Thrillers to Keep You Up at Night
Here's a selection of mini-reviews; books are linked for purchase.
Alex North's The Whisper Man - I finished this Book of the Month pick in record time, encouraged by all of the Bookstagram buzz about just. how. creepy it is. And I really loved Alex North's The Whisper Man, though I wasn't *quite* as creeped out as I'd hoped/feared. Though it migrates between a variety of perspectives, at the center of the novel are Tom and Jake Kennedy, a father and son who are mourning the unexpected death of their wife and mother. They move to Featherbank for a fresh start, unaware of the sinister history of the town. Frank Carter, the Whisper Man, is imprisoned after a brutal series of child murders in which he lured the children outside their homes by whispering at their windows. Pete Willis, the police officer who arrested Carter, is called into a new case that mimics Carter's murders. The novel weaves through past and present, the perspectives of adults and of children, and the possibility of ghosts, circling the origins and aftermath of Carter's crimes. While I was entranced by the novel, which is beautifully written and reminiscent, for me, of the patient build of Stephen King's novels, The Whisper Man did not end up being one of those books that made me scared to be at home alone. Instead, I enjoyed North's understanding of his characters, his willingness to embrace a sort of magical realism in its paranormal sections, and his instincts in building an absorbing plot through the assembly of diverse perspectives. For me, it didn't live up to the hype . . . and I was glad. (Jen)
Ruth Ware's The Turn of the Key - The Turn of the Key is my fifth book by Ruth Ware and by FAR my favorite. I don't know if she's just getting better (in my opinion!) or if I feel this way because the narrator of this audiobook (I listened on @scribd) is AMAZING. I'll definitely be looking for audiobooks narrated by Imogen Church in the future. (I was listening on my friendly shower speaker when Church was narrating the creaking above the protagonist when she's alone in her room at night, and I was *seriously* scared. Which doesn't happen very often for me. Loved it!) If you like a gothic mood--I was reminded here at different times of Rebecca and Jane Eyre--I think you should try The Turn of the Key. Rowan Caine is thrilled when she's hired as an in-home nanny for three girls in a luxurious old-home-made-new in the Scottish Highlands. She arrives to find herself dealing with the (in)inconveniences of a house controlled completely by app and yet haunted by tragedy and sorrow. Left alone almost immediately with children she's only just met, Rowan is unsettled both by her circumstances and by the peculiarities of her new home. Because Ware frames this central narrative within letters that Rowan is writing to a potential solicitor from prison, we know right away that she's been blamed for the death of one of the children. The book then leads readers through Rowan's account of her time at Heatherbrae House. I've felt disappointed by the endings of several of Ware's books (her most recent before this one, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, is my next-favorite because I felt it was solid through the end), but I LOVED the conclusion here. I don't want to say more, so I'll just recommend (again) that you listen to this one. It's a perfect October read. (Jen)
Steve Cavanagh's Thirteen - When I started Steve Cavanagh's Thirteen, I *really* wasn't sure I was in the mood for a thriller, and I was fully prepared to give it 50 pages or so and then return it to the library, unfinished. And then, it hooked me in a major way. (The fact that this is several books into a series somehow also wasn't a deterrent--Cavanagh includes enough background to make up for the lack of context, though I'm sure there were subtleties I missed.) The premise here is a clever one, as summarized by the cover's tagline: "The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury." The book alternates between the serial killer's third-person-limited perspective and the first-person narration of Eddie Flynn, a conman-turned-defense-attorney who is serving as second chair on a high-profile murder case involving a Hollywood power couple. The book offers continuous action, some surprising and believable twists, and flawed, empathetic characters. I'm likely (when my TBR is a little less pressing) to pick up the previous books in this series because Thirteen was SUCH a great page turner. (Jen)