Category Archives: Thriller

The Power-House

‘It’s very short, has absolutely no plot, and would make a good film.’ That’s roughly how the Resident IT Consultant summarised his first holiday read. And I had wondered, because at 108 pages John Buchan’s The Power-House, from 1913, seemed like a book that would be over before he’d even begun.

John Buchan, The Power-House

On that basis, I decided to have a go too, and was given the blessing that I’d not find it hard to read…

I have a certain fondness for the lives of these [purely fictional?] heroes who go about their lives in the early 20th century with not a worry. They have money and usually a good job – this one is both a lawyer and an MP – and they know everyone and they ‘dine out’ all the time, living in ‘rooms’ with a man to look after them.

This one, Sir Edward Leithen, fancies a holiday in the West Country, so buys a motorcar, employs a driver and off he goes! These men can go travelling at the drop of a hat and they buy whatever they need for their adventures. I have long wondered if there ever were real men like that.

So there is a mystery, which we never really understand, but Leithen takes it upon himself to solve it, and through lots of odd coincidences he ends up deeper and deeper (in shit, as we say these days), until his own safety is at serious risk. It involves Russia, and a wealthy and powerful man in London. Leithen is a bit naïve at times, but good will conquer all.

As short thrillers go, this is pretty thrilling. And yes, apart from there being virtually no women in the story at all, it’d make a really good film. The nice thing about it having been written in 1913 is that John Buchan can’t have had either Hollywood or Hitchcock in mind.

Besides, don’t you just love the kind of set-up where marooned ‘gentlemen’ could simply call in at a respectable house and be taken in and fed and watered and given a bed for the night?

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Crime-ridden Easter

I went a little Norwegian over Easter, and let my criminal tendencies take over. I’d already managed to get a fair bit of reading done, with enough to cover reviews on here, and that kind of thing. So I decided I was allowed to immerse myself in some adult crime.

Traditions are interesting things, whatever they are. And it’s odd how lots of people end up doing the same thing according to some pattern. Like the Norwegians who read crime over the Easter holidays.

I suppose it’s too cold to be thinking of admiring the daffodils or tidy up the garden as the sun shines (hah) now that it’s Easter. Stay in and read. Although I would expect them to go for walks or ski, just a little bit.

The Resident IT Consultant and I both started yearning for the ‘new Ngaio Marsh’ at the same time, and Daughter sent off for a copy immediately, just to keep the old people quiet. I was able to settle down with Andreas Norman’s second thriller, which I read in the original Swedish, as the translation is under way, but not quite done yet. The poor Resident IT Consultant has to wait for De Otrogna to become Silent War, some time later this year.

And so do you.

The Territory – Truth

And here we are at last, the end is nigh, but what sort of end? Noa and her few surviving friends are about to do the impossible; break out of the Wetlands and back into the real place, where people actually have a chance of survival, if they do not go against the ruling politicians.

Sarah Govett, The Territory - Truth

But they are not just trying to get back to where they came from; they are doing it in the hopes that what they are planning might put an end to the uploads of propaganda into the minds of their peers. And that way perhaps their world stands a chance of returning to some kind of normal.

Sarah Govett’s third instalment of her Territory trilogy does not disappoint. It’s as gripping as the other two books, and while you feel you ‘know’ things will go well – maybe – you find it hard to believe, and you don’t see how it can work. Even if they do return, and even if they do that thing they have planned, it doesn’t deal with what started the awful situation in the first place.

Some of the means could even be said to have been well intentioned, but then what happens to politicians happened, and you can imagine the rest. They always go crazy, to a greater or lesser extent.

There are deaths here too. Ones you’d rather not had happened. And our group of young heroes do stuff they’d rather not have done.

And still the conundrum remains; how to solve all of it.

Let’s just say that there was one aspect to the sorry state of things that I completely overlooked.

The good news for anyone who didn’t read the earlier books is that now you can read all three in one fell swoop, with no long waits. I was about to offer no nail-biting, but realised that that would be going too far.

Deception

My heart is still beating. I mean, that is obviously good, but it did go thump thump thump rather a lot towards the end of Teri Terry’s Deception, the sequel to Contagion. This, too, ends with, if not exactly a cliffhanger, then with lots of questions left unanswered. And there has been much deception, and probably will be even more in the last instalment.

Teri Terry, Deception

More people die. Lots more. So if this was real, I’d definitely be dead. And as in Contagion, Teri kills both good characters and bad ones.

The disease keeps spreading. The carrier knows it’s their doing, but for a long time no one else realises who’s the guilty party.

We gain a few more major characters, because all this couldn’t be left to Shay and Kai and Callie to sort out. Some of them die. Some don’t. Not necessarily the right ones. But I quite like the set-up over dinner one night when one character demands of another that she teaches them to kill. ‘Show us again,’ … ‘If anyone comes around with a flame-thrower I want to be sure how to do it.’

The bad guy has become more obvious in Deception. Unless he’s merely misunderstood, of course. But I don’t think so. And while believing that we all have some good and some bad in us, I’m not counting on this one rescuing us all in the end.

There is deception in most of us too. We don’t always admit to everything, and sometimes we deceive. Intentionally. All is fair in love and war?

If you want a dystopic thriller, Teri Terry is your woman.

