▸ mystery thriller

Read: Map of Bones

A fast paced story, a plot twist that is well planned and despite its development is not obvious, and a set of characters that (even though they are far from being fully fleshed out) indeed has some characters that are not perfectly exchangeable with standard cut-outs make a good action adventure, entertainment. Map of Bones has all this.

Compared to the first Sigma Force novel, Rollins has substantially improved the character development. There are no strange coincidences piling up on each other that are needed to cover up plot holes. Plot development has improved as well. Hence, even though the story is no less “fantastic” this time it seems much more credible.

I am not sure the (modest) romance is needed. Yet, it also does not distract. In the end, do not all action thriller have a little romance so the hero has someone to rescue, to prove his valor, and to be attracted by?

Read: Inferno

It is interesting that I would unwittingly pick up two novels in a row with a plot motivated by the malthusian catastrophe. Since one was a science fiction and the other is rather a mystery novel they can be hardly compared. The moral dilemma caused by the problem (of overpopulation) and the proposed solution are (even) less satisfactorily discussed by Brown. He does neither reveal whether he considers the malthusian catastrophe a present thread (I do not) nor does he (openly) hint at his own position regarding the villains solution.

Yet, the villain is somehow de-demonized. Hence, maybe, Brown hints at his position after all.

After about two-thirds of the Novel the protagonist learns about several layers of deception that he had to experience during the past few hours. The reader learns he was deceived as well. The mystery of the novel is thus the result of being fooled by the authors. There is no intricate web of clues, no chance that the reader cold solve the mystery. Brown just deceives his readers. Honestly, I was quite annoyed.

The bottom line is, Inferno and Brown disappoint on more than just one level.

Read: The Tower

Now, with the third installment of Toyne’s Sancti trilogy, things take a strange, unexpected turn. What started as a religious thriller, an esoteric, cabalistic piece of pulp fiction, has turned almost into a science thriller. The religious characters are reduced to nut jobs.

The origin of the story is perfectly obscure and the new character’s plot line is quite dominant, and indeed even more interesting than what happens to and with the old protagonists. Yet, to the original story this new plot line adds nothing, or very little. Rather, it subtracts from it. The concept of the first (oppressed) tribe is diluted, reduced to a free mason lodge. Toyne drifts away from his original idea.

Hence, despite being an entertaining novel The Tower shows that Toyne is not capable of staying within the confines of his own fictional world and produce an internally consistent piece of fiction. Resorting to over-used tropes isn’t a good sign either.

Read: Deep Storm

Slowly, very slowly I work through my to-read shelf. Child’s Deep Storm must have been sitting there for at least 5 years. For a good reason. There are better books.

Deep Storm is well written, well paced, and while reading it also rather interesting. Unfortunately, I will have forgotten all about it before I finish the next book. It’s good entertainment for the moment but utterly forgettable. Which, honestly, is not really a particularly bad thing for a mystery thriller. I would have a hard time to reproduce the plot of any of Cussler’s novels (the specific novel’s plot, not the general recipe). Yet I enjoyed them.

In the end, there was one issue raised that, maybe, sticks a little longer. How do you secure a nuclear waste dump site or weapons cache for the millennia to come? The stuff may be dangerous for such a long time that you cannot assume members of the future civilization will be able to decipher our current language. How do you warn them of the imminent danger, how do you protect them from more serious harm?

Read: Cemetery Dance

It is a while since I have read my last Preston & Child Pendergast novel. A little bit more than three years ago in fact. I was not too happy about the turn to the esoteric, supernatural that the series took. Luckily, Cemetery Dance is true to the old style of the author duo. Every seemingly supernatural mystery has a perfectly and credible scientific explanation.

Since Preston and Child know how to write a page-turner their thriller provides some well spent hours of good entertainment. The plot twists were a little bit transparent and therefore anticipated. Yet, this did no (or only very little) harm to the enjoyment of the thriller.

I guess I will resume reading the series in the near future.

Read: The Key

Toyne continues to provide good entertainment value.

Yet, the narrative loses some of its appeal. The new twist of the (remote-controlled) bankrupt church and the questionable business practices is maybe not that original as it seems a bit too close to reality. Still, it adds a nice touch. The dead, not dead and long lost, now dead father is, however, a cheap plot device. Knowing that the good guys, the good gal, will win is also killing some of the suspense. Finally, while the first book of the trilogy (as I now know it is at least a trilogy) could have ended where it ended The Key features a classic cliff hanger to lure the reader to the third novel. What is another cheap plot device in my opinion.

I finally noticed yet another cheap move, this time by the publisher. The page count is heavily inflated (and maybe justifying a slightly higher price?) as this book, again, has more than a hundred chapters. Each new chapter starts on a fresh page resulting in more than a hundred half-filled-last-pages-of the-chapter. The two books could have been about 50 pages shorter, or could have used a slightly larger font. Something that would have been highly appreciated by this reader for at least the passages that were representing handwritten material. That script font was barely readable, too thin, too small.

