Suspense — Second Titles

Title: Before I Go to Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Main Appeal Factors: slow paced, single character, identify with main character, storyline peels back like an onion
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: This book reads like the Hitchcock movie Suspicion. The main character, Chrissy, wakes up every morning thinking she is in her 20s, but finds out she is in her 40s, married, and with basically no recent memories. The tension is between whether she should believe her husband, her doctor or her own flashes of memories, especially when she starts to keep a journal. The middle part of the book, in fact, is her journal, but even that may not be real. For the character, her life is like having Alzheimer’s in reverse. She slowly remembers having a son, a best friend, and a career as an author, but her husband feels that she is less upset if she know nothing about any of this. When she realizes that her condition was caused by a beating, not the car accident her husband reports, the tension begins to rise. The reader can often see discrepancies in her husband’s accounts and her memories before she does, which heightens the suspense. Definitely a read-alike for See Jane Run, but also for Still Alice.

Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Main Appeal Factors: light suspense, not too violent, funny, engaging characters
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: Something tragic happened at the Pirriwee Public fundraiser. We are given snippets of police interviews with the witnesses of the incident, often including sadly inaccurate gossip and hilariously superficial self-absorption, leading into chapters told from the perspectives of three of the moms at the heart of the drama. Everyone here is lying – sometimes to each other, sometimes to themselves – and anyone could be the victim of the tragedy…or the perpetrator. Darkly comic, totally relatable, and it will keep you guessing until the very end.

Title: Blue Heaven
Author: C.J. Box
Main Appeal Factors: Story line
Mystery Subgenre:
  Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts:  North Idaho has become the new hot spot for LA police to retire. When they kill one of their own, witnessed by two children, the children go on the run to hide. The remaining officers volunteer with the local yokel police to help in the search. While the search goes on for 3 days, the mother’s side story comes into play as does the reason the police have taken early retirement. The suspense comes in not knowing if the bad police will find the children before the farmer who has rescued them can prove that the police are trying to kill the children. A good story but it didn’t flow well.

Title: Broken Harbor
Author: Tana French
Main Appeal Factors: fast-paced, character driven, compelling, dialect-rich, suspenseful
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: Tana French’s Broken Harbor is a fast paced novel set in contemporary Ireland during the housing construction crash of 2008. It features detailed descriptions of compelling characters; homicide detectives, witnesses, victims, suspects, and perpetrators. The police investigation, interrogations and conclusions are intense and believable. There is enough dialect and vocabulary to satisfy the reader of the authenticity of the setting. The murder of Patrick Spain and his two young children and the critical stabbing of his wife Jennie brings top homicide detective Mick Scorcher Kennedy to Ocean View Estates, a luxury housing development now abandoned unfinished due to the Irish economic downtown. Brianstown is the renamed Broken Harbor seaside vacation spot of Mick’s childhood. Breacadh is Gaelic for daybreak and translates to broken. A tragic incident in Mick’s family during the last vacation there haunts his investigation of the Ocean View murders. The psychological background is intense and affects Richie Curran, a rookie detective assigned to his first big case with Mick, the experienced cop on the Dublin murder squad. Mick’s work is complicated by the interference of his mentally unstable sister Dina who has also been dramatically changed by the family’s tragedy at Broken Harbor. Detective Curran appears to be on the right track as a trusted investigator, but there are some unforeseen problems in his work. The murders are on the way to being solved with the discovery of a perpetrator when a new suspect is uncovered. This new suspect is absolved when Mick realizes that the actual murderer has been in his sights all along. This story holds the readers interest throughout the twists and turns of the investigation and the dark psychological insights driving all of the characters. The reader will be surprised at the conclusion but will not be disappointed.

Title: The Good Girl
Author: Mary Kubica
Main Appeal Factors: Characterization, suspenseful
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: This book is about a privileged girl who decides to be an art teacher in an inner city school, much to her rich parents chagrin. She is the “victim” who is kidnapped early in the book. Each chapter follows a different character’s version of events and the aftermath. Then, you get to the last explosive chapter which is told from the victim’s point of view. Great sense of place describing the scene of the crime, good insight into the characters and a good on the edge of your seat suspense!

Title: The Killing Floor
Author: Lee Child
Main Appeal Factors: Suspense, Setting, Character
Mystery Subgenre: Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: This is the first book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. There was an introduction by Lee Child explaining how he came to develop Jack Reacher’s character as a big, strong hero who would always win the battle. Knowing in advance that Jack Reacher was such a hero took away some of the suspense for me despite the chapter’s ending in cliff hangers and the increased suspense as the book progressed. The character of Jack Reacher was fairly developed, and because his brother was one of the victims, you learn about Jack’s younger years. The setting in a town in the south was also fairly developed as Lee Child explained the roads and landmarks around the town. Despite the downside (for me) of extreme violence, it was a quick read and would fit the thriller type of suspense.

