Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Thrillers/Suspense

The Astronaut's Son
Seigel, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While the modern landscape for space exploration is expanding in ways that are very exciting, it’s interesting to read a story set in the early 2000’s that actually accomplishes something that hasn’t happened in decades: landing on the moon. And yet, this part of the plot of The Astronaut’s Son takes a minor role when compared with the primary thrust of the story. Sure, I would have thought that there would be plenty of things to occupy an astronaut’s time in the lead-up to a significant accomplishment, but apparently, there’s plenty of free time to explore the validity of a conspiracy theory.

I’ll admit that I never thought that there would be Nazi sympathizers in the space program, but The Astronaut’s Son brings up a few interesting and perhaps semi-plausible ideas. These are explored via the main character’s investigation as to whether his father’s sudden death would was truly due to a health condition that could affect him during his own mission, or if it was due to more sinister circumstances. Despite not ever seeming to deliver straight answers, the journey was still exciting and entertaining. The story may be fictional, but there did seem to be some deep-seated elements that had the possibility of being true, thus helping to suspend my disbelief.

Some of the other subplots, like the birth of a child and numerous characters’ marital infidelities, were interesting for character development, even if I thought they would have affected the main plot more than they did. After all, wouldn’t it be more interesting if there wasn’t even a genetic link between the main character and his father after all? At any rate, I was certainly blown away by this book at first, and it wowed me with its writing and style. However, if you think too much about it, you’ll start to realize there are some holes in it that can’t entirely be covered up, regardless of its entertainment value.

An interesting and perhaps plausible exploration of Germans and Jews in the space program, I give The Astronaut’s Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Bird Box
Malerman, Josh
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Imagine, you are a mom who has had to raise her two kids in a world where going outside was a major undertaking. No! This world is not filled with the usual “monstrous suspects” you come to expect in horror novels, vampires, werewolves etc.. this evil is unseen and unknown. It can’t be known, for you see, the moment any person glimpses it, this “evil” drives them to unspeakable violence and shortly after, their own death. The world didn’t used to be like this, it used to be normal but since “the evil” infested our world, things have never been the same. This evil leaves no survivors, and no one can stop it because no one can see it. It simply is unbeatable.

Malorie and her two children live in this world where evil can ravage anyone if you were just to step outside. To protect her and her children she raises them and teaches herself, to live life almost completely blind with a blindfold on most of the time. They do the best they can, holed up in their home trying to survive. One day through their meager means of communication Mallorie hears of this place 20 miles downriver where her and her family might be safe. But only if they can get there. Malorie and her kids, soon after, set out on a harrowing and terrifying journey downriver, all while wearing blindfolds, that will test them in ways they couldn’t have imagine.

Mallerman creates a horrifying and terrifying experience for readers that will leave them continually guessing. The strength of this story is also what makes it the best kind of horror. It’s unknowable and theirs a mystery around every corner. It could be something that could turn out to be a monster or something that could help the hero’s on their journey. The tense and creepy atmosphere Mallerman creates from the character’s surroundings also adds to the overall terrifying and mysterious aura of the story. Add to this that the evil so talked about throughout the book, is never actually revealed. Mallerman does a brilliant job of revealing some things but not everything leaving the readers imagination to make up the rest. And that is the strength of this book really, it turns the readers mind against them. Highly original and so creepy this book is a solid five stars. Pick up this intense terrifying psychological horror story today. And check out the movie coming to Netflix this December. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Loney
Hurley, Andrew Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The raw intense power of this book is simply incredible. Gothic horror literary fiction at it’s best!

The Loney follows the story of 2 brothers Smith and his cognitively disable brother Hanny, known as the boy who does not speak, their family and their religious community as they take a pilgrimage to a religious shrine at the Loney, a bleak desolate part of the English coastline, in hopes of finding healing for him. This book takes place in the 1970’s and centers around a family and a tight knit religious community. It explores family dynamics, the tight knit relationship between the brothers, which I absolutely loved and felt was so strong, and between the brothers and their parents. Particularly their mom a religious overbearing figure who is definitely seen as not only the leader of her family but a very strong leader within the religious community as well often imposing her will on everyone. It also explores relationships between the religious community. Both among members and between the new more modern/ forward thinking priest and the parishioners as well as between the priest and the two brothers. The relationship study in this book, from a sociological and psychological standpoint is alone worth five stars.

