2000 - 2007 Thriller

Hurting Distance – Sophie Hannah


Long listed for the 2008 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

Little Face was one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read, so I was very keen to try another one of Sophie Hannah’s books. Hurting Distance is the second book in series. I think you can understand it without having read the first, but you would miss out on a few of the small plot lines that continue from one book to the next. If you want to follow the lives of the police officers then I recommend that you read them in order.

Hurting Distance is much darker than Little Face. The whole book revolves around a serial rapist, so it is quite disturbing in places. The story is told through the eyes of Naomi who was raped three years ago and didn’t report the crime. Robert, her lover, vanishes but the police don’t believe it is worth investigating. In a desperate attempt to get them to take her seriously Naomi accuses Robert of rape, using the details of the crime that was committed against her all those years ago.

The book then became a fast paced investigation, packed with unexpected twists and turns. There were a few too many unlikely coincidences for my liking, but on the whole it was an enjoyable read.

I don’t think it was quite as good as Little Face, but I remain a big fan of Sophie Hannah and look forward to reading the rest of her books.

I was totally gripped. Novel Insights

Despite its plot implausibilities, HURTING DISTANCE is a gripping tale.  Euro Crime

There is suspense and a lot of twists without it being over complicated….. Savidge Reads

Sophie Hannah’s new book A Room Swept White was released earlier this year and she has recently announced that her books are being adapted for television – I can’t wait!

Have you read any of Sophie Hannah’s books?

Which one did you enjoy the most?

Books in Translation Chunkster Crime Mystery Thriller

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson

Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland

I’m confused. Please could someone explain why everyone raves about this book; why it has sold millions of copies around the world and why people are describing it as the best crime novel ever. I just don’t understand it – I found it to be just average, with quite a few flaws.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does have a reasonably complex plot, with several different threads running parallel to each other, but the basic premise involves solving a murder, which remained a mystery for almost 40 years.

My main problem with the book was that I guessed the ending very early on. In my view, a fantastic crime novel will leave little clues along the way, continually leading you to think one thing, then doubt yourself and guess again.  This book failed to do that – I just found my initial suspicions becoming stronger, until I was disappointingly proved right.

I also found the pace of the book to be slow. The beginning especially, contained far too many facts. I found myself becoming bogged down in the details, so was unable to find the reading experience enjoyable in several places.

I have heard a few people mention the negative portrayal of women in the book, and have to agree that this is another flaw. The original Swedish title can be translated as Men Who Hate Women, so I can see why it was changed for the international audience!  The poor treatment of women in this book was a minor problem, but I think that reading books like 2666 recently has dulled my sensitivity to these issues and other people may be far more offended than I was.

I did find the writing to be of a good quality, and the translation was excellent, but the plot was a big disappointment. It contained nothing ground-breaking, or particularly clever – it was just an average crime novel, no better than the thousands of other ones produced each year. Am I missing something? What makes this book so special?



Did you enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Are the sequels better?

2008 Audies Audio Book Booker Prize Other Prizes Recommended books Thriller

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith (Audio Book)

Child 44 was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2008 and it’s presence on the list caused a lot of controversy. I had heard so many different reactions to it that I really didn’t know what to expect. I was planning to read it, but when I saw that it won thriller of the year at the Audies I decided to listen to it instead. I am very pleased I made that decision as it is one of the best audio books I have ever listened to.

The book is set in Stalinist Russia during the 1950s and follows Leo, a state security agent, who slowly realises that the system he is part of arrests and tortures innocent people. He decides to work alone, risking everything to find the identity of a man who is murdering children across the country.

I loved every moment of listening to this book – I was gripped throughout. The complex plot was perfectly paced, the characters believable and packed with layers of emotion which were gradually revealed over the course of the book.

I can see why many people objected to this book’s inclusion on the Booker list – it is not literary fiction and contained no symbolism or hidden meanings buried in the text. It is simply a very good thriller, so anyone after a book to study for hours would be disappointed. As a thriller I can’t fault it – the twists were surprising and well thought out, the dilemmas the characters faced were thought provoking and tragic, and the cold, icy setting was perfect for adding to the chilling atmosphere.

There  were a few gruesome scenes, so the squeamish (especially those who love cats!) should proceed with caution, but I thought the violence was appropriate and was needed to emphasize the difficult circumstances the Russian people had to endure on a daily basis.

I highly recommend this book, especially the expertly narrated audio version, to anyone who loves engaging thrillers.



Did you enjoy Child 44?

Have you read the sequel, The Secret Speech?