All in all, The key was still good enough to consider the next volume that, as a peek at goodreads reveals, is supposed to be at least on par.

Read: Sanctus

Toyne’s Sanctus is a rather fast paced religious themed mystery thriller, though much of the pace seems to stem from the rather short chapters, each just a few pages long and ever changing the perspective.

The novel is perfectly enjoyable – until about the last 50 pages when the author solves the big mystery and drifts a bit too much into the supernatural. Still, I like the way he re-interprets the scriptures of the abrahamic religions.

Eventually, there are some further flaws. While most of the action takes places in a fictional small town in Turkey, everyone, even the turkish cop on duty, is pretty much US American – at least in their demeanor. While this avoids stereotypical characters (or, does it?) it also generates some rather generic protagonists. Furthermore, while coming up with a fictional place close to where you would suspect such a place if there were one avoids some controversy it just too clearly puts the fiction stamp on everything. The novel becomes less powerful than it could have been.

There is a sequel. And I really wonder what Toyne will do to the big abrahamic religion that he so enjoyingly unmasked as phony in this novel.

Read: Along Came a Spider

No, not a fan.

When looking to add a new author to my rotation for recreational reading picking a successful, that is a best selling, author seems like a good idea. Several millions of readers cannot be wrong.

Maybe it’s just herding.

James Patterson is one of the most commercially successful authors, his Alex Cross series consists of 21 novels. Surely, they must be good. Let me modify this: they cannot be all that bad.

I have two major problems with Along Came a Spider. The first is the character motivation and development of the protagonist Alex Cross. I don’t get him. An African American psychologist with a doctorate from one of the world’s most prestigious universities moves from a private practice to a job at the police just because he doesn’t find clients in his neighborhood. Interesting career move. Instead of changing occupations I would have changed the neighborhood. And, of course, he is a sensitive, creative, caring, and charitable person, playing the piano to relax and volunteering at a soup kitchen and all this while he is single parent of two kids. A homicide detective? All in all a little bit too cliched.

The second problem is a result of a stylistic choice. The novel is narrated from the first person perspective of the novel’s protagonist. Cross/Patterson even breaks the fourth wall somewhere near the end of the novel, explicitly stating that he, Alex Cross, is writing the book. That is not necessarily bad. However, the perspective switches quite often to the third person narrator when the focus is on someone else. Parts of the story are told that the protagonist should not know, that he should not be able to report. Additionally this endows the protagonist with some kind of clairvoyance. The separate elements of the plot just happen to fall in place; his actions, his planing seem to be guided by the superpower of omniscience that a narrator may quite naturally have.

Still, there were a few surprises and plot twist that were not immediately obvious. So despite Patterson being a terrible writer he is not that bad. I felt appropriately entertained. I am not sure, though, whether this is already good enough for Patterson to become part of my ‘rotation’…

Read: Sepulchre

Kate Mosse’s thing is actually four things: There is the female protagonist(s); there is the south of France, Languedoc; there is the interweaving of the present and the past, two parallel story lines; and, there is the esoteric mystery, the innuendo of the supernatural. In these respects Sepulchre is very similar to the Labyrinth that I have read earlier.

I like the first characteristic, it’s adding a nice variety to the novels I usually read. It’s not a distinctive mark. There a lots of novels with female protagonists. Mosse manages, however, to not write for a stereotyped audience. In principle, anyone could enjoy her works.

I have no strong opinion with regard to the geographic location. Again, it adds some variety to the usual mix. Though it is not like I feel I could benefit from change in this particular aspect.

The two time lines and the parallel development of the plots I indeed like. The parallelism was much more pronounced in Labyrinth. In Sepulchre the link between the two time lines relies much more (actually: only) on the kinship of the protagonists. Hence, with respect to the stylistic devices Sepulchre is less interesting, less refined than Mosse’s earlier novel.

Finally, I could certainly do without the supernatural. It’s completely dispensable here. Some mystery, some unexplained events: yes. Ghosts, or supernatural entities: no.

In sum, still an (quite) enjoyable book. Though I am not sure whether or not I am going to read her next one…

Read: The Plantation

Even though I seem to always complain about Kuzneski’s writing style I read on and on. Now, I have read his first, originally self-published, novel The Plantation. This book got him the deal for all the sequels he wrote.

And so far, I have to say, it is his best. OK, there is one appearance of the annoying “little did he know” phrase. Apart from that, the novel has everything I look for when I am interested in a little diversion from my normal work. The plot is quite original. Kuzneski is not pushing the limits too far (as he is in danger to do or is doing with his sequels), the story and characters remain rather credible.

I have the distinct feeling that Kuzneski took a rather long time writing and polishing this novel while he rushed to finish the sequels.