Category Archives: Mystery & Thrillers

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐

(Mild spoilers)

lullaby
ˈlʌləbʌɪ/
noun
1. a quiet, gentle song sung to send a child to sleep.

Lullaby is one of the most creepiest novel I’ve ever read. “The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” After this banging beginning, the novel takes a detour and sets up the lives of our main characters who live in Paris. Myriam, a French-Morrocan woman, and her husband Paul have two young kids: lively Mila and baby Adam. Myriam loses her sense of self after motherhood and yearns for her dreams of being a successful lawyer to come true. Paul is a musician and is very busy. Myriam runs into her old friend from law school who offers her a job to work with him.

Enter: the nanny. I knew how this story was going to end, but I couldn’t stop reading. Leïla Slimani doesn’t offer a concrete plot but a series of incidents and scenes that are gradually more unsettling and disturbing. Louise seems to be the “perfect” nanny. She is friendly with the children, caring, and is content to cook and clean for the busy couple every day. As Louise’s personal life is slowly revealed, we catch a glimpse of who she is and what her intentions are. The novel subtly conveys themes relevant to us now:

The world of nannies who are predominantly a group of immigrants, legal or otherwise. They make the lives of white families easier.

The sense of fear in motherhood. Of having to choose between home and work.

The children who die everyday from neglect or violence.

Lullaby isn’t a mystery in the strictest sense, nor is it a thriller. We, the readers, know where the story is going exactly. And that’s the scariest part of it all.

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Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I went into this thriller with low expectations, and that at the very least I sought to be entertained even if the story was rubbish. But I was PLEASANTLY taken aback. Local Girl Missing is approved. A few months ago (or could’ve been last year) I started reading The Sisters – same author but her debut – and DNF’d it since the plot was going nowhere. I don’t remember much else. I think debuts are tricky, it’s either a hit or miss in any genre. Although I find that authors who write mystery or crime dole out books like it’s nobody’s business 📚 There’s more where that came from, so to speak.

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Local Girl Missing is about Frankie, a Londoner, who goes back to the seaside town she grew up in. What pulls her back to the town is a phone call from her best friend’s brother and news that parts of Sophie have been found. Sophie went missing 18 years ago and is believed to have been murdered. If you know anything about my reading tastes, I (capital l) Love mysteries set in small towns brimming with secrets. The story is divided between Frankie’s POV and Sophie’s diary and is thoroughly creepy as it leads up to the day when Sophie goes missing.

I enjoyed the novel a lot and flew through it. Not gonna lie, Frankie was a little annoying and immature at times. The ending was truly wtf, I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m now curious about Claire Douglas’ latest novel ‘Last Seen Alive,’ and I see it has amazing reviews on goodreads. Yay! I highly recommend Local Girl Alive if you’re going through a reading slump or just want to read a quick-paced thriller with a satisfying ending! 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (3. 5 stars) 

This was my first Agatha Christie novel! ❤️ My brother has been recommending Agatha Christie to me since a decade – no kidding. I really wanted to watch the movie which motivated me to pick up Murder on the Orient Express.

The novel is set entirely on a train travelling from Istanbul to London. Hercule Poirot, “the world’s most famous detective,” is aboard and as expected crime and mystery follows at his footsteps. On a snowy night, a man is found stabbed 12 times. There are a dozen travellers (now suspects) in the coach. What I loved about the novel was Poirot’s witticisms, the interrogation scenes, the backstory, and the final reveal. Agatha Christie’s writing is precise and to the point. So is the structure of the book.

My preference is towards seedier crime novels with modern settings, and Agatha Christie leans towards respectable or classic crime. I’ll definitely be picking her novels up in the future when I want a cozy read. After I finished reading Murder on the Orient Express I went to watch the movie a few hours later. It was lovely! I was from riveted start to finish and even though I knew what the suspense was I was still invested and entertained. Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job at directing and playing Poirot. I have no idea why the reviews online aren’t that favourable… I was not disappointed at all, this was a clean-cut mystery with a fantastic ending.

I’d highly recommend Murder on the Orient Express, both the novel and the film adaptation.

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Mystery/Thriller Reviews #2: Her Every Fear & Friend Request

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Trashy 3-star thrillers are my jam. A few months ago, my best friend read and hated (or expressed dissatisfaction for) The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson and proceeded to spoil the whole plot for my entertainment. It was silly but I was intrigued anyway, I really wanted to read Swanson. Her Every Fear was marketed as a “Hitchcockian Thriller” and… I was sold. Think, Dial M For Murder and The Talented Mr. Ripley but not as sensational.

