Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category


Stalker on the loose


Review of Stalker; Lars Kepler; Harper Collins; pp 603

– Karthika Nair

Stalker is the fifth book from Jonna Linna series written by Swedish pair Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, under the pseudonym “Lars Kepler”. Before reading Stalker, I was not aware of their works and talking about Swedish bestsellers, The Millennium trilogy takes up the top spot. The name and the book blurb drew my curiosity; it is about a person who stalks women with a video camera, capturing their “last” moments. And then goes on to kill them in a brutal manner and leaves them in a particular posture, disfigured. This video is received by the national crime investigation team and they are unable to trace the video source and while they are watching it, the victim is facing the last few minutes of her life. Detectives Margot Silverman and Adam Youssef are on a manhunt and eventually Joona Linna, who had been absconding, joins the investigation.

Since this is the fifth book of a series, I did find some plot points confusing and felt like several characters were introduced at the beginning of the story. The course of the plot is so intriguing that I ended up taking the book everywhere with me, even ended up dreaming about the characters and their circumstances. The character development and the build up of the suspense are all up to the point. The pinnacle is the twist of the story: you won’t see it coming and it challenges the general perception by an average audience about a typical “stalker” and the book cover will look completely different to us. Until the big reveal, you are in a dark room where your mind is working on several possibilities as you are reading it.

There are many instances depicting gruesome violence in gory detail; the murder scenes are disturbing and one may feel like throwing up. A major limitation I felt was Joona Linna’s limited role in this book as he is someone who is hailed as a hero. But, his involvement during the final situations is quite heroic. I also liked the characters detective Margot Silverman and Nelly Brandt. Margot Silverman is the detective assigned to the murdered women’s case and the fact that she is seven months pregnant makes it more interesting. She is determined to find the killer and vows that she will give birth only after the case’s resolution.

The way she stood up for Linna and challenged the circumstances of the case when necessary is vehement and impressive. Silverman in a way broke stereotypes regarding pregnant women’s ability to work. It reminded me of Marge Gunderson from Fargo. Nelly Brandt is a very layered character and we will admire her. Female characters like Nelly are rare. Erik, the hypnotist, is also a very noble character and we will feel sorry for him in the course of the story.

As always, suspense thrillers will leave a massive plot point behind. The same is noticed here in terms of the circumstance surrounding Adam Youssef, Margot’s partner from work. After reading the book, I couldn’t help but think “whatever happened to him”. The connection between Erik and blind piano teacher named Jackie is shown in a nice way. When it springs up amidst the investigation, one might find it irritating and unnecessary, not knowing that it is an integral part. As a reader, I was all agog with anticipation while waiting for the resolution which felt like a deep breath one takes after being in the water for several minutes.

Stalker is a very exciting thriller for all those enjoy that genre. As a fan of thrillers myself, the book reading experience was massively satisfying. I look forward to read the first four books from Kepler’s Jonna Linna series.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)

Communication: Connected/ Dangerous

Review of Secret of the Scribe; Douglas Misquita; Frog Books 2014; Rs 245; pp 332

– Shana Susan Ninan

As a lecturer of Media, the different aspects of Communication are close to heart. And, to read a book that weaves Communication and Language into a crime plot, is even better. Not to mention that one of the characters shares his name with my two-year-old son – Elijah!

Douglas’s second novel trails a recent cave expedition in the remote borders of China and Tibet that have unearthed enigmatic discs believed to be of extraterrestrial origin. Quickly squashed and erased from official records, until venture capitalist Mark Steinberg launches Linguistics, Inc. and unveils cutting-edge nanotechnology-based communication, the secret stays within boundaries. But, soon, knowing that Linguistics is setting the stage for total control, Lance Michener and his team work to bring order.

The very descriptive storyline doesn’t fail to involve the readers. The plentiful characters, numerous locations and a few typos did mar my reading, but Douglas’s capacity to engage us with thrilling narrative overcame it all.

Similar to his first book, Haunted, Douglas runs a thread of the Good vs Evil scenario in this one, too. We also see a fight – physical and intellectual – between natives and the “conquerors”, so to say. Working in the telecommunications industry, Douglas’s flair for scientific prose is only too well understood. He reveals the strength of his writing as well as flexibility in dealing with an almost futuristic story.

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Rating: 7.3/10 (9 votes cast)

Vengeance, thy Name is Woman!

Review of One Woman’s Vengeance – Strong. Beautiful. Deadly.; Dennis R. Miller; pp 147

– Shana Susan Ninan

A debut book, a racy thriller at that, crafted to hold the reader riveted to the seat. That’s One Woman’s Vengeance, by Dennis R. Miller. This novel isn’t for the faint-hearted – the author makes it very clear. Protagonist Nora Hawks detests guns – “Guns were like the men who created them – heavy, cold, loud and deadly.” But her circumstances are such that guns become her new best friend.

