Category Archives: Thriller

Behind Closed Doors #BookReview

Book: Behind Closed Doors
Author: BA Paris

Jack and Grace are the perfect couple. He’s a rich, good looking lawyer completely in love with Grace, while she is his perfect companion, graceful and elegant, one who throws perfect dinner parties in their perfectly beautiful home. The two are never, and I mean never ever, apart.

Grace has an autistic younger sister Millie who is due to come to live with her and Jack soon. And Jack is looking forward to it as much as Grace is, perhaps even more.

So is this couple for real? Is there a catch?

Before I begin to tell you the good and the bad let me just say that Behind Closed Doors was a complete edge-of-the-seat page turner. It kept me awake reading late into the night and then I couldn’t sleep because I was scared of the nightmares that might come to haunt me.

There really is a kind of morbid fascination in reading about someone purely evil. The blurb almost gives it away and one knows from the start that Jack and Grace aren’t as perfect as they seem. Within the first few pages we get to know that Grace is being kept prisoner by Jack who is a psychopath.

That there, was my first issue with the book – that we get to know the real Jack too early. The mystery could have been built up better if his real nature was revealed slowly over more pages. That the POV is Grace’s might have thrown up some problems but it could have been done.

I have to reiterate though, that knowing the real Jack doesn’t take away from the tension. You read on in horror wondering what he would do next, whether Grace would try to escape and what would happen when she does.

The other thing that bothered me was how Grace transformed from a terrorised wife to a perfect hostess. Is it even possible to behave normally, to interact with people, socialise with them (Jack wanted that) and not let them have a hint of what you’re going through when you’re in the grip of such absolute terror? I get that Grace had a strong motivation to fall in with Jack’s blackmail but I wondered if it was physically emotionally possible to keep the pretence going. How long can one make excuses to not go for dates with girl-friends, to not meet anyone without the husband?

Though the end was not difficult to guess the ‘how’ of it kept me intrigued. However, when it did come it seemed too easy. That’s an issue I often have with books – the build up is great but the end is a let down.

And there was one major loop hole. If you have read the book, or when you read it, I’d love to know if you figured it out.

Though the suspense in the book wasn’t great, the edge of the seat tension definitely was.

Last thought: A page turner, despite some loose ends.

Advertisements

The Bodyguard – A #Review

Book Title: The Bodyguard
Author: Ruchi Singh

I was eager to pick this one up as I had read Jugnu, by the same author and loved it. The premise was deliciously different and the cover was enticing. What’s not to like with a brave strong heroine and a rich handsome hero in a sort of role-reversal? That’s what caught my interest. I thought this would make for a wonderful romantic read. And I wasn’t disappointed. That there was a mystery element thrown in made it even better.

The Story

Major Esha Sinha, an ex-army officer is hired as an undercover agent for Vikramaditya Seth Jr. Things take a serious turn when repeated attempts are made on his life. Esha struggles to ignore their mutual attraction in order to focus on the killer who is out to get Vikram.

What I loved

I started out thinking it was a romantic novel, however few pages down the line I realised it was more of a suspense thriller and, to me, that was a plus.

The characters come to life early on. I loved Major Esha – strong, silent, somewhat brooding with a bit of a mysterious past – the classic Mills and Boon hero. Flirtatious, egoistic, workaholic Vikram was a delight too. There were a host of other supporting characters, all etched out with care.

The writing was fast paced and there never was a dull moment. The story moved ahead with every page as new bits of information were revealed.

I loved that we got glimpses of the assassin’s life, a little peek into his head, just enough to spike ones interest and keep one guessing.

What could have been better

On the flip side, the suspense could have been tighter. There were a number of suspects, which was good, but they were rejected without really convincing reasons. Also, although I loved Major Esha’s character, she slips in her line of duty – her charge gets hit (twice) in her presence by the same person and she fails to protect him. That didn’t quite fit in with her character as the super-efficient bodyguard that I wanted her to be.

The end seemed rather hurried with Esha figuring things out pretty fast. Also, there were a few lose ends that needed to be tied up but were left dangling.

Oh and there were editing errors, more than a few. Avoiding those could have added quality to the book.

Last thought: A decent travel companion.

I was given a copy of the book by the author through Write Tribe in exchange for an honest review.

Big Little Lies – A Review

Beat About the Book

Book Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Lian Moriarty

This review is long long overdue and yet I’m doing it not because of a professional commitment but because I’d promised myself this book was too good to be buried in my “read’ list and forgotten. I know I’ve raved about it on social media so that almost all my friends have read it and yet I’m going ahead with the review because it’s worth it :-).

I already said in my Teaser Tuesday how Big Little Lies kept me awake at nights. I’ll add now that it lived up to its promise right up to the last chapter.