But the Loney is more than just a sociological study, the Loney is also a desolate raw place riddled with secrets, rugged beauty and loneliness, a place time left behind. This is evoked perfectly in this quote describing the Loney.

“A sudden mist a mumble of thunder over the sea the wind scurrying along the beach with it's crop of old bones and litter was sometimes all it took to make you feel as though something was about to happen. Though quite what I didn't know. I often thought their was too much time there. That the place was sick with it. Haunted by it. Time didn't leak away as it should. There was nowhere for it to go and no modernity to hurry it along. It collected as the black water did on the marshes and remained and stagnated in the same way."

Eerie and creepy right! The sense of place and atmosphere that Hurley portrays here is so strong, that it’s like a a whole other character in the book. It slowly gathers itself around you like a invisible blanket and doesn’t let go. Add to that the tight writing, the slow burn of the story, the eerie terrifying conclusion, and the gothic dreary English coastline setting and you have the perfect fall read. Don’t expect a fast moving gore horror but if you like gothic creepy horror that slowly builds and creeps up on you, you will love this book! I highly recommend reading this beautiful piece of fiction! I cannot say enough about Andrew Hurley! No wonder Stephen King said this is a “great piece of fiction.” Hurley is definitely one to watch! You can put your copy of this atmospheric psychological suspenseful horror on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Moonraker
Fleming, Ian
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For those of you who have seen the movie Moonraker (1979), push everything you know about this story out of your head. About the only things that the film has in common with the book are the main character, villain, and an enormous rocket. While the film tried to capitalize on the sci-fi that was popular at the time, the original book takes a look at the threat introduced in World War II by the Germans: ballistic missiles. For its time, the book was relevant in a world that hadn’t even been to space yet.

Having now read a handful of the James Bond books, my problem with this book stems from how formulaic it was. Only three books in, and it felt like Ian Fleming was recycling content and would continue to for books to come (like in Goldfinger ). I mean, never before has a game of bridge been so exciting, but using card games as exposition to introduce the villain already seems done to death at this point. From here, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump through the sexual tension with a female counterpart, the villain’s monologue, and the eventual foiling of plans by Bond.

While I did appreciate the slight twist in the ending with Gala Brand, it seemed slightly out of character based on how she acted previously in the story. Perhaps this was because the narrator is practically half-inside Bond’s head, but it still felt a little misleading. While the conclusion of the villain’s plot was exciting, the comic nature of the comeuppance almost had an eye-rolling chuckle tied to it as well. In the end, Moonraker is a James Bond story, so it delivers on all the tropes and clichés of the series. If you like the series, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

The standard Bond formula in yet another book, I give Moonraker 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at Blackheath, her family’s estate and her childhood home. Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve her murder. Eight of the same days. The day repeats on a loop, but each day for eight days, Aiden occupies a different body. His only escape from the never ending loop is to solve her murder.

Wow. This was a fantastic, kind of trippy thrill ride. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is The Magus by John Fowler, and that’s only in the sense that both you the reader and the main character really have absolutely no clue what is going on. Unlike The Magus, though, (almost) everything is revealed by the end of the book and it comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Even if it were just a closed door murder mystery, it would still be good. The mystery itself was twisty enough to keep the reader constantly on their feet. I guessed one thing, but most of the elements of the mystery were a total surprise when they were revealed. It’s deliciously complex. The addition of the eight different perspectives along with the fact that everyone is unreliable really added to the story. Add to that the fact that someone is killing off Aiden’s hosts, and the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because I was staying up too late (just one more chapter!). There were a few world building things that were left frustratingly vague, but I think that was by intention, so I can’t complain.

This genre bending book will screw with your head in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I really loved the reading experience. I think a lot of people will enjoy it – mystery lovers, those that enjoy high concepts and general fiction readers are going to love this one. I certainly did! 5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be available for purchase in the US on 18 September 2018. You can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Breakthrough
Grumley, Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All four of these books (Breakthrough; Ripple; Leap; Catalyst) are fast paced, incredible adventure/mystery's, creative, fascinating with wonderful characters both human and animal. Michael is a great author. Can't wait for the next book in the series.

