Saturday, 5 September 2015

Sampling September: Thrillers & crime, part 1

Orient by Christopher Bollen Orient (9 April 2015) by Christopher Bollen

The premise: Orient is a moneyed 'village' in upstate New York, disrupted by the arrival of 'a young man with a hazy past'. Suspicion builds as strange events unfold, while an Orient native hides a secret of her own. The novel, Bollen's second, is positioned as a thrilling mystery, but also 'a provocative portrait of the American dream'.
First line: When news spread that Paul Benchley was bringing a foster-care kid to stay with him rent-free at his house on Youngs Road, many of his neighbors were understandably concerned.
What I read: Chapter one.
Would I read the rest of it? Well, the end of the first chapter drops such a cliffhanger that I was tempted to read on. But I chose to start this project with this book precisely because I wasn't that excited about it, and already had a suspicion that I wouldn't want to stick with it. On the evidence of this first chapter, Bollen can certainly write, and the snobby, cloistered atmosphere of this wealthy community - and the panic caused by interlopers - is evoked well. This is a long book, though, so I'd need to feel really invested in order to carry on, and I just don't think yet another tale of rich American families is enough to keep me engaged for 600+ pages. If, on the other hand, that's exactly what you're looking for, it has the feel of a well-crafted and intriguing yarn.

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight Where They Found Her (24 September 2015) by Kimberly McCreight

The premise: It's 'a riveting domestic thriller which offers a searing portrait of motherhood, marriage, class distinctions and the damage wrought by betrayal'. A young mother who works as a reporter becomes drawn into a web of social politics when a body is found near the local university.
First line: It isn't until afterward that I think about the bag or the bloody towels stuffed inside.
What I read: The prologue and first two chapters.
Would I read the rest of it? Probably not. After a prologue and a short chapter in the form of an interview snippet, the first chapter proper is devoted to establishing protagonist Molly's character and relationships, and her surroundings in the sleepy town of Ridgedale. It's all exposition, really, so not the best way to judge what is no doubt a plot-driven book - but nothing about the story so far is appealing to me. It does indeed appear to be heavy on the 'domestic', with Molly's role as a mother, and her guilt and grief about her stillborn second child, playing a major part. (I feel I should mention here that McCreight's debut, Reconstructing Amelia, is really good, and firmly recommended to thriller/mystery readers.)

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton The Quality of Silence (2 July 2015) by Rosamund Lupton

The premise: A woman and her ten-year-old daughter, who is deaf, journey across a frozen Alaskan landscape in search of the girl's father. Naturally, someone's watching them...
First line: My name is a shape not a sound. I am a thumb and a finger, not a tongue and lips.
What I read: Chapter one.
Would I read the rest of it? No. I read Lupton's first novel - the average thriller Sister - years ago, but from what I'd heard about The Quality of Silence, especially the minimal blurb, I had the impression it would be quite a departure for the author. But from this first chapter alone it's obvious that isn't the case; it's written very much in that typical thriller style. With things about the first few pages already annoying me - the shaky approximation of a child's voice, the protagonist who looks like a 'movie star' and has an improbable degree in astrophysics from Oxford - it's safe to say I wouldn't want to carry on with this.

Throughout September I'll be working through some of my 2015 to-read list, sampling the books and cataloguing my thoughts on each of them. Find all the posts in this series here!

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