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Alex

Alex
Pierre Lemaitre

Alex was an excellent detective thriller, with more than one suprising plot twist. In fact, I’m having a hard time writing a review with no spoilers because the plot twists are so major. I’ll do my best, but trust me, the book is better than my review makes it sound.

There are three major crime segments in Alex. Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven is the driving force in investigating all of them. First of all, a young woman named Alex is kidnapped, jammed into a wooden crate so small she cannot stretch or lie down, and suspended from a rope in an abandoned warehouse. When Commandant Camille does manage to find her kidnapper, he dies before telling police anything; leaving Alex with no food or water, at the mercy of the rats.
Next, Commandant Camille is trying to solve a series of murders where victims were killed by having acid poured down their throats. He feels the killings are of a sexual nature, but others are skeptical; and when a woman turns up among the victims, it seems Camille is wrong.
Finally, there is a suicide, which might just be a murder. Commandant Camille finally uncovers the original crime at the root of all these deaths and unravels the twisted thread tying all these horrible crimes together.

The crimes, the murders, the plot twists- those are enough to make this book a page-turner. But Commandant Camille Verhoeven is the real stand-out of the story. A short man with a big ego and a kitten named Doudouche, Camille is neurotic and briliant as we expect our best fictional detectives to be. He is understandably reluctant to take on the Alex case, having lost his own wife and unborn child in a kidnapping gone wrong. Solving the case requires confronting his own inner demons.
If Lemaitre had just stopped at Commandant Camille, this would have been a good enough detective thriller. But he goes on to surround Camille with a cast of characters that are compelling on their own. Louis is Camille’s former partner, reunited with him to solve this crime. The two of them communicate in a way that only long-term coworkers can. Le Guen is Camille’s boss, who forces him to take the Alex case. The author describes them as being like an old married couple- they fight but understand each other perfectly. Armand is another coworker, who initially provides comic relief for desciptions of what a miser he is. But it turns out maybe he has a generous heart. Together, these police officers form a team with depth and color around Commandant Camille.

Alex is being sold as the first book in the Commandant Camille Verhoeven trilogy. I hope they hurry up and translate the others from French,  because I can’t wait to read them. I want another detectice thriller with this kind of fast-paces writing and unexpected twists. I also want to read more about Commandant Camille and his team!

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You might like: The Bat, Nesbo. The Abomination, Holt. Any of the Deleware/Sturgis novels by Kellerman.

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The Abomination

The Abomination
Jonathon Holt

The cover of this book caught my eye, so I opened the flap and read a description that included these words: murder, intrigue, conspiracy, Venice, CIA, Catholic Church. That was all it took! And I was not disappointed. This debut novel was great!

Daniele is a reclusive computer genius who created an online virtual Venice, known as Carnivia. He is facing charges for his refusal to turn over Carnivia secrets to the Italian government.
Holly is a military brat turned Army officer stationed for the first time in Italy, where she grew up. Her post as a community liason sounds boring- until a journalist shows up with a request for information relating to the Bosnian conflict. The files keep happening to get moved, or lost, or shredded, driving Holly to her father’s old friends for help.
Kat is an Italian Carabinieri recently promoted to the murder squard. She is assigned to a case involving a dead woman dressed as a Catholic priest. The investigation involves an old (possibly haunted) island and occult symbols. All the while, Kat’s feelings for her older male mentor are getting more complicated.

Holt does an excellent job of establishing each of the charaters and their individual stories, and then gradually weaving them together like a spiderweb reaching its center. He throws in plenty of  interesting elements, like human trafficking, Catholic controversies,  and of course the promised CIA conspiracies.
I felt that Holt also did a good job of writing his two female leads. Male thriller writes don’t typically do that well.

I was not disappointed in The Abomination. But I didn’t realize how good it was until the book was over- then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I kept wanting to go back to the worlds Holt had created- both Venice and the virtual Carnivia. Thank goodness this is just the first book of a trilogy! I hope Holt writes the next ones quickly, because I can’t wait to read them!

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You might like: Daemon, Daniel Suarez. Street Dreams, Faye Kellerman.