Reviewer's Name: Camille Oliver
Bring Me Back
Paris, B.A.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I slogged through 200+ pages of tedium to reach an absolutely ridiculous conclusion. This will be the last time I see Paris.

Her books have gotten progressively worse. I would lump her in with Ruth Ware. Modern day "thriller" writers who are popular. Why, I do not know.

Reviewer's Name: Alfred Weber
Awards:
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ware, Ruth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

2 1/2 stars. It was a fun Gothic-type novel, but nothing really memorable. If you just need something light to read with not too much substance (I call them "chewing gum" books), you may enjoy this title. This is my 3rd Ruth Ware novel to which I've given 2 1/2-3 stars so I think I'm done with her books.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
Piercing the Darkness
Peretti, Frank E.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

It’s weird how something that was done so well the first time loses all its magic during a sequel. I absolutely loved This Present Darkness , as I felt it accurately captured the invisible war of the spiritual world while also providing a gripping thriller in the human realm to keep the action moving forward. I was not impressed with the follow-up book, Piercing the Darkness. If it was a separate story with separate characters, I might have gotten into it more, but as it is, the tie-in to the first book seemed sloppy and almost unnecessary.

Almost every part of This Present Darkness that I thought was amazing seemed copied into Piercing the Darkness, but without the stakes or “oomph” to make the plot even semi-interesting. I think the reason for this was that most of the subtlety was gone from the characters. It’s a little more terrifying when you learn that normal, everyday people are being controlled by demons, but when a fully-functioning Satanic cult is your antagonist, it just seems like the author isn’t trying that hard. Of course, there wasn’t much of a reason behind the “evil side’s” plans in this book, other than to ruin a Christian school. At least in the original book, a whole town was at stake.

Perhaps Peretti was pandering a bit too much to his core demographic here, but it almost seemed like all the characters were caricatures, with no ambiguity to make the reader wonder whose side they were on. I won’t even mention the few plot holes I noticed, some of which came to light during the trial portion of the plot since it’s pretty apparent how everything’s going to turn out from the beginning. Good triumphs, evil is defeated, blah blah blah. In short, this book reads more like a sermon. The thrill is gone.

A sub-par follow-up to a fantastic book, I give Piercing the Darkness 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
This Present Darkness
Peretti, Frank
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Back in high school, I had to read this book as part of my Religions class and thought it was pretty good. As I have been preparing for writing The Slumberealm Gambit, I decided to give This Present Darkness another read so I could recall how Frank E. Peretti combined the fantastical spirit world with the real world. For a book written in 1986, it’s aged surprisingly well, even if the demise of the newspaper and the rise of constant contact via cell phones would make this kind of book set in modern times a hard sell. Even so, I honestly wouldn’t mind if someone adapted this book into a movie, as the plot is thrilling and the action is top-notch.

Strangely enough, one of my qualms with this book is with its formatting and proofreading. There were a few missed typos, and the right-align text didn’t seem as professional as I would have hoped a widely-printed book would be. Regarding content, though, I wonder if the preacher side plot could have either been cut or enhanced so that it would have had the same intensity/focus as the newspaper main plot. Still, by the end of the book, the exciting conclusion is a result of all the pieces being put in place during the somewhat long buildup.

Some people may debate whether angels and demons are real, but this book certainly gives a fantastical look behind the curtain and imagines these beings in elaborate detail. The angels are all quietly patient, while the demons are gruesome and horrifying. The mixture of fantasy imagery and real-world situations is something I hope to soon accomplish in my own writing style, and this book merely reinforced how awesome it was when I read it for the first time more than a decade ago.

An action-filled and thrilling look behind the spiritual curtain, I give This Present Darkness 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Timeline
Crichton, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It’s been a while since I read any Michael Crichton. I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic Park —and to a lesser extent, The Lost World . I enjoyed the action and the science that went into creating these stories, helping to educate as well as entertain (kind of like my own writing style, if I do say so myself :D). For Timeline, the science in question is more quantum in nature, but I felt the explanations given were sufficient to arrive at a time-travel narrative, even if it did require a small amount of scientific hand-waving. Also, a lot of my perceptions about the dark ages were completely flipped around through this book’s meticulous details.

