Fear is the Rider by Kenneth Cook
What better way to celebrate Australia Day this week than to read and review an outback thriller!
A young man driving from Sydney to Adelaide for work decides to take a short detour into the desert. He turns his hatchback on to a notoriously dangerous track that bisects uninhabited stone-covered flats.
He’s not far along the road when a distraught young woman stumbles from the scrub and flags him down. A journalist from Sydney, she has just escaped the clutches of an inexplicable, terrifying creature.
Now this desert-dwelling creature has her jeep. Her axe. And her scent…
First Impressions: Oh, I am hooked! You are straight out there on the Obiri Track and I knew my Sunday afternoon had been hijacked!
Highlights: Oh my, what an adrenalin rush! I never would have imagined detail about gear changes and road surfaces would have me enthralled. The only reason I didn’t read this in one sitting is because I had to take little breaks whenever the tension briefly subsided in order to calm my heart!
If I was an editor: There is absolutely nothing to critique about the pacing! I will only say that I would have liked a bit more depth to the myth of the man/monster that was chasing them, and, as for the other solitary characters stumbled across in the frantic chase, I’d have liked them to be a little more interesting and not so cardboard cut out. However, both of these wishes would alter the story and it is fair dinkum brilliant in its current form.
Overall: Kim at Reading Matters summed it up perfectly: Wolf Creek meets Mad Max. I suspect I will be launching straight into Cook’s other novels.
*Kim felt the ending was somewhat unbelievable. I think I was too traumatised by this point to notice.
Thank you to Text Publishing for a copy of the ARC.
UK Reviewers – this will archive on Netgalley on the 27th. I’ve never given out such a warning before so take my recommendation seriously if you want an adrenalin raising outback chase!
Fall From Grace by Tim Weaver
When Leonard Franks and his wife retire to the seclusion of Dartmoor, everything seems perfect until Leonard heads outside to fetch firewood from the back of the house and never returns. Nine months later, with the police investigation at a dead end, Leonard’s family turn to David Raker for help but nothing can prepare Raker for what he’s about to uncover because at the heart of this disappearance lies a devastating secret.
First Impressions: It was easy to be drawn into the story. A real page turner!
Highlights: I thought it was well written for a thriller. I usually find myself cringing a bit with some thrillers but this was great. The story was plausible and I loved the way Raker investigates. It may sound dull but I found it intriguing when he described the documents and photos he was examining, looking for clues. I felt like I was watching the best sort of missing person documentary on TV (I’m thinking of you, Disappeared!).
If I was an editor: Luckily the great story overshadows my little quibbles. Firstly, I couldn’t see how a covert visit to the nearby island was necessary. The institution had long since closed down yet Raker was obsessed with getting there to help solve the case. Secondly, others readers love this but I felt that the final unravelling of the mystery went on for a bit too long. I prefer my crime novels to be more restrained rather than it feeling like a surprise matrioskhi doll presenting all sorts of surprise revelations.
Overall: I think I have found a new series to fill the void Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q has left behind!
Disclaimer by Renee Knight
What if you realized the book you were reading was all about you? When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read. But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret. A secret she thought no one else knew.
First Impressions: A good page turner and easy read but it didn’t quite meet the ‘unputdownable’ status.
Highlights: The twist! The twist! I didn’t see that coming. It turned the story from a standard thriller to a pretty sad and unsettling story.
If I was an editor: I would want a bit more intrigue scattered about before the twist changes everything. The author of the mysterious novel didn’t seem a fully convincing character and I don’t think the son’s first person chapters necessarily added a lot to the story.
Overall: A good read that suddenly becomes compelling close to the end.
Disclaimer: 4 stars
Thank you to Random House (Transworld) for a copy of the title to review.
This is the Water by Yannick Murphy
In the New England world of junior competitive swimming, parents spend hours driving their children to training and meets. Annie has two girls on the team, a dead brother and a fading marriage. She does not know a killer is lurking at the facility.
First Impressions: I liked the way the first few chapters are like a game of spin the bottle: you heard a little bit about a few of the swim mums and you had to wait to see whose story you would be following for the rest of the novel. The writing style has divided opinion but I really liked it as it is original.
Highlights: I loved the ending. Not just the final actions in the last few chapters, but the last few paragraphs. I closed the book and thought that it was all just a storm in a teacup (no spoiler here, don’t worry). This calm is a really nice comparison to the first few chapters that I mentioned above. I liked the setting – rural, small town New England, very claustrophobic, everything revolving around the swim team. Do junior swimming worlds like this really exist? Gosh, I don’t know!
If I was an editor: I know this novel would divide people like marmite. Even as an individual reader my feelings kept changing: I went from loving it, to being bored with it, to staying up late trying to finish it, all the time not knowing what to make of it. Is all the detail necessary? Yes, of course. No, not really. I can’t decide! Anyway, the important thing for an editor is that this book will get people talking and wanting to share their opinion.
