(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the advance reading copy)
(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the advance reading copy)
Perfect strangers. A perfect holiday. The perfect murder…Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves. When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices… Then, a second girl goes missing. Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine?
From the outset I will say that I am a steadfast fan of Mr Billingham, having read all the books, having watched the excellent TV adaptations and yes I probably would buy the T-shirt, but overall I found this a curious and unsettling departure of style for him.
The story opens in Florida as three British couples find themselves implicated in the disappearance of a teenage girl, Amber-Marie Wilson from their holiday resort. She is later discovered murdered. On their return to the UK the couples resume contact with one another over a series of meetings and meals which exposes the quirks and frailties of their personal relationships heightened by the fact that another young girl goes missing in similar circumstances to the Florida case. Jenny Quinlan, a young trainee detective is tasked with investigating them as the Trans-Atlantic connection becomes evident and puts them under scrutiny in a bid to expose their darkest secrets and to catch a killer or killers…
For my part, I did enjoy the Florida-based sections of the book more with the beautifully drawn account of Patti Wilson’s heartache and sense of loss over the murder of her daughter and the depiction of Detective Jeffrey Gardner in charge of the US investigation, a focused and likeable character who liaises with his British counterpart the equally focused and ambitious Quinlan. I appreciate that having set the premise that by default all of the couples are under suspicion and that they should appear to a certain degree to be unlikeable, but I feel that Billingham pushes this too far and that as a reader you begin not to care ‘whodunnit’ or indeed why, such is the harshness of the characterisation and it felt at times more caricature than characterisation. With the grand reveal (which I guessed- humph!) the motivation for these crimes seems a trifle implausible in the light of the characterisation up to this point and despite a plot punctuated by vignettes of narration by the perpetrator it all seemed a tad…well…unbelievable and all a bit obvious as to how the court scene at the end would play out. It’s interesting to see that this is being marketed as having a more ‘unisex’ appeal as I did at times lose sight of the fact that I was reading a Mark Billingham book and thought I had wandered extraneously into a Sophie Hannah book- which admittedly is not always a bad experience- but felt a little strange!
As much as it pains me to say it this was indeed a book of two halves (and on a football note surely Barry would turn off Football Focus hearing about the Championship or League One and not Division One?) with the American plot-line more reminiscent of Billingham’s ease of characterisation and fluidity of style than the slightly less plausible nature and ‘clunky’ characterisation of the British plot. An interesting experiment I feel but rather relieved that it is just a standalone and that normal service will be resumed…
(Note to Mark Billingham if you ever happen to read this… Get to work on that Thorne ™ merchandise so I can indeed wear the T-shirt 🙂 )
See Mark Billingham talking about his new book here:
(With thanks to Little Brown for the advance reading copy)
Geiger’s business is extracting information. A meticulous torturer, his methods range from the brutal to the psychologically complex, and he will stop at nothing to get the job done. His clients are referred to him from international corporations, government agencies and organised crime; his skills are in worldwide demand. He calls his company Information Retrieval.
Geiger only has one rule: that he will never work on a child. So when a client presents Geiger with a twelve-year-old boy, his instinct is to walk away. But the alternative – the unknown horror that might await the boy elsewhere – is too awful for him to contemplate. Geiger’s history is a blank page – even to him. In accepting this assignment in an attempt to save the boy, he will discover that history, no matter how torturous that proves to be…
Time to enter the world of the mysterious Geiger- just Geiger- no other name- a character with layers of secrecy about him that are instrumental to his employment as an Information Retrieval specialist. As the story opens we witness Geiger’s more unorthodox techniques to elicit information from imprisoned individuals- quite simply Geiger is a man that can extract the truth but who only works on his terms and at his own behest. He is a damaged individual mentally and physically, the causes of which manifest themselves throughout the course of the book, as he becomes involved in a shady interrogation. This puts him and those around him in harms way, becoming embroiled in a desperate race to uncover some damaging information and resulting in a tense and well-plotted thriller. The character of Geiger is extremely well-drawn and probably the most compelling aspect of this tale because as a reader you are genuinely intrigued by him and the complexity of the emotions he undergoes both as an individual and in his somewhat dubious but quite fascinating employment. Unfortunately, most of the characters are very reminiscent of a fairly bog-standard movie script- the partner, Harry, with the screwed up past and a mentally challenged sister who puts him in peril, Ezra, the cutesy kid complete with violin who gets kidnapped- then rescued- then kidnapped again and add to this the waitress in the local diner with the heart of gold, the earnest psychiatrist who seeks to plumb the depth of Geiger’s mind but unsurprisingly finds himself caught up in action, and the disabled Vietnam veteran plying his trade on the streets as a memory man and waxing lyrical on the human condition whilst foiling the bad guys in their pursuit of Geiger and Harry. However, these fairly stereotypical characters all add to the mix quite effectively and did not impinge on my overall enjoyment of the book as I felt that the main plot itself was unlike many thrillers I have read and seemed fresh and new. A perfectly readable thriller whose excellent plot is slightly undermined by some lazy characterisation but still worth a read…
When you’re as big and rough as Jack Reacher – and you have a badly-set, freshly-busted nose, patched with silver duct tape – it isn’t easy to hitch a ride. But Reacher has some unfinished business in Virginia, so he doesn’t quit. And at last, he’s picked up by three strangers – two men and a woman. But within minutes it becomes clear they’re all lying about everything – and then they run into a police roadblock on the highway. There has been an incident, and the cops are looking for the bad guys…Will they get through because the three are innocent? Or because the three are now four? Is Reacher just a decoy?