Even though I liked the scientific and historical sections of this book, there were undoubtedly some weaknesses I cannot overlook. First of all, Crichton seems to like hammering home the idea that science as an entertainment business is a bad idea (a la Jurassic Park) but the corporate sub-plot seemed a little less thought out and didn’t play too much into the grand scheme of things. As for the main plot itself, it seemed distracted most of the time, rarely remembering why these characters were sent back in time in the first place. Some of the characters weren’t even that compelling either, which didn’t help.

I wanted to like this book more, but by the end of the narrative, I got the sense that this was more akin to an action-movie screenplay or video game plot than an actual book. The countdown to the climax was a little hard to keep track of earlier in the book, and it didn’t provide the needed tension early on that it did near the end. Plus, the characters were usually the ones calling out the timestamps anyway, making it mostly redundant. In the end, there were some neat ideas regarding quantum physics, time travel, and history that makes Timeline an educational read, even if it is only once.

A Crichton book heavy in action, but light on plot, I give Timeline 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Monster
Peretti, Frank
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

One of the challenges of the Christian author is being able to craft stories and characters that share their beliefs, but without being too heavy-handed about it. In Frank Peretti’s Monster, the author mostly succeeds, providing characters that can easily be identified as Christian, but also exhibiting the traits of normal humans instead of straight-up caricatures. The main plot of this book was only tangentially related to an argument against evolution, so that was also a plus. Still, the way the book was put together, it was clear where the author’s bias was.

While some people might not appreciate the Christian undertones in this thriller, my qualms with it are more structural. Following a few different characters after a woman is abducted by an unnatural beast, the mystery of the disappearances and killings unravels to reveal a semi-plausible explanation. Unfortunately, the man and wife pair that are introduced at the start of the book are more annoying than likable. Ergo, when I followed the woman’s ordeal in captivity, I could not sympathize with her plight because her actions and reactions were so off-putting at first.

In the end, Monster is still a passable—if perhaps boilerplate—thriller. I did appreciate the realistic explanation for the fantastical elements of the story. I also found it somewhat refreshing to show a character who opposed the common scientific view of evolution just because everyone else thought it was true. For an audiobook, the author’s narration was filled with just the right amount of emphasis, which is to be expected. However, with so many short scenes and quick cuts between them, his reading could have stood to have a little bit longer pauses between sections in order to give the listener a better sense that the scene was changing from one character to another.

A passable thriller with semi-subtle Christian undertones, I give Monster 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Metro Girl
Evanovich, Janet
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I can honestly say, this is the worst book I have read in 2018. I couldn't believe it was written by Janet Evanovich. It lacked her usual wit and laugh out loud moments. I actually thought I would love it since I enjoyed the graphic novel. But no. I didn't care about any of the characters.
I thought the story line plodded along and at the end, I just didn't care. I was hoping a canister of nerve gas would just destroy every copy of this book so no one else who's thinking of reading will suffer.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Double Indemnity
Cain, James M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This classic piece of noir does what some might consider impossible: making an insurance salesman interesting. Of course, planning to commit insurance fraud makes the scenario much more interesting, even if it follows some of the basic tropes of the genre. Because the story is so short, only lasting just over three hours of audiobook reading, I feel the movie adaptation was able to include everything that made this story so engaging. I do think the ending was improved in the film, though, as the story’s ending felt a little disjointed from the narrative.

What made Double Indemnity so enjoyable was how the main characters were so sure they’d get away with the crime they were about to commit. The details of the fraud were so thorough that the reader is almost convinced that nothing could go wrong. When the aftermath starts to unravel, that’s when the story began to get interesting. Suddenly, all the little things you’d never think of started to rear their ugly heads and tear the crime apart. If anything, Double Indemnity proves that, no matter how well you plan a crime, there is always something that is bound to go wrong. There are no perfect crimes.

While I enjoyed the revelation of the family’s backstory after the crime was committed, the one element that was a little uncomfortable was how the main character altered his amorous intentions from the mother to the daughter. It felt kind of creepy how he was justifying a 15-year age difference, even if she was a year past the age of consent. Maybe that was part of the point, though: prove that none of the characters were above reproach. They each had flaws that made them unlikeable in some fashion.