The Story

This is essentially the the story of three kindergarten moms whose children start school together. They all go to Pirriwee Public School. There’s Madeline, mom of two – a teenage daughter (with her ex-husband) and a kindergartener. There’s the ethereally beautiful Celeste who has a pair of rambunctious twin boys and there’s Jane and her son. There are two more moms who are a crucial part of the story – Renata, the high-flying executive mom and, Bonnie, wife of Madeline’s ex husband.

Did I just confuse you? Well just go over this again because these are the ones you need to watch out for. There are half a score more that had me thoroughly confused for the first few pages of the book. However as I read on they began to take on personality and form alignments and cliques.

That’s the best bit about the book – it unravels slowly, page by page and that is what keeps you hooked.

But I’m digressing. Back to the story.

The book opens with a murder but you don’t get to know who was killed till the very end. So while most thrillers focus on figuring out ‘who did it’ and ‘how it was done’, in this one we’re also wondering who died. A murder investigation thread runs through the book.

But that isn’t the only mystery. On the first day of school Jane’s son, Ziggy, is accused of bullying Renata’s daughter Amabella. While Amabella says it’s him, he steadfastly refuses to accept his crime. His mom, Jane’s believes him instinctively, but she has a secret which prompts her to doubt him.

What I felt/thought

Big Little Lies has the distinction of making me break my resolve of never reading the end of a book before I actually get to it. Twice.

This might make the book seem like a thriller, which it is, but to say that it is just that wouldn’t be fair. It is much more, bravely tackling issues like domestic violence, rape, co-parenting, single parents, stay-at-home moms vs working moms and teenage angst. There are scores of everyday issues that kindergarten moms handle – last minute school projects, birthday parties, playdates, bullying and of course parent politics. I could identify with a lot of it and that’s what made the book enjoyable.

The TV series

While I’m at it, I also have to mention the television series based on the book starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley.

I watched it after I read the book because I simply didn’t want to step out of the Big Little Lies haze.

It’s a great watch with some wonderful moments and inspiring dialogue. My favourite bit is where Nicole Kidman, who plays Celeste, takes up a case (she was a practicing lawyer before she had the twins). She scores a win in the negotiations and comes away on a high. And she shouts out, ‘Being a mother is not enough for me.’ I loved that scene. The sense of freedom she feels in verbalising that thought, which perhaps has been dormant  in her head for some time, is so beautiful to watch. Also, the scenes of domestic violence are brutal. They made me snap out of my long time crush on Alexander Skarsgard (which I’d developed after watching The Legend of Tarzan), completely and very rudely, I might add.

It is available on Hotstar in India, in case you want to watch it.

That said, I have to mention that the book is much better. It is much more layered revealing the story bit by bit while never letting the pace flag. Do read it first. You’ll know why I say so once you do.

Last thought: Go for it.

The Conundrum – A Review

Book Title: The Conundrum
Author: Ajita Jabal Shah

 

The Conundrum

 

The Story

The Conundrum tells the story of Maia, brought up in a relatively sheltered world by open-minded parents who encourage her to follow her dreams. And that of Ajay, a poor farmer’s son, who has toiled his way to college. They don’t seem to be made for each other and yet they come together to make a story that makes its way from Baroda all the way to Champaner.

What I liked

This is a simple story, simply told. To begin with, I liked Maia as the protagonist. She’s a modern-day girl, smart and pretty and a bit of a feminist, just the way I like them. The arranged-marriage-groom-hunting scenarios were only too real and brought back memories. The masala chai and the ‘letting the youngsters talk’ were only too familiar.

My favourite, however, were the little touches that the author included in her descriptions. The smells, the sights, the clothes – those are things that made the story come alive for me. The smell of Rajnigandha, the sight of a flaming Gulmohur, the Bougainvillea and the Banyan, the singing of bulbuls and chirping of sparrows – those  images stayed with me.

What could have been better

On the flip side, I wish the author had taken more time to build the characters, other than Maia. Given that this is a love story (according to the blurb) we didn’t get to see many glimpses of Ajay’s life and as a result couldn’t form a connection.

Also there were a host of other characters, too many of them – Nirav, Swapna, Nupur, Manan, Nitish, Nalini, Neelu. They ended up cluttering the narrative. Fewer characters with more flesh on them would perhaps have worked better for me. I would have definitely liked to know more about Nitya, her life and her struggles, given that she has such a pivotal role. The book needed to be longer.

Oh and there were easily avoidable editing errors:
‘Ringed a bell’ for ‘rang a bell’, ‘Effluent sangeet ceremony’ instead of ‘affluent ceremony’, and ‘sheer korma for sheer khurma/khorma’.