Orphan Monster Spy

This page-turner debut thriller, set in Germany, gives a bleak view of a country about to take over the world. We see how the German people have been taught to think, and what is expected of them, whether schoolgirls or soldiers.

Matt Killeen, Orphan Monster Spy

Newly orphaned 15-year-old, but looking much younger, Sarah, finds herself alone in Berlin at the outbreak of WWII. Alone, apart from a British spy calling himself Helmut Haller. The thing about Sarah is that while she is Jewish, she is blonde and Aryan looking, so her ‘uncle’ Helmut sends her to a leading boarding school for young Nazi ladies.

The British want to find out about an invention for what sounds like an atomic bomb by a wealthy German scientist, and it is ‘Ursula Heller’s’ task to befriend his daughter to get close to the lab.

There are some lighthearted moments, but mostly it is grim; cold, muddy and with bad food, and as much peer bullying as you’d expect in certain British schools.

Sarah has many skills, and they come in handy during what turns into a horrific and increasingly bloody schoolgirl spy trip. Maybe those skills are a little on the unlikely side, but this is a fantastic wartime thriller, as seen from the inside of Germany. Only the fact that it is a YA novel made me feel that maybe everything – well, you know, most things – would be all right at the end.

If it is the end. I can see lots more happening here.

Ghost has launched

‘Are you turning left?’ I asked, as my kind driver for the evening, Moira Mcpartlin, indicated. In the end we went right. And it went right, all the way to Perth, where Moira parked the car twice. I’d not had my walk for the day, so that was good. We even asked a policeman where we were. Or at least, where we were going.

Clare Cain, Helen Lewis-McPhee and Helen Grant

To Helen Grant’s launch for Ghost, in case you have been left wondering. Our host at Waterstones ran between unlocking the shops’s front door, to unstacking chairs, serving drinks and selling books. We provided advice as to whether we thought the banner for Ghost was likely to topple and hit the Helens as they talked.

Because you can’t have too many Helens. Last night it was Helen Lewis-McPhee who grilled Helen Grant on her ‘often dark and shadowy mind.’ After an intro-duction from publisher Clare Cain, Helen Grant read from her book, choosing the windowsill chapter early on, to avoid too many spoilers.

Helen Lewis-McPhee and Helen Grant

Ghost has been the worst book to write, taking first one year, and then another year to rewrite when Helen’s agent said she should. (Personally I have some strong words to say about that. But this is not the place.) As she put it when asked by someone in the audience, some of the changes were good, others merely made it different. And she’s now ready to write something really cheesy, for a change.

I’m not sure this ‘rather dark’ author does cheesy. Helen believes in ghosts in as much that she expects to run into some old, but dead, friends in the street one day.

She starts and ends her days by going on social media, but between that Helen feels it’s important to experience the day happening, maybe by visiting one of the many falling-down houses she enjoys so much, or other ruins. Helen often takes her son when exploring, whereas her husband is unable to ‘sneak around enough.’ She likes being alone out there, too, being quiet.

Helen Lewis-McPhee and Helen Grant

Asked what she’s working on now, Helen said it’s several different things as she can’t make her mind up. And she ‘cannot say anything briefly.’

Another question was about a sequel to Ghost. Probably not, but she admitted that certain things must happen after the ending to the current book, so…

Helen Grant, Ghost

After all this people mingled and bought books and drank wine and were cultural. (I find Perth a little more grown-up than Stirling. Maybe I ought to go more often.)

Ghost launch Perth

When my copy of the book had been signed, my driver walked us back to the car and drove us safely all the way home, and only once suggested I might be interested in taking up singing.

Ghost

Several things happened while I was reading Helen Grant’s new novel, Ghost.

I had an early e-version of this Gothic thriller, and I’d been describing to Helen how well it worked reading on the iPad. As I restarted, it sort of began scrolling the pages on its own. As I looked, I saw first a name, and soon after, a place. Both were familiar to me from what I’d been reading so far. ‘Damn,’ I thought. I didn’t want that to happen, and I didn’t want an accidental, electronic, spoiler.

But as I arrived at the end of Ghost, none of those things had appeared in the text, although something closely related to both had in fact happened. And as I got to the last line, there was a ghost of a flicker in my mind, reminding me of some other story. Except I can’t now think what, or even if. It was just rather ghost-like.

Helen Grant, Ghost

This is a beautifully written book. Not that I’d expect anything else from Helen Grant. It was hard to put down, and I did so as seldom as I could get away with. I wanted to bask in this quirky tale about the teenage Augusta – Ghost for short – who’d spent all her 17 years living with her grandmother, in secret, in a rambling but derelict house in Perthshire.

It’s a happy life, but frustrating and lonely, until the day Ghost’s grandmother goes shopping and never returns. And then 19-year-old Tom turns up. Both teenagers are equally shocked by the other, and together they have to try and make sense of Ghost’s strange existence.

Her quiet life in the Scottish countryside continues, while the reader waits for the bombshell that must surely come. What will it be, and when?

You’ll be surprised. At least I think you will be, if you have no unravelling pdf on your hands. Or, could it be that all copies of Ghost will have some kind of ghost inside? Not necessarily the same for all, but you know, some other-worldly hint.

Helen Grant is masterly at quietly worrying her readers.

I will – probably – be OK soon. I’m just not used to psychological thrillers.