The group of burly men who killed her husband, then gang raped and left her for dead, did one mistake – they never expected her to come back. And how! Teaming up with retired bounty hunter and tracking specialist, Peter Clawson, she vows revenge on the guys that took away every last bit of happiness from her life. It isn’t easy. Hands that are meant for kneading dough or sewing sweaters now hoist up heavy guns. After a glassy recovery, she persuades – more like forces – Peter to teach her everything there is to know about handling weapons, firing rifles, practicing moves with the dagger, and most of all, how to save herself from a bunch of men, who if they knew she was still alive would make her go through all that trauma once more, twice over.

Nora’s and Peter’s complex relationship is best described in the author’s own words: ‘Nora taught him how to live; and he taught her how to kill.’ Nora helps Peter improve his cooking, and in turn, Peter shares his knowledge and skills with her. And not without reluctance. For the most part, he keeps reiterating that this isn’t the job of a woman. And in the late eighteenth century, when women silently suffered rape and humiliation, here was a woman who came forward admitting the occurrence of the crime committed against her, and willing to do anything and everything to stop other women from having to go through the similar situation.

At 147 pages, this is a quick read, especially because Dennis is able to capture your attention through superb imagery and sensuous story telling. He awakens our five senses and keeps us on our toes, literally. When a gun is fired, you can nearly smell the fiery powder, or when Nora kicks and wounds the men, you feel like in the middle of the whole thing. The two main characters are well-rounded, with layers of history revealed at the right time.

On a more personal note, as a woman who never misses a chance to punch a guy whose hands stray waywardly towards me, in public transport or in a crowd, I loved the energy and enthusiasm of Nora Hawks. The hate-filled vengeance is something to watch out for in the book.


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Rating: 4.8/10 (6 votes cast)

Man On The Prowl

Review of Fire in the Rain; Surendra Mohanty; Self Published 2013; pp 139; Rs 100

– Shana Susan Ninan

Set in India’s various metros, Surendra Mohanty’s self-published serial killer thriller comes to you with strong characters, fast-moving plot and fluid writing. That the killer is revealed to the reader in the very first few pages of the book is a dampening factor. But then again, each thriller story is different, so this is just another mode of storytelling that the author chose, I suppose. If you’re looking at a nail-biting chase to the end, it’s not there, because you already know the man on the prowl, and you are aware of his modus operandi.

The cover image of the book is quite striking, with an apt font and design for the name. But I guess a looming villainous silhouette in the background could have made a big difference, especially when this novella sits there on book shelves among Thrillers.

Friday the thirteenth is ominous for many. More so for the women who fall for the protagonist’s charm. I shall not use his name so that I don’t give away the aliases. He moves from metro to metro, hunting and killing with a revenge. And, in the end, it takes a stronger woman to bring him down.

Some of the scenes are really visual – almost movie-like. The climax seems open-ended, setting the tone for a sequel. We are really not sure whether the charismatic villain meets his end or not.


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Rating: 7.0/10 (7 votes cast)

“Writing a book isn’t easy. It’s a struggle. It’s exciting. It’s enormously satisfying.”

Prem Rao

It Can’t Be You: I was fascinated by the title. It gave tremendous scope for me as the writer to chart out the plot of a thriller. I had made up my mind. My first book would have to be a thriller. It would be a small tribute to the thriller writers I had read and admired for years, having been a voracious reader from my early childhood.

Frequently, the thoughts and wishes of writers remain dreams until they come across a catalyst which urges them to action, to translate those dreams to reality. For me the catalyst was the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it is popularly called. An international competition held each year in which you need to write a novel of 50,000 words during the calendar month of November to be declared a winner.

The choice of a theme wasn’t too difficult for me. The story had to be at the intersection of two of my major interests, human psychology and the military. What better than to write a psychological thriller concerning a military man? I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2009. The whole of 2010 was spent in refining it, finding a publisher, etc. until the magic moment dawned on November 29, 2010. The book launch at The Crosswords at Bangalore was one of the most memorable days of my life.

My advice for what it is worth. Take to writing because you love to write not because you have to. Income by writing alone seldom brings bread on your table. I write because I re-discovered this passion after a long gap of many, many years. It’s never too late for you to start. My debut novel was published a little after my 59th birthday.

Writing a book isn’t easy. It’s a struggle. It’s exciting. It shows you what you are capable of doing and at the end of it all, it is enormously satisfying. If this appeals to you, just go ahead and write that book, the one you have been thinking of for years,

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Rating: 8.8/10 (8 votes cast)

“I’d love to be able to write with a whole story worked out in advance.”

Ruth Downie tells us about her experiences in writing the Ruso series of thrillers, especially Ruso And The Root of all Evils.