Last thoughts: This one makes for a light easy travelling companion.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Birds of Prey – A review

Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat

birds-of-prey

Let me begin by saying that the deep dark world of psychological thrillers is not one I would like to delve into. However, and this is a disclaimer, I had to pick up Birds of Prey because it is authored by a friend. That said I have been completely impartial in my review, or so I hope. There is definitely something about the trailer and the cover – chilling yet intriguing – that makes one want to read this book.

The story

When a number of men from affluent families are abducted in quick succession police suspect a serial offender is on the prowl. Ex ACP Anton Pinto is pulled out from his peaceful life of retirement in Goa to the Mumbai crime scene to help track the killer. In keeping with his promise to his wife, Anton tries not to get involved in the case even while providing insights to the investigating team. However when yet another man is abducted he rescinds his promise and throws himself into the chase, trawling through schools and old age homes in search of his quarry. Then, the inevitable happens as the hunter becomes the prey and Anton finds himself trapped in a well that seems impossible to escape from.

That’s all I am going to tell you here. Go read the book for more.

What I liked

I read the book in a single sitting. It’s that gripping. You may figure out the ‘who’ early on but the ‘how’ keeps you turning the pages. It’s a simple enough plot but I liked the way the story unfolded, bit by bit, clue by clue – just how a thriller should.

I need to like or at least understand the characters to like a book. Birds of Prey did that for me. Anton is very likeable, so is his wife Sheeba and most of Anton’s colleagues even though they only have minor parts to play. In fact, the characters have been drawn out with clarity and consistency.

The story comes from multiple perspectives, each of them convincing, making you struggle to take sides. So while you understand Anton’s itch to get back to crime solving you also understand his wife’s reservations; while you of course root for Anton, you feel for the antagonist too, who is far from all black.

Also, compared with the Indian authors’ works on offer, the editing was decent enough, not perfect, but nothing jumps out at you or takes away from the flow of the story, for that I am grateful.

What I didn’t like

Some developments, I felt, came a bit too easily – some revelations during Anton’s  investigation as well as the final escape in the last few pages.

My one major issue with the book would be the description of sexual violence, which was graphic and gory. I could feel the dread in me grow as the chilling bits approached and details of abuse became only too real. I wouldn’t recommend it to young adults or the faint-hearted. But I guess that’s the way psychological thrillers are meant to be, so this is just me. I did say in the beginning that this isn’t my favourite genre.

Oh and the end is tailor-made for a sequel, so that’s something to look forward to.

Last thought: Pick it up if you are intrigued by edge-of-the-seat thrillers that can result from the workings of twisted minds (and I mean that of the antagonist here!).

The Devil’s Prayer – A Review

The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

I picked up this book because it promised to be a thriller with a dose of history and religion – a mix I have come to enjoy since I got hooked onto read Dan Brown’s books. It doesn’t disappoint.

1904xdevilprayercover-25-01-16b-front-1-195x300

But first

The story…

The Devil’s Prayer opens with the suicide of Sister Benedictine before thousands of revellers. It is revealed that six years ago she had disappeared from her home to become a nun. News of her suicide reaches her family in Australia. Her daughters, Siobhan and Jess, and her mother Edith are devastated. 23-year-old Siobhan is most affected. In search of closure she decides to go to the monastery in Spain where her mum Denise had lived as Sister Benedectine.

She is surprised at the less than hospitable welcome she receives. Despite being advised to go back she stays long enough to find her mum’s confession. As she starts reading it she is intrigued and then shocked. Even as she is going through the confession she realises that she is being followed by some extremist monks. With no clue what the monks want from her Siobhan makes her roller-coaster way across Europe to reach the sanctuary of home.

At the end of the confession her mum entrusts Siobhan with a task which, if not completed, could destroy the world.

What I liked

It is hard to categorise this book. All I will say is that it is an interesting melange of history and religion with some super natural element thrown in for good measure. There is also a revenge saga that forms a large part of the story.

It is most definitely a fast paced thriller and keeps you at hooked. There is enough intrigue and plenty of twists and turns through the narrative to keep you turning the pages. As you follow Denise’s confession along with Siobhan you are by turns surprised, saddened and shocked. Without adding spoilers all I’ll say is that Denise’s desperation and her unhappy compromise were well written. Finally the deal she strikes and the deception come as a surprise.

I loved the way the plot integrated the super-natural into Denise’s story.

What I didn’t like

The violence in the book is brutal and gory. I couldn’t read through some of it and ended up skipping the worst parts. Also, the religious explanations get complicated at places and I lost the plot in bits.

I found some of the characters very stereotypical but they were side characters so one could let them be.

Then there’s the supernatural element which might not cut water with many readers. Some of it is improbable and requires you to stretch your imagination but then that’s what the super-natural is supposed to do. Personally, I liked it.

The worst thing about the book, however, was that it ended just at the most compelling part. There simply HAS to be a sequel.

My verdict: Go for it.

*********

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Writers Melon in return for an honest and unbiased review.