Tag Archives: Mystery

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

0806_gone_425Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Mystery/Suspense

My final read of 2012 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – is definitely a book to be added to my ever-growing list of “favorites”.  This book was a gift and, while I have seen the title show up in reading lists, bestseller lists, and all over GoodReads, I never took a moment to read the synopsis and decide for myself whether or not I should check it out.  I am incredibly thankful that someone gifted it to me, however, because this is a book that I just could not put down.

Before I read the Millennium trilogy, I never would have considered myself a Mystery/Suspense kind of girl.  My main memories of the Mystery genre from my bookstore days were ridiculous, never-ending series where cats solved crimes or titles that I considered more in the realm of  really terrible “Chick Lit” than a book of substance.  However, thanks to Stieg Larsson, I’ve thrown my old prejudice opinions out the window and am finding some novels that I really, truly love.

Gone Girl is the story of a missing woman (Amy, the wife) and the #1 suspect (Nick, her husband – of course).  Each chapter is told in either the POV of Amy or Nick, laying out both sides of the story/experience for the reader.  The characters are complicated inasmuch as it’s difficult to really love or hate either of them 100%.

Through the entries in Amy’s diary, the reader takes a short journey through the beginnings of her relationship with Nick – the meeting, the inside jokes, the early years of their marriage, but when both of them lose their careers in journalism and then move out of New York City, it appears that their marriage gets rockier and rockier.

From reading other reviews (very carefully avoiding any spoilers), I knew that there were going to be a lot of surprises and I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.  I had this nagging desire to find out what happened to Amy and whether or not Nick really did it.  Needless to say, I am very happy that I had this past week off from work; otherwise, I would have been pretty exhausted each day from staying up late, powering through as many pages as possible before finally succumbing to sleep.

In 2013, I will definitely be checking out Gillian Flynn’s other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  If my excitement didn’t sell you on Gone Girl, a professionally written summary is included below:

Marriage can be a real killer.

   One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Check out Gone Girl on Amazon.

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Filed under 2012, American Author, Books, Favorites, Fiction, Gillian Flynn, Mystery, Women Writers

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Title: Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay
Length: 432 pages
Loved it! And full of surprises… I think!

I love that my co-workers recommend such great novels/authors!  I borrowed this book from a woman at work after we got into discussing what kind of novels we liked to read.  She thought that I would really enjoy Defending Jacob by William Landay.  She was correct!

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him.  Andy must. He’s his father.  But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

Like one of my other favorites, Rizzoli & Isles, this mystery takes place in Massachusetts.  While I enjoy reading books set in other American towns, other countries, or even fictional and fantastical worlds, there is something special about reading a novel set in towns that you’re familiar with.  Major scenes occur on roads that I’ve driven down or in parks that I’ve walked through and it sends a real chill down my spine.  In this novel, however, there are countless instances where a very real chill is sent down your spine and it truly has nothing to do with location.

The story of Jacob is told from the POV of his father, but enough evidence is presented to allow the reader the opportunity to make their own judgment on whether or not Jacob is guilty.  I won’t say what opinion I came to and, really, it’s almost irrelevant.  At times, it appears as though the main story on display in the disintegration of the family under the stress and publicity surrounding the case.  Whether or not you find the boy guilty, it’s hard to not feel some remorse for everything that they’re going through.  And this is even a slightly uncomfortable situation to be in – especially if you think that he did it.

There is a really amazing twist in here, as well.  I assumed that I had this book all figured out, but I was very, very wrong.  Landay does an excellent job of fully showcasing the emotions, thoughts, and pain that the father experiences.  Despite my not being a parent myself, I was extremely touched and could almost feel the emptiness that Andy felt.

This is one of those books that will stay with you for a while.  So, if you’re not in the mood to carry something heavy around with you for a few days, you might not want to take this book on.

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Filed under Mystery, William Landay

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

 

Title:  The Redbreast
Author: Jo Nesbo
Length: 521 pages
LOVED IT!