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Ghostman

Ghostman, Roger Hobbs

Jack is a ghostman. He is a career criminal who specializes in making people disappear. Not killing them, no, but helping criminals find new lives and identities to avoid getting caught. His speciality is bank robbers. Of course Jack himself disappears on a frequent and regular basis. Imagine his suprise to get a call from someone who knows his old alias- its Marcus.
Five years ago, Jack was on a team that Marcus hand-picked for an elaborate bank heist. It was Jack’s mistake that screwed up the plan, costing them not only a multi-million dollar payout, but cost some of the team their lives. Now, Marcus is back to collect his debt. He gets Jack involved in another scheme involving a casino robbery, a federal payload, and a drug lord known as The Wolf.
Ghostman alternates between the bank heist 5 years ago and the casino robbery in the present- equally interesting crimes involving numerous felons, hit men, wheelmen, jugmarkers, con men and even one FBI agent. A good thriller involves a very tight balance between action and characterization: too much plotting and introspection, and you no longer have a thriller; but make it all car chases and gun fights, and readers don’t care about your character. Roger Hobbs manages to get it right on the first try, writing a book that I gobbled in one sitting (staying up far too late of course) but which stuck in my mind for days after.
Ghostman has lots of violence, of course. Its not overly graphic (for the genre) but its very casual. People die all the time and no one really cares. I found that a little chilling- which of course fit the sociopathic character of Jack perfectly. I don’t do spoilers, but let me just say there is a scene of Russian Roulette that literally had me twitching with each pull of the trigger.
Ghostman had double-crosses to spare, and kept me guessing to the very last page- when, of course, Jack once again disappears.

You might like: Jeff Abbot, Owen Laukkanen.

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The English Girl

The English Girl
Daniel Silva

Do you like spy thrillers, but feel they lack culture? Do you ever wish your spy characters were skilled in music and art as well as clandestine intrigue and killing? It’s time to start reading Daniel Silva’s spy thrillers starring Gabriel Allon, master art restorer/forger and Israeli assassin/spy!
The English Girl is the 16th Gabriel Allon now, but Silva does a good job filling in key elements of the backstory in a few lines. This novel starts with a kidnapping for ransom, gets tangled up with the Corsican mafia, spends a while with a complicated secret identity scheme, and ends with a massive twist! The Russians get to be the “bad guys” in this one, giving it a very classic spy novel feel.
The “spy” aspect of Daniel Silva’s writing- the classic tradecraft, political wrangling and double-crosses- brings to mind LeCarre, but with a little more killing and fewer tedious descriptions of blind drops and old men talking. The “thriller” side of his writing- the car chases, assassins, and twists- reminds me of Ludlum, with more reliance on fellow spies and more finessed kills. Gabriel Allon is a character of depth and experience. The recurring supporting cast in the stories is well drawn, especially Allon’s mentor Ari Shamron.
After years of coaxing and scheming, it seems like Shamron might finally have talked Allon into becoming chief of “The Office.” Allon is getting older, and there are developments in his personal life that might keep him closer to home, so I can imagine that Silva might  finally write him in to that role. However, I’m sure circumstances would require his presence on the field of operations often enough to keep things interesting.
It doesn’t really matter if you’ve always wanted to read about an art restorer spy assassin or not. If you want to read a spy novel at all, you should be reading Daniel Silva’s books. He is one of the best- if not the best- out there.

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You might like: (authors rather specific titles): Olen Steinhauer, Alan Furst

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Close My Eyes

Close My Eyes
Sophie McKenzie

This book is this summer’s Gone Girl. From the tense, fast-paced writing, to the messed-up but sympathetic characters, to the twist ending that keeps on twisting… and twisting… seriously, I have no idea why this book is not already a blockbuster.
Gen and her husband Art are facing yet another round of fertility treatments, years after the stillbirth of their only child, Beth. One day, a woman shows up on their doorstep with the shattering news that their baby was not born dead. Gen embarks on a quest for the truth that grows increasingly convoluted and frightening. At first, the things she uncovers could be coincidences, but she remains convinced her baby is alive out there somewhere. Her husband and best friend Hen question her sanity, but she persists. Apparently random hit and run accidents, parties with lots of drinking, and a rather sketchy Irish soap actor named Lorcan conspire to keep Gen on her quest.
SPOILER ALERT: husbands make good fall guys but they aren’t always what they seem.
Also, the plot twists keep you guessing until literally the turn of the last page. If you want to spend a few hours or days immersed in a totally screwed up, edge of your seat,  page turner,  run- don’t walk- to your nearest bookstore or ebook purchasing site.

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You might like: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn