Dark Matter

This book by Blake Crouch is a combination of literary fiction and science fiction. It is about Jason Dessen, a physics professor at a small university. The novel opens with him and his family enjoying a family dinner. Jason and his wife, Daniella, reflect on how neither one of them had the professional success that they wanted. But they both agree that they are happy and satisfied with their lives.

On that night, Jason is kidnapped by a stranger and wakes up in an unfamiliar place. He doesn’t recognize anyone, but they all call him by name and respect him. He tries to navigate his disorientation and figure out how to get back to his wife and family.

This book is classified as a science fiction because it deals with quantum mechanics. But it also has elements of a typical thriller and is clear in its themes. This novel is about family and what is more important in life- success in work or with raising a loving family. Crouch is unambiguous in his opinion on which of these are paramount for a happy life.

I really liked this novel. It was an easy read that wasn’t too bogged down with the science. It also didn’t feel too pedantic in its themes and how Crouch addressed them. I would read other books he has published, like his Wayward Pines series.

3/5

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Strangers on a Train

This classic thriller by Patricia Highsmith is the basis for one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films by the same name. In essence, the title mostly describes the plot of the book- it is about two strangers who meet on a train. But that’s also where they discuss murdering people in their lives. Bruno wants to kill his father and Guy his wife. This one-time encounter means that they can both have solid alibis for committing the other’s murder and never be a real suspect.

Guy is a normal man currently going through a divorce- because his wife cheated on him. He fantasizes about killing her, but not in a serious way. Bruno is obsessed with killing his father. But as the novel goes on, that obsession is redirected towards Guy. Bruno stalks him and inserts himself constantly into Guy’s life and mind.

I thought this novel was going to be about the murders and the plotting. It was, but it was more about the psychology of a killer and what circumstances have to arise for a typical man to commit a murder. Especially a murder for someone else.

This novel wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. But I still enjoyed listening to it. I would want to read more of Highsmith’s work, especially The Price of Salt.

3/5

NOS4A2

This horror/thriller was my first time reading Joe Hill. While I thought that certain sections of the book could have been condensed, I liked it overall. I especially enjoyed listening to the audio book for this title because the narrator, Kate Mulgrew, was awesome.

This novel is the story of Victoria “Vic” McQueen, a woman with a special talent- she can find lost things. Opposing her is Charlie Manx, a man who steals children and takes them to Christmasland, a place where they can always be young and never have any responsibilities. Both of them are able to do this because of their imaginations and the strength of their interior worlds. This concept was one of my favorite things about the novel.

There are some scenes in this novel that are truly terrifying. To me, the scariest character in the novel was Bing Partridge, Manx’s helper. He’s just a sick and twisted man who likes killing and sexually abusing women, even after they’re dead. Those were the parts that made my stomach turn.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to this novel. Mulgrew is a talented narrator reading Hill’s great story. It was a little longer than it had to be, but I enjoyed all of it.

3/5

Into the Water

This newest novel by The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins is about a river where women have died for centuries. When a teenage girl and a woman die there mere months apart, it resurfaces many of the past deaths and the mysteries surrounding them. Especially because the recently deceased woman, Nel Abbott, was working on a book about the river’s history. Told through many different perspectives, this book not only tries to solve the history of Nel’s death, but the mysteries of the other women who have died there.

The book mainly follows Jules Abbott, Nel’s estranged sister. Due to a childhood trauma, Jules does not speak to Nel, even when she tries to call her repeatedly. When Nel dies, Jules is placed in charge of Lena, Nel’s “hot girl” daughter. Lena was also best friends with Katie, the teenager who died. These two characters are the main hubs between all of the other characters.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the structure. At first the multitude of characters and points of view was overwhelming. But it allowed Hawkins to unravel this small town and its secrets a little at a time. A picturesque town with a dark history slowly falls apart as we learn more.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. This one was more to my taste than The Girl on the Train, but that’s personal preferences. I can’t wait to read whatever she publishes next.

4/5

The Kind Worth Killing

A the recommendation of a patron, our unofficial circulation book club read this book. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson is a mystery/thriller that follows Lily, a woman who meets Ted on a plane. Ted confides in Lily that he wants to kill his wife, who he caught cheating on him.

While this sounds like it would be plenty for the plot of the novel, it is only the beginning. There are so many twists and turns in this book. Every time I thought that I knew the direction it was going, Swanson delivered another plot twist.

Unexpectedly, I loved this novel. It was more feminist than I thought it was going to be. I admit that I’m not an expert in this genre, but when I’ve read mysteries and thrillers written by men, the women are more archetypal than Lily. Even Miranda, who is painted as the shrew from the opening of the novel, has motives for her actions and is not just a plot device.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. After trying to guess the next plot twist during the first section, I eventually gave up and let Swanson lead me on his tightly crafted roller coaster. This isn’t the most cerebral novel, but it kept everyone in the book club intrigued and gave us plenty to discuss.

4/5

Before the Fall

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is about a man who performs a heroic act, and then he has to live with the consequences. This novel follows Scott Burroughs, a painter who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. After a plane crash from a flight he never should have been on, Scott saves the life of a boy who is now the sole inheritor of a media empire.

This novel slowly picks apart the mystery of why the plane crash happened by diving into the backstories of the people aboard the plane. I love stories that start with the center of the story and then pick apart everything else to give the viewer the full picture. This succeeds in this, as you would expect from the creator and writer of Fargo.

Overall, I really liked this novel up until the end. Hawley is a master of spinning narrative out of a central event. But I thought the ending of the novel was cliché. Hawley is too good of a plotter and writer to fall into the traps that he did. But this novel will make a great blockbuster movie and it has already been optioned.

3/5

IQ

I’ve only recently started reading mystery/thriller novels. This one was recommended to me by a newsletter I receive from the library. This novel is the first by Joe Ide and it follows Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe. He is a young adult in one of the poorest areas of LA. This modern Sherlock Holmes uses deductive reasoning to solve crimes from his neighborhood.

IQ gets hired to figure out who tried and is trying to kill Calvin, a rap star. The novel also tells of IQ’s past- how his brother died, his reaction to it, and how Dodson and him came to team up on this current case. IQ learned deductive reasoning in his quest for revenge for his brother’s death and uses that and his intelligence to solve this case.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this novel was that none of the main characters were white. Even though all of the good characters in this novel are people of color, none of them are solely stereotypes. Even Deronda, Dodson’s girlfriend, who is a curvy, loud, and needy black woman, has her own aspirations and is a pivotal part of the novel. This is just one example in a novel that stands out for not being like the majority of books in this genre.

4/5