– Ruth Downie

Living with a writer must be a strange business.  While other people are off enjoying themselves, my longsuffering husband frequently spends his holidays trudging across wet and windswept hillsides while I enthuse over the stones and mud that are all that remains of the Roman occupation of Britain. Then when we get home, he has to share my attention with several dozen imaginary people – in particular a Roman Army doctor called Ruso, who’s stationed here with the Twentieth Legion.

One of the things that spurred me to write about the Second Century is how little we really know about the people who lived here. We have letters written by the Army and sporadic mentions in history books, but we never hear the Britons’ point of view in their own words. Part of the urge to write came from a desire to give a voice – an imaginary one, I have to admit – to the ‘barbarians’ whose thoughts and feelings  about being part of the Roman empire have been lost forever. So Ruso has a British partner called Tilla.

What I hadn’t realised at the beginning was that once the ancient tribespeople had a voice in Tilla, they might just start forming their own opinions about all sorts of things. And they might have some interesting observations to make about what their conquerors called Civilisation. After two novels set in Britain, it seemed like a good time to take Tilla across the sea and introduce her to Ruso’s family on their farm in the very Romanised South of France.

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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)

On The Side of The Angels

Review of The Midnight Club; James Patterson; Warner Books 1989; pp 296

– Shana Susan Ninan

The Midnight Club is my first James Patterson read. And it didn’t disappoint. The eternal cat and mouse game between the good guys and the bad guys gets a facelift in this novel – there are some who do not know which side they’re on. The line between good and bad is very thin, and those who tread on it may not know what they’re in for.

After John Stefanovitch is critically wounded in an operation, and his wife murdered, he’s on a mission to avenge her death. A wheelchair-bound lawman isn’t exactly what you’d think of an NYPD detective, but Stef plays it well. He’s focused and determined to catch a prime Mafia man who’s heading the dreaded Midnight Club. Several crime lords are being assassinated across cities. Stef and his unlikely journalist-writer partner are on a race against time to set things straight.

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Rating: 6.8/10 (4 votes cast)

A Detective Luminary!

Appreciation of Jack Reacher, from Lee Child’s Without Fail

– Sharon Pradeeptha

Daring, Tactful, Skilled, aptly chosen for the most dangerous job… Jack Reacher is indeed the best crime detective. He is an expert crime analyst. He visualizes the possible solutions, traces and retraces his plans. He is very meticulous when he hears about the enemy’s hiding. He plans the attack very carefully and executes the plan with utmost diligence.

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Rating: 5.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Vengeance Is Mine

Review of Haunted; Douglas Misquita; Frog Books 2011; Rs350; pp 372

– Shana Susan Ninan

The almost black and white colour scheme on the cover clearly defines a theme that runs across the pages of Douglas Misquita’s Haunted – the demarcation between good and evil. It is his first published work and was written during his college days. The thriller fiction novel traces the life and doings of FBI Special agent Kirk Ingram, especially after the deaths of his wife and daughter at the hands of a don. He then vows revenge on the whole world, practically. In other words, Ingram tries his maximum best to bring down organised crime nexuses in whichever way possible. He doesn’t tire. He doesn’t feel like stopping. Each crime he busts and each criminal he shuts behind bars drive him forward for more.

The story moves on with more mysterious happenings across the globe. A Balkan terrorist group operating under a tyrannous dictator has its feet firmly planted in the US and Russia. They move their goods via a safe and impenetrable network. But the dominoes tip over with the hunt for a certain fatal nerve agent as well as the death of an important person. Or rather, a person holding a lot of important information.

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Rating: 9.2/10 (16 votes cast)

“I wanted to create a new age rocking detective.”

A quick read with an out-of-the-ordinary plot that’s based within an Indian IT firm – that’s Sundip Gorai’s Hickory Dickory Shock!. It’s readable across all age groups and can be swallowed in a day! The story is peppy and the characters are fun. Sundip’s writing style is unfussy and streamlined. Check out an email interview of his with IBR.

– Shana Susan Ninan

IBR – You’ve just given us India’s first IT thriller. What gives Hickory Dickory Shock the one-of-a-kind feel?

Sundip Gorai – Yes, there are a few firsts – It is the first Indian novel that
1. covers the macro dynamics of the Indian IT industry
2. explores various variants of locked room mysteries – a sub-genre of detective fiction where a crime is committed in a hermetically sealed locked room and the culprit vanishes from inside the room
3. leverages the knowledge from rich historic artifacts from Indian history to create the build-up leading to the thriller climax.
4. leverages intriguing math puzzles (inspired from Vedic Math, Euler – the French mathematician, Sam Loyd – American puzzle maker, Fibonacci sequence and others) to pace the Thriller
5. has a protagonist who has a numeric name (210 – Tuten, as he was born at 2:10 a.m.)
6. uses intricate cipher techniques based on the work of Vatsayana (creator of ‘Kamasutra’)

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Rating: 8.0/10 (6 votes cast)