Here are some recent reviews for top crime and thriller books.
After a decade since the success of his first novel I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes finally released his highly anticipated second novel, The Year of the Locust (Bantam). After reading this gripping and eloquently written 650-page-plus thriller over the course of two intense days, I can confidently say that it was well worth the wait. The protagonist, known as Kane (not his real name), is a CIA agent who specializes in infiltrating hostile territories such as Russia, Syria, North Korea, Iran, and tribal zones in Pakistan. When an asset with crucial information that could prevent a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 needs to be extracted from Iran, Kane is sent on the mission.
Kane is an extraordinary character: exceptionally intelligent and brave, yet humble and perceptive. He always manages to find a solution, no matter what obstacles he faces. He is the type of storyteller who calmly states things like, “It was now a race between my ability to pick locks and the gravitational pull of the moon.” Some parts of the book had me cringing and gasping, while others had me cheering him on as his mission grew darker and more daunting – with the fate of the world resting on his shoulders. “I had walked and run for one hundred miles, pushed myself to my limits, traveled by starlight, and witnessed things that most people will never see: enemy campfires, lifelike mirages, majestic peregrine falcons, and a dead man hanging from a cross.” While I was not entirely convinced by the unexpected twist near the end of the story, by that point I was fully invested in Kane and would have followed him anywhere.
The destiny of the world may also rest on the shoulders of another hero, DCI Harry Taylor, a traditional police officer who is the main character in the first thriller written by actor Michael Caine. In Deadly Game (Hodder & Stoughton), Taylor is tasked with investigating when a box of radioactive material is discovered at a dump in Stepney, East London. However, the material is quickly stolen by violent criminals before Taylor can get to it. Despite facing challenges, Taylor, who is familiar with this area, is determined to track down the thieves and makes comments like, “Enriched uranium just lying around in Stepney? Unbelievable.” Could suave art dealer Julian Smythe or Russian oligarch Vladimir Voldrev be involved in the theft? Caine’s writing is filled with sharp dialogue and the story moves along quickly. Taylor may seem like a typical detective character, a policeman who dislikes psychological jargon but has a soft side, although he doesn’t show it often. However, the book is full of excitement and the ending is delightfully insane.
Delphine de Vigan’s book, “Kids Run the Show” (published by Europa Editions and skillfully translated by Alison Anderson), is incredibly unsettling. Not only does it revolve around the abduction of a young girl, but it also offers a disturbing commentary on our society. The protagonist, Mélanie, has always been fascinated by reality TV and uses it as an escape from the “empty feeling” she experiences in her daily life. Despite failing to be selected as a contestant on a show herself, she eventually finds success by posting videos of her family’s life online. However, as her children grow tired of constantly being filmed for “unboxing” videos and challenges, Mélanie remains indifferent. When her six-year-old daughter goes missing while playing with other children she rarely gets to see, the public’s interest in their family skyrockets. This book serves as a critique of our culture’s obsession with gaining “likes” and examines the effects of growing up under constant surveillance. Overall, it is a hauntingly powerful read.
Alexandra Benedict’s novel, The Christmas Jigsaw Murders, published by Simon & Schuster, has all the elements of a successful holiday hit. It features an intelligent elderly woman determined to solve a crime (reminiscent of Richard Osman), a multitude of puzzles to solve (much like Janice Hallett), and a sprinkle of Christmas cheer. On December 1st, cryptic crossword setter Edie receives a package at her doorstep. Inside are a few jigsaw pieces depicting a crime scene and a message warning that more people will die by Christmas Eve unless she can solve it. With determination, Edie takes on the challenge and experiences the exhilarating feeling of facing an unsolvable puzzle for the first time in years. The festive shenanigans ensue. This book is entertaining and engaging, and would make an excellent gift for any jigsaw-loving, crossword-solving, mystery novel enthusiast in your life.
If you would like to purchase any of the following titles: The Year of the Locust, Deadly Game, Kids Run the Show, or The Christmas Jigsaw Murders, please click on their respective titles or visit guardianbookshop.com. Additional fees may be incurred for delivery.