The story goes like this: Kate and Corbin are apartment swapping cousins. Anxiety ridden, Kate is somewhat relieved to escape from her nightmarish past in London and live in a new city (Boston). The night she arrives at the apartment complex, Corbin’s next door neighbour Audrey has been found murdered. This novel had the potential to be great noir but Swanson shoots down the suspense fairly early on and the leftover plot is predictable.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall is my more recent read and I definitely enjoyed this more. I might be biased but imho, women authors write better domestic thrillers. Friend Request – as you’d have guessed – involves Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and haven’t looked back since. It honestly feels good to be rid of it & Laura Marshall is brilliant at describing just how soul-sucking social media is. The blurb on the front reads: “Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?” YES. The timeline flicks between 1989 and 2016 and is about Louise, a single mother in London, who carries a deeply tragic secret involving her classmate. There were many satisfying twists at the end which I did *not* see coming. A brilliant whodunit!

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This was a lovely little read! The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a historical paranormal-romance set in England during the 1920’s. Maybe I’m overreaching but I’ll use Simone St. James’ novels as palate cleansers in the future as her other works sound just as cozy and easy to get through as The Haunting of Maddy Clare… I don’t usually pick up paranormal novels but I do love ghost stories, especially at this time of year.

Sarah Piper is a young woman looking for work in London. Through the agency she works for Sarah is hired as an assistant to Alistair, a self proclaimed ghost-hunter. He writes and investigates ghost hauntings around England. The village of Waringstoke beckons them with the strange case of Maddy Clare, a servant girl who ‘lives on’ as a poltergeist. They (along with Matthew, Alistair’s other assistant) investigate Maddy’s past, as something clearly tragic occurred. I won’t spoil one certain aspect that I loved in the plot, but I felt like Simone St. James was paying a nod to Daphne du Maurier.

I loved the atmosphere – small village, secrets, the forest – and of course, the relationship between Sarah and Matthew is swoon-worthy. I also enjoyed reading the descriptions of Alistair’s and Matthew’s experiences as soldiers during WW1. Now these are aspects of the book I didn’t vibe with: the “mystery” was quite an easy one to solve and during the ending, Sarah got very close to ‘damsel in distress’ territory. Despite these minor flaws, I enjoyed reading The Haunting of Maddy Clare immensely! 

Final Girls by Riley Sager (Review)

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First of all, we need to talk about that cover. Dark forest or trees? Tick. Girl running away? Tick. Mist, dark colours, creepy atmosphere? TICKTICKTICK. I’m a fan of all the clichés. From what I gathered on the internet, Riley Sager is a pseudonym for a previously published author called Todd Ritter (don’t sue me if this isn’t true), and it’s interesting… because:

Aaaand suddenly: 

A little push from Stephen King is all that’s needed to create a bestselling thriller novel, apparently. Oh, and I bought into it. This book is fantastically entertaining. I knew this was a hyped up book and didn’t read the blurb. It’s best to get into Final Girls without any prior knowledge or anticipation of the story.

But if you’d still like to know more about it, well, keep on reading! If you’re a fan of compulsive thrilling reads or slasher films, this is for you. Personally, I’m not a fan of slasher films but I can see myself consuming books in this horrifying genre. For one, slasher stories are less scary on paper. But hey, it’s still creepy. 

So, a little bit about Final Girls: Quincy Carpenter was the sole survivor of a massacre when she was a teenager. All her friends died that night. The media calls her and women who went through similar experiences as ‘Final Girls’, named after the trope in popular horror movies. Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Is Quincy next? Final Girls was simultaneously predictable and unpredictable. I thought the ending was satisfying, and one of the best I’ve read this year in thriller novels.

The writing isn’t too bad, though a little generic at times. Coming back to clichés, this novel is full of them. Just a few examples: good girl gone bad, sex hurts for her first time, girls with frenemies. Despite all the eye-rolls and thinking “this is clearly written by a man!” (no offence to men out there) I loved the plot and will look forward to reading Riley Sager’s future novels 😄📚

Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐  (3.5 stars)

Finally, a thriller without the word “girl” in the title. I’m not averse to those books but it was refreshing to read Liz Nugent’s second novel. Lying In Wait packs a punch – it is original and structured in a way differently to your average thriller. Its opening line: “My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it” pulled me into the crazy, twisted story immediately.

Lying In Wait is set in 1980’s Dublin and follows three narrators: Lydia, wife to the husband in question, Laurence, their son, and Karen, the younger sister of the murdered woman (Annie). As I said, the novel is structured uniquely. It begins with the reader fully aware of what is the ‘ending’ in most traditional thrillers and the reason why the murder took place. The secret is kept under wraps for a while but not for long as Karen is relentless in her search for answers. I enjoyed how messed up Lydia is and how unexpectedly dark she and Laurence are. Nugent also explores class relations, the lax police and mental health systems in Ireland. Highly recommended.