ATM card- check
Out of date passport- check
Public information leaflet on the inherent perils of hitchhiking- you have got to be kidding- this is Jack Reacher!
Yes, Jack is back in the 17th outing for everyone’s favourite tough guy and picks up straight from the close of ‘Worth Dying For’. Navigating his way from Nebraska to an assignation in Virginia , Reacher again finds himself embroiled in trouble after innocuously hitching a ride that then manifests itself into a violent trip comprising of kidnap and terrorism. Naturally Jack is forced into a position of working with American governmental agencies to track down the bad guys whilst retaining his familiar role as a lone ranger fighting to restore right in the face of some pretty serious wrong with his inherent suspicion of said agencies. Joining forces with a pair of pretty feisty females who for differing reasons don’t inherently trust him at first, there is a nice interplay between the three during the course of the book and always good to see a couple of kick-ass female characters to counterbalance the oozing of testosterone (that admittedly Reacher’s female fans tend to appreciate) synonymous with the character of Reacher himself.
All the keynote characteristics of the typical Jack Reacher thriller are here- bad guys biting the dust, plenty of militaristic detail in relation to weaponry and army procedures, Reacher’s numerical brain- puzzlers, 101useful facts about every American state, clipped dialogue, and plenty of high-adrenaline action. As is standard in the series, there is no real deeper exploration of Reacher in terms of character development and overall the plot is pretty formulaic in terms of the motivations of the bad guys but as regular readers appreciate this is not really what we expect as this series is essentially built on Reacher’s tough guy antics and sense of justice. The ending did feel a little rushed in comparison to the roving and backtracking nature of the build-up and overall the book read as a mere tangential adventure before Reacher actually manages to meet his assignation in Virginia with whatever action and excitement that may hold.
As a consistent reader of the Reacher series I did enjoy this one more than ’61 Hours’ and ‘Worth Dying For’ but personally speaking I think it still lacks the intensity of some of the earlier books and sincerely hope that this previous originality will be recaptured in the future….
‘A Wanted Man’ is published 30th August 2012
(Thanks to Alun at Random House for the advance reading copy)
Check out the movie trailer for ‘One Shot’ here- on release December 2012
Ian Hunt is the police dispatcher for the small town of Bulls Mouth, East Texas. Just as his shift is ending he gets a call from his fourteen-year-old daughter, Maggie. Maggie, who has just been declared dead, having been snatched from her bedroom seven years ago. Her call ends in a scream. The trail leads to a local couple, but this is just the start of his battle to get his daughter back. What follows is a bullet-strewn cross-country chase along Interstate 10, from Texas to California. The riveting new novel from the acclaimed author of Acts of Violence and Low Life is a brilliantly original, blood drenched thriller, about the lengths a man will go to for his daughter.
Well- what can I say? The genius of Jahn is in evidence again in this new thriller which again is distinctly different to his first two books. In a lesser author’s hand this could easily have been boxed in with the Harlan Cobens and Linwood Barclays but thanks to Jahn’s depth of characterisation this is altogether a more meaningful read. I loved some of his little descriptive flourishes e.g ‘He sat there motionless, his mind a room without any furniture in it’ and the sheer wretchedness of emotion that Ian Hunt goes through with his trail of broken relationships, his physical and mental turmoil, the disappearance of his daughter and the breaking of his own personal moral codes in his desperation to get her back. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked anyone as much as Henry Dean, a sadistic man who feeds off the weakness of his wife Beatrice to justify his inborn propensity for violence and his utter disregard for those he perceives as getting in his way.