2009 Horror Recommended books Thriller

The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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< ?php echo amazon('0007310250','The Strain’); ?> begins with a plane arriving in JFK airport, New York. The landing proceeds normally, but shortly after touch down all contact is lost. Confused and frightened the airport employees approach the plane to discover what has happened. What they discover is beyond their worst imagination….

This initial section is one of the most chilling pieces of writing I have ever read. I was genuinely scared, my heart rate racing as the story unfolded. The tension was built perfectly – just as the climax was approaching the scene would switch, leading to the  tension mounting all over again.

Unfortunately the book did not manage to maintain the level of fear throughout. Once the cause of the disaster had been identified the book lost much of its appeal to me. I won’t reveal what happens, but I’ll just say that it isn’t very likely to occur and therefore I didn’t find it scary any more. There were still moments of tension, but they were nothing compared to the first few chapters.

This book is very well written and the scientific analysis was accurate and intriguing. I found the descriptions to be very cinematic, but that isn’t surprising given the fact that Guillermo del Toro is the Oscar winning creator of Pan’s Labyrinth. I can picture this book being made into a film without the need to change anything.

One big drawback was that the source of the problem, when it was explained in detail later in the book, did not bare any relation to the events in the plane. This is just nit picking though. The Strain is an amazing book. Perfectly paced, chilling and intelligently written – a perfect choice for Halloween, (or the RIP Challenge!).




NB. This is the first book in a trilogy. It worked as a stand alone novel though, and I can’t imagine how they will make the next in the series as good as this one. I’ll be interested to find out though!!

Are you a fan of scary books?

If you’ve read it – did you think that the events on the plane were related to the rest of the book?

2008 2009 Thriller

Six Suspects – Vikas Swarup

I loved Q&A (the book the film Slumdog Millionaire is based on) and so was excited to find Vikas Swarup’s latest book in the library. Unfortunately Six Suspects isn’t quite as good as Q&A.

The title refers to the six people who are all discovered carrying a gun at a party in which Vicky Rai, the son of a high-profile Indian Minister, is shot. Through a series of short stories we see into the lives of these people, and their motives for killing Vicky Rai are revealed.

Some sections were really good, especially the story of the mobile phone thief who found a briefcase full of money, but this seemed too similar to the central character in Q&A, who also suddenly comes into a lot of money. It felt like the best sections from Q&A had been condensed and then repeated here.

There were many sections of the book which seemed unlikely, and it didn’t have to charm be able to pull it off. One of the characters gets kidnapped and this section in particular seemed very unrealistic. The book touches on some very difficult subjects, including suicide bombings and poverty, but I felt these were rushed over and so I failed to get an insight into the minds of these people.  The fact that there were six central characters also meant that I didn’t really bond with them that well, as by the time I was getting to know them they were replaced with the next suspect. The sights and sounds of India were also not as present in this book as they should have been.

It is a light, easy read, and it’s 560 pages fly by, but I was disappointed by the ending, as although it is quite clever, it isn’t possible to work out who the murderer is, and that is what I love most about thrillers.

Overall, it was OK, but I recommend you read Q&A instead.


Did you enjoy reading Q&A?

I haven’t seen the film Q&A yet? Which did you prefer – the book or the film?

2008 2009 Mystery Thriller

Bleeding Heart Square – Andrew Taylor

Winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger 2009

I really enjoyed The American Boy, which was a Richard and Judy choice a few years ago, so was interested to see what Andrew Taylor’s latest book would be like. I don’t think Bleeding Heart Square is quite as good as The American Boy, but it gets quite close.

Bleeding Heart Square
is set in London, just before the WWII. The central character is Lydia Langstone – she flees her abusive husband to live with her elderly father in Bleeding Heart Square. Soon the landlord starts to receive foul smelling hearts in the post, and Lydia sets out to investigate whether there is a link between the horrible parcels and the landlord’s missing lover, Miss Penhow.

Period atmosphere is present throughout, and the book is very well researched, but I found it slow in several sections. The begining and end were perfectly written, but there were many points in the middle sections where my mind started wondering. I loved Lydia, but found many of the side characters blended in to one another, as they weren’t vivid enough to picture as individuals.

The mystery was cleverly written, but I did guess the twist in the end, which is perhaps why I am scoring this book a bit lower than I otherwise would.

It is a nice, light thriller though, so may be worth picking up if you’re looking for something with a bit of Gothic atmosphere.



Andrew Taylor is highly thought of in the crime writing world, and has won the CWA John Creasey Award, an Edgar Scroll and two CWA Ellis Peters Historical Daggers. I was surprised to learn that he has written more than 25 books.

Have you read any of his books? Which one is your favourite?