I am a huge fan of the Stieg Larsson novels but was a little late to the party on those and incredibly upset to discover that Stieg Larsson passed away.  I have a terrible tendency to become really enthusiastic about authors who are no longer alive and, unlike some popular musical artists, cannot produce anymore work postmortem.

Luckily for me, however, Larsson’s novels are loved by millions and my local library seized his popularity and created a list of OTHER Norwegian crime writers that Larsson’s fans might enjoy.  A co-worker recommended Nesbo to me a while ago – specifically, The Snowman.  At the time, I possessed a very long “to-read” list and threw it somewhere near the bottom.  When I saw his name show up on the library’s recommended authors list, though, I knew that it was time to do a little research.

I like to start a series from the beginning.  Even if you don’t necessarily need to read all of the preceding novels to understand what’s going on, I’m a girl who likes to follow the characters and plot from the very beginning.  Unfortunately for Americans, the available translations begin with the 3rd installment, The Redbreast.  The pictured cover isn’t the edition that I received from the library.  This is what I had:

As previously stated, I do judge a book by its cover and this won me over immediately.  Unlike with some other novels that I’ve recently read, I did fill myself in on the plot:

Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he’s been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway’s dark past, when members of the government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later, this black mark won’t wash away—and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one. Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. For a conspiracy is taking rapid and hideous shape around Hole . . . and Norway’s darkest hour may be still to come.

So, not only do I get a Scandinavian crime novel but there are also some time-ins to WWII?  And the main character is named Harry Hole?  Whoa.  Sign me up.

I enjoyed the format of the novel – each chapter is a different date and location.  Nesbo hops around from present to past and, if I hadn’t read the summary of the novel, I probably would have been completely lost for the first 50 pages or so.  And, while reading, I was dragged through the gamut of emotions – humor, distress, sadness, frustration, and happiness.

Don’t expect to read something that is literally just like the Millennium Series.  I found that the parallels are mainly found in the fact that both authors touch upon politics in their novels and they take place in the same region of Europe.  Nesbo is worth reading for his own talent and shouldn’t really be compared to Larsson in this regard.  I look forward to reading the rest of his novels and seeing where they take our beloved Harry Hole.

 

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Filed under Jo Nesbo, Mystery, Series

In the Woods by Tana French

Title:  In the Woods
Author:  Tana French
Length:  429 pages
Felt a little long (at times), but… LOVED IT!

So, this post would have been written yesterday or the day prior, but I was still wrapping this book up!  I will say that, at times, the book felt as long as the page numbers imply, but, overall, French weaves an excellent, edge-of-your-seat mystery in In the Woods.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.

I decided that I wanted to read this book after glimpsing the synopsis on the back cover of an edition for sale in Target.  Since I’m trying to save money (!!), I opted to request this title from my local library and was notified a few days later that it was waiting for me behind the counter.  Eagerly, I dove into the story, but it took a little bit for me to feel truly SUCKED into the story and as though I absolutely needed to power through to the end.

The story is told through the narrative of Rob Ryan, a detective who was also once at the center of a case as a child, but has blocked out the memory of what really happened in the woods.  The mystery kicks off with Ryan, the adult, heading into the same woods that were the crime scene from his youth to take on a case of another child murder.

Against better judgment, Ryan and his partner, Cassie, keep the fact that Ryan was involved in a potentially linked case from their superiors, and the reader has a front row seat in Ryan’s extreme triumphs in memory and failure to maintain sanity throughout the life of the present-day case that he is tasked with solving.

French succeeds in making each character seem real, complete with fears, secrets, and countless instances of poor judgment…  you can’t help but be drawn into caring deeply about some and feeling totally frustrated and disgusted with others.  I am also a fan of the fact that everything doesn’t necessarily wrap up nice and clean in the end since, honestly, those types of endings seem to mirror reality more-so than those where everyone gets everything that the want, rainbows abound, and blue birds sing happy songs all around.

I definitely recommend In the Woods to anyone who enjoys mysteries and cop drama.  I’ve always been a fan of cop drama and am currently really into AMC’s The Killing.  Because of this, I pictured Ryan and Maddox as… you guessed it… Linden and Holder:

 

 

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Filed under Books, Mystery, Women Writers