I liked the little sparks of wit punctuating the novel as in Ian’s interaction with the buxom gun store owner who said that any relationship between them would be ‘like a teddy bear trying to cuddle dynamite’ and how ‘a hatchet isn’t exactly a precision tool’ whilst hacking away at somebody’s toes.
As always with Jahn and his background as a film-maker the setting and episodic nature of the novel would easily lend itself to a movie and it does have a very Coen-esque smalltown feel to it with the extreme evil of Dean pitted against the morally tortured Hunt (great character name as this is his raison de-etre during the course of the book).
A powerful and affecting book that rises above the bog standard thriller and really does investigate the symbiosis of good and evil at the heart of the human condition.
Following the success of the mesmerising ‘Acts of Violence’ , Jahn’s attempt at that tricky second novel does not disappoint. In ‘Low Life’ the reader is drawn into a twisting, psychological mystery, as we follow the mental and physical breakdown of an unassuming individual seemingly adrift in society. Simon Johnson believes that he has brutally murdered an intruder who is his physical double, leading him into a chain of events that are perfectly Hitchcockian in their rendition reflecting Jahn’s filmaking roots. A smarter than average crime thriller that seeks to unsettle and challenge the reader at every turn.
Katrina Marino is about to become America’s most infamous murder victim. This is Katrina’s story, and the story of her killer. It is also the story of Katrina’s neighbours, those who witnessed her murder and did nothing: the terrified Vietnam draftee; the woman who thinks she’s killed a child, and her husband who will risk everything for the truth; the former soldier planning suicide and the man who saves him. And others whose lives are touched by the crime: the elderly teacher whose past is catching up with him; the amateur blackmailer who’s about to find out just what sort of people he’s been threatening; the corrupt cop who believes he is God’s ‘red right hand’. Shocking and compassionate, angry and gripping, Acts of Violence is a sprawling, cinematic tour-de-force, a terrifying crime novel unlike any other…
I absolutely loved this fictional interpretation of the circumstances surrounding the real life murder of Kitty Genovese and the whole fleshing out of ‘bystander theory’ that this case sparked in the US. I thought the construction of the lives of the residents of the apartment block was exceptional, providing perfect vignettes of the struggles both moral and physical of these people unknowingly a hairs breadth away from the scene of an horrific crime. Their reticence to intervene in this crime was perfectly pitched because I think all of us have at some time ignored a scream in the night putting it down to tricks of the imagination or someone else’s problem. The unfolding of the murder was strategically placed in the timeline of the book and as a reader I felt increasingly anxious as these events unfolded but equally as curious to get back to the onlookers and the minutiae of their lives. A literary crime thriller that is begging to be made into a film!
Two of Sweden’s most powerful businessmen have been murdered. In the face of mounting panic amongst the financial elite, a task force has been created to catch the culprit before he kills again. To his surprise, Detective Paul Hjelm, currently under investigation for misconduct after shooting a man who took an immigration office hostage, is summoned to join the team. But the killer has left no clues – even removing the bullets from the crime scenes – and Hjelm and his new teammates face a daunting challenge if they are to uncover the connection between the murdered men and identify any potential victims before he strikes again…
This almost escaped my Scandinavian crime radar but I’m jolly glad it didn’t as I thoroughly enjoyed this taut and well-written thriller. This is the first of Dahl’s Intercrime series to hit British shelves (previously published as ‘Misterioso’ in reference to the killer’s particular use of background music) with the follow-up ‘Bad Blood’ due for release next year. Billed as Henning Mankell meets ‘The Wire’, an elite group of detectives strive to uncover the identity of a killer unceremoniously bumping off some of Sweden’s most influential business figures. Although ostensibly a perfectly sound police procedural, the gathering of this small band of detectives who comprise the wonderfully bland sounding A-Unit, really brings the plot together as they provide a picture perfect microcosm of race, gender, differing social backgrounds and in some cases dysfunctional personalities. This gives Dahl a free hand to play around with how these characters interact and work together as they track the killer and how their differing personalities result in moments of extreme wit (particularly in the mocking of other Scandinavian cultures) or dark pathos as some members of the team seem to have their fingers permanently on a self-destruct button. The plot is convoluted but well-structured to provide enough blind alleys to satisfy most crime readers and as normal (within the Scandinavian crime genre) there is ample opportunity for Dahl to bring in the usual socio-political perspective on Swedish society. An enjoyable debut from Dahl and definitely a series to warrant further investigation…