Overall: Unique. I still don’t know if I liked it or not. I think I did!
This is the Water: 4 stars
Thank you to Bookbridgr for a copy of the ARC to review.
Her by Harriet Lane
Nina is sophisticated and independent. Completely in control. Emma is a whisper from her past and when Nina sees Emma in the local store she can’t help but involve herself in Emma’s life. What does Nina want from Emma? Will Emma recognise Nina before it’s too late?
First Impressions: I enjoyed this story. It was very easy to get into and while many reviews comment on how it is told from two perspectives, only certain scenes are which means it is not as repetitive as I imagined it to be.
Highlights: This story made a real impression on me but not necessarily for all the right reasons. As I have a young son I found it really disturbing that Nina would get to Emma through so many small anyonmous cruelties to her three year old son. However I did find it compelling reading…
If I was an editor: Why did the story end at least one chapter too short? I had to check to ensure I had the fully copy of the novel – it can’t end now! I immediately thought that this is just laziness on the part of the author but I have thought about the ending much more than I wanted to since finishing the novel so perhaps in this instance it was incredibly successful… I also tell myself that the husband would have been a dominant presence in the actions of the last few paragraphs to make it feel alright…
On a more neutral note I would have liked to see Nina’s sociopathic nature revealed more throughout the novel. Sure, she was obsessed but that’s not the same as sociopathic. Also, while a lot of reviews comment on how Nina’s motivation to attack Emma was weak, I thought it was OK. Some people would hold a grudge and it did need to be an event that was not so defining that Emma wouldn’t recognise Nina.
Overall: Maybe not for those with young children… Definitely one of the better psychological thrillers out there at the moment. I would now like to read Alys, Always to see how it compares.
Her: 4 stars
Thank you to Orion for a copy of the ARC to review.
After the Darkness by Honey Brown
To say domestic psychological thrillers are on trend in the publishing world is an understatement. Some, such as Emma Chapman’s How to be a Good Wife, are brilliant but I often find myself somewhat disappointed after reading books in this new genre. After the Darkness sounded intriguing, if only because the thriller aspect is set on The Great Ocean Road, but was I to find it brilliant or disappointing?
Driving home from a holiday along a remote coastal road, Trudy and Bruce pass an art gallery they had never noticed before and decided to pull in to have a look. The gallery does not appear on any tourist map and there are no other visitors in the car park. Once inside, they begin to get a creepy feeling from the both the building and the owner. They were right to feel uneasy…
Trudy and Bruce manage to escape, battered, bruised and still partially drugged. They hope life can return to normal but a man is dead and someone is watching them…
First Impressions: The characters of Trudy and Bruce are incredibly realistic. Their knowledge of construction and building helped to develop their unease and events in the house, and this background information was naturally integrated into the story so it didn’t at all feel contrived.
Highlights: I thought the author was very clever at subtly scattering little clues here and there. After the one small mistake Trudy and Bruce made in the gallery I was holding my breath for quite some time waiting for them to realise! Their hesitation in immediately contacting the police was fully understandable, as were all their actions after escaping the gallery. In the hands of a less skilled writer, one event in particular could have easily become quite ridiculous but the author obviously has a talent for keeping everything understated and steady. The pace of the story was even throughout and luckily the events in the gallery weren’t too gory for me! Disturbing, but not gory. I had feared a Wolf Creek scenario…
If I was an editor: I would be thrilled to find such a great example of a psychological thriller! I personally didn’t enjoy the character of the youngest daughter but I guess she balances out the siblings and this really is nitpicking. I also don’t know if the cover gives an accurate indication of the content and may turn away some potential readers.
Overall: I want to read more Honey Brown!
After the Darkness: 4 stars
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
After reading a few quite heavy books recently, I wanted an action story; a page turner that wasn’t quite 100% mindless. I found it!
Pilgrim is the name of a man who doesn’t exist. Now retired and the author of a book about perfect crimes he is drawn back into action after the discovery of a body in a cheap Manhattan hotel. This crime will take him to the Middle East and help him find a man called the Saracen who is taking the long road to revenge against the USA.
First Impressions: This would make a brilliant film.
Highlights: An incredibly well researched and planned novel. It was completely believable at all turns. I liked the way Hayes kept the story moving backwards and forwards in time so you have to keep your wits about you and piece together the timeline yourself. Hayes has an insider knowledge of all the locations and all the characters were interesting with convincing motivations. A real page turner for the astute reader if ever there was one.
If I was an editor: I did wonder at one point if too many layers were being added to the story. It was a similar feeling to watching a three hour film and yearning for a 94 minute gem from the ‘good old days’. As everything tied together at the end, the plot meanderings were worth it.
Overall: Wow. All the reviews are correct. Satisfying and fun but not necessarily profound. A cut above your average thriller.
I am Pilgim: 4 stars
Thank you to Random House (Transworld) for a copy of the ARC to review.