Category Archives: thriller

Tim Johnston — The Current

The Current is a strange story written in a strange style, and it leaves unanswered questions at the end. It’s closer to real life where everything doesn’t get neatly tied up. There is mystery here, but not your typical “whodunit” mystery, maybe a literary mystery.

I enjoyed the story, but it took a little while to understand the flow. At times Johnston writes stream of consciousness, sometimes he uses second person POV, head-hopping from one character to another, and he skips back and forth between timelines. But he digs deep into the psyches of his characters—love, hate, grief, curiosity, need-to-know, vengeance—and tells all that is going on around them—sights, smells, heat and cold, sounds, skin sensations.

I enjoyed the book but only gave it four stars. It grabbed my attention, my heart, and my mind. But the author could have made it a little easier to follow without losing the grip of the story.

Barry Eisler — The Killer Collective

Barry Eisler is one of my favorite authors. It feels strange to me that I like his writing, because many violent thrillers completely turn me off. But Eisler gets into his characters’ heads, and we get to know them. He also does a great job with settings.

I won’t go into the storyline here, since it’s readily available in other reviews. I will say that having read other books with these characters was an advantage, but you could probably enjoy it as a stand-alone. The author brought together a large group of characters from previous novels.

Peter Swanson — Before She Knew Him

We know who the killer is from the beginning of this book, but that doesn’t spoil the story. Hen and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood in a small Massachusetts town. She reluctantly attends a party and sees a trophy in neighbor Matthew’s office that she believes is connected to a murder she obsessively researched a few years earlier.

She tells the police, but due to a history of mental problems, they distrust her credibility. Lloyd even doubts her. Hen and Matthew have conversations where he admits he has murdered people.

The novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller. Swanson held my interest throughout, even though I suspected the ending twist.

James Rollins — Crucible

I enjoyed the read, but there was far too much action and technology packed into two or three days in the story. I found myself speed reading through or even skipping sections of the book describing weapons, battles, and physics lessons, also some of the repetitive descriptions.

I like the concept of a super-intelligent AI trained in two different ways—one to be helpful and the other to be destructive. The science behind bringing Kat back from a coma was interesting. Rollins notes on the read history and technology at the beginning and end of the book were thought-provoking.

Some of the characters seemed thin to me, probably because I haven’t read any previous books in the series. But the story works as a stand-alone.

Haylen Beck — Here and Gone

Here and Gone kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole book. What would you do if a sheriff in the middle of nowhere pulled you over with a trumped-up charge and took your children away? Then he claims there were no children in your car. No one believes you—state police, FBI, media all think you have killed your children.

Unlike many of today’s thrillers that are filled with violence and farfetched scenarios, this is an intense, believable psychological thriller.

Erik Storey — A Promise to Kill

Clyde Barr is a Jack Reacher type character. But Erik Storey doesn’t write as well as Lee Child. Barr is the only character in this novel with much depth. The others are brushed over lightly. I liked the setting in the desert of Utah on a Ute reservation. I could feel the dry heat and see the rundown town.

The plot wasn’t bad with a motorcycle gang invading the reservation, waiting for something. A bit too macho for my taste—too much violence. Barr gets beat up a lot, but always survives.

The book kept my interest enough for me to finish it, but I won’t be looking for another Erik Storey novel.

Brad Taylor — Daughter of War

The Taskforce characters don’t jell for me. Their dialog is scattered and often makes no sense. You need to know their relationships with each other and outsiders to follow the conversation. For a supposedly highly-skilled group, they make a lot of mistakes and appear lucky to accomplish their tasks.

The best part of this thriller and the best character is a thirteen-year-old girl, Amena—a Syrian refugee and pickpocket in Monaco. She lifts an iPhone, which turns out to hold instructions for obtaining a deadly weapon. Her adventures make the book readable.

Preston & Child — Verses for the Dead

The duo of authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is fascinating to me. They write seamlessly together. As an author, I am curious about how the collaboration works. I’ve tried writing with others, and it worked only one time. When it gelled, it was fruitful and fun, but you could tell we were two authors. With Preston and Child, it feels like one.

Also intriguing—Agent Pendergast is still an interesting protagonist after eighteen books. I find it difficult to continue with the same characters into a second novel. I prefer starting with a new story and new characters.

Needless to say, excellent read.

Gregg Hurwitz — Out of the Dark: (Orphan X #4)

This novel would rate five stars except there’s far too much violence.

Evan Smoak is Orphan X. The Orphan program was a deep, dark, black-ops program where children were recruited and trained as assassins. Evan was taken from a group home at age twelve and lived with his trainer/mentor until he was nineteen and went out into the field on his first assignment. The Orphans were never told why their targets were chosen, only that they were enemies of the United States. Later Even left the program and became “The Nowhere Man” who worked for people in desperate need of help.

The U.S. president, who used to run the Orphan program, is now eliminating all the Orphans. When Evan’s mentor is murdered, he decides to go after President Bennett. But Evan is also Bennett’s number one target. Evan’s first assignment as an Orphan is one the president particularly wants to hide.

At the same time, Evan is working a case as The Nowhere Man, helping a young man with autism whose family has been wiped out by a drug cartel.

Evan is violent and indestructible. He has access to all the right people to get the job done. If you can get beyond the unbelievable traits, he’s interesting and likable.

Kim Stanley Robinson — Red Moon

Excellent book!
Red Moon is combination of speculative fiction, near-future, environmental, political, hard and soft science fiction, moon colonization, and a little space opera thrown in. Even though it’s called Red Moon, much of the story takes place in China. All the main characters but one are Chinese.

The amount of knowledge and research required for this book is mind-boggling—China’s history, geography, present day culture, technology, and politics; moon geology; quantum mechanics; artificial intelligence; space travel; cryptocurrency; global economics; moon exploration; and more.

Robinson paints images of the moon and China in such detail that you feel you are there, from earthrise on the moon to crowds of millions of protestors in Beijing. He also depicts various contrasting possibilities for communities on the moon.

He extends the unrest in today’s world into a political and economic crisis in China and the United States (and the world) of the near future, with a hopeful outcome.

The characters are varied, interesting, and believable. Fred Frederickson, an American delivering a quantum phone to the moon, is accused of murdering his client. Chan Qi, the daughter of China’s Minister of Finance and a leader in the opposition to the current government, is hiding on the moon and is pregnant. Poet and celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu helps Fred and Qi evade their pursuers. There is even an AI who matures throughout the book. Even the less major characters are interesting.

The story kept me involved from beginning to end.