Tag Archives: psychological thriller

Catch-up Review: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

30 May

I’m doing a series of catch-up review posts to try and make up for my year of not blogging. These are quick reviews of books I’ve read over 2012-2013.

The Poison TreeGenre: Psychological thriller

Synopsis: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9209512-the-poison-tree

Review

I love stories that glorify the student years – those years when consequences seem far away and the possibilities stretch endlessly.

When shy Karen is befriended by the gorgeous Biba, her life changes forever. Karen, who is studying linguistics has laid a staid, boring life so far. When Biba engages her to teach German (which she needs to know for the play she is in), she gets a taste of the hedonistic life that Biba leads. She moves into the rambling, rather decrepit house that Biba shares with her brother, Rex, and some other friends. While it starts with great promise and a sense of adventure, we know that this is not going to end well…

Ten years later, Karen and her ten-year-old daughter Alice pick up Rex from the prison. And in bits and pieces we start to find out what happened to bring them to this point. And while Karen is hyper-vigilant and wants to protect her family from the past, the reader knows that of course, this will not happen. The story doesn’t start with a bang, and for the first few pages I was left wondering where this was going. But it soon pulled me in and I wanted to find out what had really happened in that old house all those years ago.

I’ve loved other books like this – The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, The Likeness by Tana French – although all of them are very different genres, what they have in common is the school/college life – a life that is highly romanticised. Also see my review of Dominance by Will Lavender.

Verdict

I enjoyed this psychological thriller, especially for the college life setting. It was also a well-told tale of mistakes and secrets.

Rating: 3.5*

*See myRating policy

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Correction: The Secret Life corrected to The Secret History.

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Book Review: Bad Intentions by Karim Fossum

8 Aug

Bad IntentionsGenre: Mystery&Detective

Series: Inspector Sejer #9

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pub date: 9 August 2011

Source: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley

This is first Inspector Sejer mystery I’ve read. Ever since I read Steig Larsson, I’ve been  meaning to get better acquainted with more Swedish writers, especially the crime fiction writers. This story had a sort of creepy horror and psychological elements which met some of my expectations of Swedish crime fiction.

Synopsis (From GoodReads)

Early one September, three friends spend the weekend at a remote cabin by Dead Water Lake. With only a pale moon to light their way, they row across the water in the middle of the night. But only two of them return, and they make a pact not to call for help until the following morning.

Inspector Sejer leads the investigation when the body is discovered. He is troubled by the apparent suicide and has an overwhelming sense that the surviving pair has something to hide. Weeks pass without further clues, and then in a nearby lake the body of a teenage boy floats to the surface.

Review

More than a detective novel, Bad Intentions is one that examines the human psyche. It attempts to get into the minds of very different people and explains how each of them react to certain situations.

The three men in this story, Alex, Reilley and Jon are very different from each other. They’ve been best friends since school, but something has happened recently that has changed their relationship with each other. Guilt overwhelms everyone – but each one of them deals with it very differently. While Jon has a full break down and was getting in-patient treatment, Reilley is increasingly dependent on drugs to get him through. The cocky ego-centric Alex exerts a sort of power over the other two and appears to be unfazed by this incident that has obviously upset his friends.

When Jon goes missing while on a trip with Alex and Reilly, Inspector Sejer has this niggling feeling that this is not a suicide. Jon’s mother, therapist and his girlfriend all agree that he was getting better, why then would he suddenly decide to kill himself?

Inspector Sejer goes in search of answers and uncovers some chilling secrets.

There was not as much of Inspector Sejer in this story – I see from reviews that this was not the case with the other books in the series. I would have liked to see a lot more of him. There isn’t much action either, but more psychological depths that are explored and explained.

The plot itself was  no great mystery, but what made this story good was the chilling atmosphere. The journeys into the minds of all the characters were also beautifully handled.

All the characters are wonderfully drawn out and I got invested in each of their stories.

Verdict

While this story turned out to be rather different from what I expected, it was still a good read. A great chilling psychological thriller.

Rating: 3.5*

*Read my Rating policy

Book Review: Ellipsis by Nikki Dudley

24 Mar

Ellipsis by Nikki DudleyGenre: Psychological thriller

Publisher: Sparkling Books

Pub date: Sep 2010

Source: Publisher via BookPleasures.com

Ellipsis – something that has been omitted or not said. In this story, it refers to something left incomplete, something that was not understood. And the characters do everything they can in their own ways to resolve this incompleteness.

Synopsis (from book jacket)
Ellipsis is a disturbing thriller stemming from what is left unsaid, what bounces around in the mind and evaporates when trying to remember. Can there be a conclusion when no-one seems to know the truth?

“Right on time,” Daniel Mansen mouths to Alice as she pushes him to his death. Haunted by these words, Alice becomes obsessed with discovering how a man she didn’t know could predict her actions. On the day of the funeral, Daniel’s cousin, Thom, finds a piece of paper in Daniel’s room detailing the exact time and place of his death. As Thom and Alice both search for answers, they become knotted together in a story of obsession, hidden truths and the gaps in everyday life that can destroy or save a person.

Review
I found this a difficult book to read. I’m not a very big fan of the first person narrative and much prefer to hear the story from the all-knowing narrator. In addition, part of the narration was by a psychologically disturbed woman who had just killed someone.

This is a psychological thriller that asks these questions: how can someone can feel so alienated from everyone around them? How is it even when someone is living in close quarters with people who care, no one around them has any idea how lost they feel?

Alice is plagued by the fact that Daniel expected her to kill him and even knew the exact time when he would. She is more obsessed with this fact than with the guilt of having pushed someone to their death.

Thom is devastated by his cousin’s death. Obsessed with finding out what happens, he gets completely immersed in his grieving and then in making some sense of what happened to his cousin. Old issues of losing his parents also begin to haunt him again. As Thom descends further into the darkness, Alice seems to find a little more clarity in her life.

On the whole, this book didn’t work for me – not just because of the subject matter, but also because some parts of it felt unreal or incomplete. The writing was strong and evocative, but the plot itself was not convincing to me.

Thom’s obsession with finding out what happened was not as problematic as the fact that the grieving family accepted a strange woman into the home. I struggled to be understanding about some of the choices that the characters make.

More than a mystery, this is a psychological study. It throws up questions and some understanding of how someone can feel so lost and insignificant and how the people they leave behind cope with a death of someone close to them.

Verdict
The writing is lovely and very poetic. If you’re interested in a slightly dark psychological study of the human mind, then this is a good book for you.

Rating: 3*

*See my Rating policy

Do you agree with my review, or do you think I’m way off? Just want to say hi? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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