“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

Genre:  Mystery & ThrillersThe Silent Patient
Publisher:  Celadon Books
Pub. Date:  February 5, 2019

Mini Review

I need to start this review by saying that I guessed the big twist early on in the novel.  This does not mean that I didn’t enjoy this crime thriller, for I did.  The story revolves around Alicia Berenson a 33-old woman who kills her husband.  Tied in a chair, she shoots him five times in the face. Creepy. She stops speaking immediately after the murder.  She is a painter by profession.  Her only communication is through a self-portrait she paints weeks after the murder, titled “Alcestis.” I enjoyed that the author throws his readers a clue in the form of a Greek tragedy. Don’t worry if you never heard of the play, I hadn’t, it is explained to you.  And no, the painting’s title was not the tip-off for me.

There is a short trial. Alicia receives a guilty verdict.  Due to her hysterical silence, she is sentenced to a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Her psychotherapist, Theo Faber, narrates the story. I found his voice unreliable.  He jumps around in time without letting the reader know.  The narration is also unrealistic. Too much psychobabble.  Thrillers are usually only good when you don’t see the twist coming.  So why did I keep reading? Probably because Michaelides gives us many shady suspects throughout the tale. I kept hoping that I guessed wrong. “Silent” is not a particularly well written novel, still it is a fun ride that should be read in the middle of the night with a tired mind.  You may just find yourself questioning your own sanity.

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“Little Secrets” by Jennifer Hillier

Genre:  Mystery & ThrillerLittle Secrets
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:  April 21, 2020

Mini-Review

The story is a decent read regarding a young child’s abduction. It could have been a very good read. It is written as a mystery. This makes sense because when the child is kidnapped and there is no ransom note what else can it be other than a mystery? But, the story is written basically as a thriller with all sorts of twists. (I guess I should have looked at the cover). This is where the author lost me. Other ARC reviewers seem to love this book. I guess I should have paid more attention to the genre. I thought I was reading a family tragedy story, not a twisty tale. Still, the author did a good job regarding the heartbroken parents, especially the mother’s overwhelming pain and guilt. The missing-child support group scenes are very well written. You can feel just how brutal it must be to not know if your child is dead or alive.  It is these scenes that I found fascinating, not the mixing of genres. But if you want a Jillian Flynn read then this is the book for you.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“The Arrangement” by Robyn Harding

Genre:  Mystery & ThrillersThe Arrangement
Publisher:  Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date:  July 30, 2019

Mini-Review

I would only recommend this book to a starving high school and a college girl who is considering entering a sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship because they have seen the movie “Pretty Woman” and believes that film was true to life.  The mystery isn’t until the very end of the book.   It feels like the author does a one-eighty.  Suddenly you are reading a murder-mystery.   Other reviewers enjoyed this novel.  You may too.  But I am surprised that I made it to the last page.  I do give the author some credit for researching and interviewing real-life sugar babies.  Still, the whole story has a feel of teenage drama, ending with a predictable twist.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“The Escape Room” by Megan Goldin

Genre:          Mystery and ThrillersThe Escape Room
Publisher:    St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:    July 30, 2019

A publicist from St. Martin’s Press contacted me to read and review this book, which I find hard to review.  The plot is simple and predictable, not to mention implausible.   The twist is a cinch to figure out and yet, interestingly, I enjoyed the story.   Possibly, this is because most of the story could be straight out of the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” which I, and most moviegoers, thoroughly enjoyed.  (If you are too young to know the film, google it).

I would say that the book is more a psychological thriller than a mystery. The novel reveals the cut-throat world of Wall Street corporate finance, where greed and corruption rule.   Four hot-shot financial dealers work and live in a world of million-dollar salaries—designer everything.  We are talking $11,000 for a pocketbook to be bought in numerous colors.  And all four would turn on their grandmother to ensure they keep their million-dollar salaries.  Think of the character Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street.”  Gekko says to the young new financial advisor, “The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do.”  And these four have done some horrible things to ensure they have numerous $10,000 wristwatches.  I thought the author did overkill in writing about their ridiculous spending habits but she proved her point.  These four coworkers, who you will love to hate, are summoned into an elevator in the belief that they are engaging in some sort of team-building exercise.  The reader knows from the prologue that bullet shots are heard from the elevator.  It is not a team-building experience but a revenge plot against the four.

There are two timelines in the novel told in the first and third person.  The four characters trapped in the elevator are told in the third person.  The second timeline follows a young woman who graduated at the top of her class with an MBA.  She sacrifices food and all her savings to buy an interview suit to look the part for a job in a top-tier finance company.  She gets the job and works as the bottom link with the hot-shots.  Her narrative is a bit boring.  The author clearly wants a good vs. evil theme so, I guess, she is needed to have a moral character in the story.  What kept my attention, even when things got a bit tedious, is just how horrible the other four actually are.  How far would they go to ensure their hefty bonuses?   This one is unquestionably movie material.  If you go in knowing the novel’s flaws, you will be able to enjoy the elevator ride.

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“The Pandora Room” by Christopher Golden

(On a personal note, my husband is weak as a kitten but home.  Once again, thanks for all the support.)

Genre:         Mystery & ThrillersThe Pandora room
Publisher:    St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:   April 23, 2019

This is the author’s second novel with his protagonist, Ben Walker.  Think James Bond, only more realistic. This hero actually feels chronic pain from injuries incurred during his fights with bad guys. The reader first meets the character in Golden’s 2017 novel, “Ararat.”  He joins an archaeological expedition, digging deep within a mountain located in Turkey.  They were looking to find Noah’s ark (and stumbles instead on to the devil).  In “Pandora,” he joins another expedition. Once again, Walker becomes part of the team as a member of the National Science Foundation.  In reality, he works for the US government—spy lies. Nothing new about books with spies and forces beyond scientific understanding, but Golden does it very well, reminiscent to “The Age of Exodus,” by Gavin Scott. In “Pandora,” the archaeological team learns that the infamous titular box is real and buried in an ancient subterranean city located in Northern Iraq.  Golden is a master at creating a claustrophobic atmosphere filled with evil, both real and hallucinatory.  The infamous titular box, which is a jar in this novel, is filled with ancient diseases that once opened turns into a plague.  Do not be surprised if you begin to feel a sore throat.

Enhancing the tale, “Pandora” has an element of current affairs to it.  It seems that both governments, the US and the Iraqis, want the jar in their hands to be used as a weapon.  Now that is a thought that is truly terrifying and probably not all that farfetched.  In this sequel, Walker is fighting demon ghosts underground and soldiers above ground:  A very nice touch.  “Pandora” does not quite have the same finesse as “Exodus.”  Scott simply never misses a beat.  Golden spends a good deal of time explaining why the team is actually experiencing two different types of disease: skimming material.  Still, Ben Walker#2 is a very good supernatural fantasy.  The similarities in both Walker tales are obvious, but as long as you go in knowing this, you will not be disappointed.  If you didn’t read the first tale, this can easily be a standalone novel.   “Pandora” is written razor-sharp to scare the bejesus out of the reader.  Your adrenaline should rise with each chapter.  The secret to Golden’s success seems to be that he writes about supernatural thrills with just the right amount of religious references to make it all feel grounded in something familiar.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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