suspects and those who suspect them alike.  Shari… she spends a lot of time showing means motive and opportunity to several characters in this story, each set of particulars turning and twisting but not all the pieces fit together for any of them. Sure the circumstantial evidence is there for each on spades, but when it comes down to it, is the killer someone we know?

The story starts right off with Raleigh committing a break in and roaming about a neighbor’s house. Seems this is his idea of kicks. Meanwhile a neighbor Robert has reported his wife Amanda missing. Seems the flirtatious young wife he’s simply disappeared.  That is until a chance encounter in a lake not far from town reveals her body in the trunk. As detectives Webb and Moen start making inquiries they begin to  find no lack of suspect and no lack of motives in what appears to be an insular close knit community of neighbors. Meanwhile, the questions the investigation spawn lead friends and neighbors through a series of revelations uncovering the secrets that unexpectedly bind them together.

“Parenting is so stressful, she thinks, glancing sidelong at her moody son slouched in the seat beside her. You try to do your best,  But really what control do you have over them once they’re not little anymore? You have no idea what’s going on inside their heads, or what they’re up to. What if she’d never seen that text? How long would it have gone on – until he was arrested and the cops showed up at the house? He was breaking into places, snooping through people’s lives, and they’d known nothing about it. If anyone has accused her son of such a thing, she would never believe it. That’s how little she knows him these days. But she saw those texts herself. He admitted it. She wonders uneasily if he’s keeping any other secrets. She parks the car in their driveway and says, “Raleigh, is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Origin – JA Konrath

Origin – JA Konrath published by Pinnacle Books in 2009. I read the mass produced paperback, (I don’t think there was a hard cover of this) running 341 pages.  Its not exactly a mystery, but its billed as a thriller, and though its suspenseful, most of the punches that are thrown in this yarn are fairly well telegraphed. There is a fairly predictable ending to this, but it’s a quick read and has a slight thread of humor running through it. Though most of Andy’s humor falls flat. I don’t know if that’s intentional of not as I’ve read a couple of JA Konrath’s Jack Daniels series and he’s very good at weaving humor through those stories.

This story is about a hibernating creature being held at a super-secret underground base, where the President is oddly always a quick pone call away. The base is staffed with a very small group of specialists all of whom have had some major trauma in their past. They are each on some level ‘damaged goods’. But when the creature awakens, the need for a specialist in languages brings the protagonist Andy to the facility. Andy though doesn’t seem to have any major trauma in his history, other than dodgy tax practices.

But Andy’s specialty is not as vital as it once was though since the creature, awakened, has quickly taken to and become well conversed in English and is able to be subjected to questions. Andy then focuses his talents on transcribing the capsule that contained the creature when it was discovered.

Well, best laid plans and all that, seems the creature has an agenda of its own. The nature of the beast is slowly revealed, and the bodies start piling up. Each death having something to do with the trauma from each victim’s past. As I said, you can see many of these punches coming. In the end… will any survive? Can any survive? Can you beat the devil and win?

“What’s you impression of our General Race?” Andy asked, holding open the Red Arm door.

“He’s good at manipulating people. I wonder why he’s here though. The army only has so many generals. Why stick one underground for forty years?”

“Something to do with his wife?” Andy suggested. “Dr. Belgium told me about her disease.”

“I don’t think so. She didn’t become symptomatic until a few years ago.”

“Maybe we should ask him. He seems honest. Well, as honest as the military can get. What’s Dr. Harker’s problem?”

“You noticed it too?”

“Yeah the lady seems to have a large assortment of bugs up her ass.”

Sun punched in the code for the first gate. “She has problems relating to people, I think.”

“And Dr . Belgium… don’t get me wrong. I like the guy. But he seems to be one slice short of a sandwich himself.”

“Yeah,” Sun agreed. “And the holies. Odd ducks both of them. Father Thrist’s little outburst didn’t wear well with the Roman collar.”

Andy sad, “Maybe we’re not all here because we’re perfect for the job.”

Sail – James Patterson

Sail – James Patterson and Howard Roughan Little, Brown and Company published 2008 coming in at 388 pages. I read the hardcover from the library as one of their ‘Summer Reads’ selections. Anything having to do with the beach was stacked up on that table… including Peter Benchley’s classic Jaws, a perfect summer beach read I’m sure.

This is definitely another quick page turner from James Patterson. The liberal use of white space and seriously short chapters makes what looks like a lot of pages go by a faster than expected pace. One benefit of the short chapters is that as you’re reading the story, the numerous change in points of view and different narrators flow smoothly and naturally. This is another solid story of suspense that does provide a sudden twist or two before the whole tale be told matey.

A family suffering from a recent loss sets sail on a family vacation.  With uncle Jack at the helm of the family’s craft, mom and three kids embark on a trip to the Bahamas. Family conflicts and disfunctions play out in the confinement of their physical space, but after a sudden storm at sea, and an explosion which destroys the boat, the family finds the strength to overcome the onslaught of the elements thrown against them.

But what caused the explosion?

And with a distress signal sent, where is the rescue?

And who are these shadowy figures the new step father is meeting with?

Ps. If you have a negative view of lawyers as arrogant, money minded psychopaths… well, have I got a book for you!

   We’ve all had an impossible day, but with Jake’s having to save Carrie and the boat, he is definitely our hero. The least I can do is stay up until he finishes.
   Besides, it’s a absolutely beautiful night out on the deck. So many stars. The heavens peaceful and calm. I’m reminded of my days as a churchgoer and I say a few prayers of thanks.
   Then I lean back on the cushioned bench behind the helm, wrapped warmly in a fleece blanket, my eyes tracing one constellation after another. Orion, Lyra, Cassiopeia. When I come across the Big Dipper, I can’t help a bittersweet smile, “You know, sweetheart, technically the Big Dipper is not a constellation,” my father told me over and over when I was around eight or nine. He either didn’t know he was repeating himself or was worried I’d forget. “It’s an asterism,” he’d explain, practically sounding out the word for me every time. “That means it’s only part of a lager constellation.” 

  “In a way,” he’d continue, “we’re all Big Dippers, part of something much bigger than ourselves. At least I hope that’s how you come to see yourself.”