For a thriller buff like me, a trio of crime novels from Bloomsbury is like manna from heaven. I have had such a lovely time reading these thrillers all day long on rainy weekends.
This book collection consists of:
- Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse
- The Hanging by Lotte and Soren Hammer, and
- The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal
The nice thing about this collection is that each book is completely different from the other, so I never got that feeling of repetition that you sometimes get when you read books of the same genre back to back.
Before We Met
This is one of those marital thrillers that flooded the market after Gone Girl hit the jackpot.
Hannah is a British girl living in America where she meets, falls in love with, and marries fellow Brit – Mark. He seems like the perfect match, until one day he doesn’t come as expected, and she makes a dismaying discovery about her husband.
I liked this book very much. It is fast-paced and easy reading. However, the suspense fell a little flat. It was pretty easy to guess early on where the story is going, and though there were a couple of minor surprises, I would say that overall the book is predictable.
Predictable, but still nice, and I enjoyed reading this book very much.
This book is for fans of Scandinavian crime fiction, who are looking for a slightly different read. This book is based in Denmark, and the setting makes a pleasant change from the usual Swedish books.
Two children discover five men hanging from the rafters in their school gymnasium.
Soon it becomes obvious that these men were paedophiles, and that they were hanged as punishment, and to call attention to these types of crimes, many of which pass under the radar.
I am a little conflicted about this book. For one, the pacing is almost glacial. So slow that I actually started skim-reading sections of the book. In addition, I found the plot moved a little disjointedly.
I did like that so much importance was placed on the public reactions to the hangings, and I also liked the methodical way the investigation was handled by the crime team. The final trap to catch the killer was brilliantly handled and after a slow start I found myself really racing through the last 50-100 pages.
The detectives involved in the case are also an interesting lot, and after reading this book, I definitely feel like reading a couple more books to see how these characters develop over a series.
What I didn’t like was the surprisingly callous treatment of the adult victims of child abuse (particularly in the last few pages). Of course, murder is a bad thing, but frankly after reading about the horrendous abuse these children had suffered I felt that justice was done, and I didn’t think that the final mental torture of the culprit was required at all.
End of Spoilers
Overall, this book was a bit of a mixed bag. I found myself liking and hating it equally. There is promise though and I hope the other books in this series will move more smoothly.
The Ghost Runner
From pedophilia in Denmark to honor killings in Egypt, we come a long way with this last book that is based in Egypt. It is also one of those atmospheric thrillers I’ve read in recent times that absorb a lot of the local environment.
The setting is the post 9/11-era where Egypt is now forced to crack down on Jihadists. In such an atmosphere, a young woman Karima is set on fire and burnt to death. On the surface it looks like an honor killing by her father – a notorious criminal and terrorist. But a little more digging reveals that there could be a lot more to the murder.
Makana is a PI asked to investigate her death. The trail leads to Siwa a small oasis town in the heart of the Sahara. Soon, Makana is faced with a hostile town that wants to keep its secrets buried, and where it looks like the clue to Karima’s murder could be connected to another horror deep in the past.
This book is the third book in the Makana PI series, and I started it wondering if it would work as a standalone.
I needn’t have had any worries because not only is it a great standalone, it’s good enough to tempt me to read the other books in the series as well. This was easily my favorite in this Bloomsbury crime set.
There are some very good reasons for my fondness for this book.
For one, I have never read any contemporary novel set in Egypt before. Second, this is actually a very good book. Complex and twisty, for the longest time, I had no idea where the book was going. Third, it shines a spotlight on life in Cairo and Siwa, and I enjoyed getting an insight into the nature and attitudes of the people living in these places.
When I started this book, I had never heard of this place called Siwa. As I read more and more, I found myself googling, and came to know this is an ancient historical oasis in the Sahara, one of those places actually traversed by Alexander the Great, and it is now a well-known tourist destination.
Can you imagine a thriller set in such a beautiful remote location? It’s a guaranteed winner.
That said, Bilal doesn’t focus on the beauty as such but the cruelty that is hidden behind the beauty. Here, women are just pawns in the hands of men, entirely dependent on the benevolence or cruelty of the men in their family. Religion plays a strong role as well, but not as strong as you’d think. Finally, it all boils down to human greed and cruelty.
The plot starts out a bit slow, but as the body count increases, the page turner nature of the book started to show, and I was soon hooked on it. Towards the end, the cast of characters gets quite large and the story gets quite convoluted, and the ending takes on a Ludlum-esque quality, which I liked even if it was a little unexpected.
Overall, this was a fabulous, gritty, page-turner of a book, and I loved it. The plot sagged a bit in places, and people’s motivations (especially that of the killer) was not very convincing, but in spite of these weaknesses, I enjoyed this book and I recommend it highly.
Huge thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me these books for review.