Title: The Killing Moon
Author: Chuck Hogan
Main Appeal Factors: Well crafted, dynamic characters, believable dialogue. An interesting premise with a can’t-put-down build-up, leading to a satisfying, not so formulaic conclusion
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: You may know Chuck Hogan from his Boston-based bestseller, Prince of Thieves (fellow local boy made good, Ben Affleck turned it into Boston-based blockbuster The Town). Hogan is also the co-author of popular vampire trilogy-cum television series The Strain. Sticking to home and humans in The Killing Moon, Hogan returns to Massachusetts. “Black Falls” in the western part of the state, is an all too common town; blue collar gone bust. A former mill town now ghost-town, Black Falls’ industry has crumbled, and its’ economy, its’ vibrancy and its’ residents have suffered. Any young people with promise (and the means) leave; and aren’t wont to return. But there remains some supporters, some gritty determination to right the ship. Like a lot of Hogan’s settings, the town itself seems a character, as alive and plot affecting as a protagonist.
Fifteen years ago Donald Maddox won Black Falls’ only college scholarship; a prize that came with a caveat. In an effort to revitalize the dying mill town, the winner must return after his education and spend several years infusing the town with his lifeblood. But that was 15 years ago. Now Black Falls and its citizens live in quiet desperation. A burgeoning drug problem and a corrupt police force that rules with sadistic entitlement has brought the town to its proverbial knees. Then Donald’s mother dies and the prodigal son returns to the despairing town he so eagerly escaped. He becomes a part-time auxiliary police officer at the behest of his father’s old partner who, though ailing and retired now, still has some pull within town. But as Donald works to build a case against the corrupt police force, a local legend/ sex-offender goes missing and soon after, a brutal murder is committed.
As the state police flood Black Falls, they brush off the help of the Podunk local force and aim to speedily solve the crime. But it is up to Donald to see beyond the obvious clues and suspects, and find out who the killer really is. And it is up to us, the reader, to see beyond the abbreviated history of our main character, and find out who Donald really is and just why he’s returned after all these years.

Title: The Lost Years
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Main Appeal Factors: Didn’t sound too scary
Mystery Subgenre: Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: This was a less frightening suspense novel which I was happy about.  I think the characters from The Lottery Winner made an appearance so there were some elements of it being a series, which was kind of strange. [Ed. note: Alvirah and Willy do appear as secondary characters in The Lost Years and several other Mary Higgins Clark novels.]

Title: Please Don’t Tell
Author: Elizabeth Adler
Main Appeal Factors: Plot-driven, suspenseful
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: Please Don’t Tell by author Elizabeth Adler is a romantic suspense story. Assisting a car accident victim who was traveling to San Francisco to solve the murder of his fiancee, Fenny Dexter shares a night of passion with the man, whose identity comes into question in the wake of a series of brutal murders.  Written by an author who I normally enjoy, this novel has the characteristics of a mystery fiction. A murder has been committed, an investigator who attempts to discover “whodunit” and follows a particular pattern: crime—investigation—-solution. However, in terms of a recommendation this would not be first on the list or last for that matter. I found the pace slow even though the book takes place in a matter of days. There seemed to me to be a big disconnect between the story lines. It was unrealistic at times and predictable at other times. Also didn’t much care about the character which was why I didn’t much care to solve the crime. The last third of the book did pick up a bit with a very suspenseful conclusion and of course a happy ending.

Title: Sleight of Hand
Author: Phillip Margolin
Main Appeal Factors: Female private detective
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts: The “bad guy” is Charles Benedict a successful lawyer and magician. The “good gal” is Dana Cutler, a former policewoman who was kidnapped and raped while working under cover. Dana left the police force and is now a private detective. Charles Benedict drugs and rapes prosecutor Carrie Blair. Carrie Blair is the wife of Horace Blair. The Blairs had a prenup that stated that if Carrie was faithful for the first 10 years of marriage, Carrie would gets twenty million dollars. Of course Benedict videotaped his night with Carrie Blair. Someone needs to stop Benedict. Will Dana Cutler be the one to stop Benedict and if so how? Definitely a suspenseful story.

Title: Suspicion
Author: Joseph Finder
Main Appeal Factors: Fast pacing, tension level, loved ones in jeopardy
Mystery Subgenre:
Suspense
Annotation/Thoughts:
Danny Goodman thinks of himself as a good man, an average guy, trying to be a good father to his teenage daughter Abby after the death of his ex-wife, but struggling financially to pay the tuition for her elite private school. When Danny accepts the offer of a loan from the father of Abby’s new best friend and starts keeping secrets from Lucy, his long-time girlfriend, he finds himself caught in a web of lies that threatens all their lives. Fast-paced and believable enough, the contemporary Boston setting is a bonus for readers here. The tension level is kept high, and the pace speeds up on the way to an explosive ending.

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