When January 1, 2021 finally rolled around I was in a state of despair with nothing to look forward to but January 6 (which brought only more anxiety) and January 20. Finally the longest wait ever was over. Meanwhile I decided to sink into the most distracting reading I could find. For me that is mysteries and thrillers where the pages fly by, justice gets done and the bad people get what is coming to them. It was a good decision! Here are some short reviews of those, for me, sanity saving books.
The Searcher, Tana French, Viking, 2020, 446 pp
I would categorize this one as a literary crime novel. Tana French has always embedded her excellent plots in a literary style. I have read all of her previous seven books and appreciate how she has branched out in each one.
A former Chicago cop, after a divorce and deep disillusionment with law enforcement, has moved to Ireland. While fixing up his cottage and getting to know the local people and customs in his remote village, he gets pulled into a missing person can by a curious child who shows up on his property.
Though the story takes a while to get going, Tana French builds tension on every page until all the clues come together. The book is a study in culture clash, small town secrets and sad truths. I loved it.
The English Girl, Daniel Silva, HarperCollins, 2013, 473 pp
The 13th book in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series is a political thriller. Allon is an art restorer in his public life but also works as an assassin and spy for Israeli intelligence. He is a master at all three roles.
Over the course of the series, Allon has forged relationships with both British and American intelligence. In The English Girl, he is called in via MI6 to find the missing mistress of the (fictional) current Prime Minister of Britain. The criminals behind the kidnapping of Madeline Hart figure the British governing party will pay a huge ransom to protect their guy at 10 Downing Street from scandal.
When Allon penetrates the operation, he finds himself once more at the potential mercy of some ruthless enemies he has made over the years, Russian enemies that is.
Even after 12 books this author managed to raise my heart rate while he began to set up a possible new future for his hero. Also intriguing was how deeply the story penetrated into Putin's true intentions for his country and the rest of the world, intentions that nearly destroyed our democracy over the past four years, intentions he has had since he became Russia's leader in 2012.
Mona Lisa Over Drive, William Gibson, Bantam Books, 1988, 308 pp
The final book in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy is a cyberpunk thriller. He gives us more of his groundbreaking unleashing of cyberspace onto the world of fiction. He exhibits some new fiction chops including deeper characters and an even more nuanced look at the machinations of the powerful Japanese underground, the uses of celebrities, and the mysterious beings behind artificial intelligence.
His story brings back some characters from the first two books (Neuromancer and Count Zero) while adding Mona with her murky past, a new sort of console jockey, and an endearing but mentally challenged dude named Slick Henry who broke my heart.
After over 300 pages of non-stop action comes the intriguing ending meant to explain the history of these stories, the "why" of When It All Changed. It did not explain as much as it cliff-hangered me.
Will the next trilogy, The Bridge Trilogy, give more answers? Probably the plot will only thicken.
Hard Truth, Nevada Barr, G P Putnam's Sons, 2005, 324 pp
I ended my spree with the 13th book in Nevada Barr's mystery/crime series, all set in National Parks. I started reading this series five years ago and only have six more to go. I am getting there!
Park Ranger Anna Pigeon arrives at Rocky Mountain National Park for a temporary assignment as District Ranger in the midst of a search for three missing girls. On her first day two of the girls emerge from the woods, dressed only in ragged filthy underwear, traumatized and close to starvation. One girl is still missing. The two are rescued by campers but claim to remember nothing.
In a series where the plots are always complex and twisted, Nevada Barr has kicked it up yet another notch. Included in her tale are a wheel-chair bound paraplegic woman, a fringe Mormon community, mistaken identities, and a serial killer who specializes in harming children.
Evil spreads through the breathtaking beauty of the park. Danger, even to animals, lurks in every valley, over the next peak, and even in the rangers's cabins. This is almost a horror novel.
I must admit that the physical and psychological damage done to the female children was hard to take. Be warned. Anna Pigeon's canny investigating and fearless strength provide much needed balance.
Have you read any of these thrillers? Who are your favorite thriller writers?