A short and tightly-written noir classic, I give Double Indemnity 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Enigma Strain
Thacker, Nick
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The basic formula for a thriller is as follows: one loner, one love-interest, and lots of running. The Enigma Strain is your cookie-cutter thriller, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The premise is somewhat entertaining, if not downright ridiculous and unrealistic. The pacing is certainly fast enough to keep the characters moving and racing against the clock of destruction (at times even literally). In the end, there were no surprises as the day is saved and the loner opens up enough to attract the love interest. The fact that the ending was predictable just meant that it delivered on the thriller formula.

One of the weaknesses of The Enigma Strain is the sense of space and time. There was plenty of driving around to different locations, which made them seem like they were quite close together. However, the love-interest kept talking about flying, which made me wonder how far away these places were. If it took a long time to drive between them, there was a lot of time these two characters were in the car together that wasn’t necessarily alluded to. I know I can get irritable after a long time in the car, and the fact these two strangers weren’t at each other’s throats after a collective eight hours (or more) of driving felt strange.

While The Enigma Strain had all the trappings and accouterments of a standard thriller, it also contained many of the “wait, why?” faults that separate a lot of thrillers from actual reality. Some of these questions were answered (like why the main character is a loner), but others were frequently touched upon but never fully explained (like why the main character is afraid of flying). In the end, if you want a fun escape from reality, a good thriller like The Enigma Strain can probably fit that bill.

A standard thriller that follows the thriller formula, I give The Enigma Strain 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Salem's Lot
King, Stephen
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

One of King's most famous books, Salem's Lot is a story about vampires that doesn't exactly rival King's other books in terms of plot and suspense. However, it's still a great book that is very enjoyable. The book is about a vampire that eventually turns the entire town into vampires themselves, and a small group consisting of a doctor, a priest, a writer, and a little boy all fight back against the outbreak. The book does a good job of building up the villain and the characters, but the horror is not exactly the preliminary theme here. Instead, it is more focused on the drama and action, which is fine, but for an author who is famous for his horror novels, this book was slightly underwhelming. However, I would still recommend it to Stephen King fans or anyone looking for a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
Meg

Meg

Alten, Steve
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While Jaws may have terrified readers with it's suspense, Meg follows in Peter Benchley's footsteps for only a few steps-and then veers off in a completely different direction. This is a novel all about a small group of scientists trying to kill a gigantic megalodon shark after it escapes from it's hovel in the Marianas Trench. It also has a pinch of scientific mumbo-jumbo and horror to draw all sorts of different readers and to keep you hooked. The characters are diverse, likable, and fleshed-out, and the main antagonist, the 60 foot long megalodon shark, is so entertaining to read about. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action, suspense, or sharks!

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
'Book Review: The Snowman'
Nesbo, Jo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Have you ever heard of Leatherface? Hannibal Lecter? Freddy Krueger? Good. Because if you like those kinds of killers and movies, then you will absolutely love this novel, The Snowman. The book follows the path of a detective with a dark past who is forced to hunt down one of the most deadly and disturbing killers he has ever faced, as he simultaneously struggles with the battle within himself. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I would recommend this novel to people who enjoy thrillers, horror novels, or anyone who enjoys getting a little disturbed sometimes.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
IT

IT

King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: This book is incredible. One of the scariest novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading is also one of the longest. In this book you follow the journey of seven characters - all brilliantly well rounded and fleshed out, if I may add. You alternate between their experiences during childhood and adulthood of facing and fighting the demonic and supernatural clown, Pennywise. I recommend this book to fans of horror and Stephen King, or anyone who enjoys a long read of a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Cell
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book "cell" by Stephen king is a book about learning to cope with the apocalypse. The apocalypse in this book is very unique and diverse from your typical zombie virus outbreak. While the main character, Clay, is out getting ice cream he watches as people answer their phones. They all start going crazy after they've answered the call, spitting out nonsense and being extremely violent towards each other. He was the only person there without a phone. Through out the story new characters are gained and then lost. I liked this book because I have a lot of trouble finding books that grab my attention. I really enjoyed reading this book, it was very action filled. There were no dull moments. I chose to read this book because of hype around the movie "It". I really liked the movie so I decided to read some of his other work. I would recommend this book to anyone who like very exciting, sad, emotional, and/or mysterious novels.
Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: Tabitha V.

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