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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

November 4, 2023

3 Thrillers That You Won't Want to Put Down

by MK French

The nights are getting longer and colder - perfect for curling up with a great book. You won't want to put these thrillers down.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre

book cover of domestic thriller novel The Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre
November 2023; Scarlet; 978-1613164426
audio, ebook, print (360 pages); domestic thriller

Forty-two-year-old Jennifer is getting married for the second time but is still going to go all out for her bachelorette weekend. She's taking her closest friends to a remote Scottish island for luxurious pampering, but one person goes missing. The only thing linking these women together is her, and how well does she actually know them?

Seven women on a remote island is essentially a locked room mystery. Of course, each of them has secrets, and of course those secrets will play a role in motive and whether or not the reader actually cares about them. From the start, Jen has trust issues, which sucks you right into the story. We meet all of the women as they get together in the airport and reach Clachan Geal, and get a glimpse at the relationships between them. We discover why Jen has those issues, the secrets old friends had kept, and the reveals as the women search for Jen's future sister-in-law. The searching is tense, the heart-to-heart conversations gripping, and the many reveals over the course of the novel are fantastically placed. This thriller will keep you guessing as you stay up late to finish it.

Buy The Cliff House at Amazon

The Girl in the Vault by Michael Ledwidge

book cover of legal thriller novel The Girl in the Vault by Michael Ledwidge
November 2023; Hanover Square Press; 978-1335455086
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); legal thriller

Faye Walker has a coveted internship on Wall Street, the love of her life, and a ridiculous work ethic. She expects to work for Greene Brothers Hale, but a betrayal shatters her plans. Faye isn’t willing to leave New York City for her small town. Instead, careful timing and nerves of steel should net her ten million dollars in Wall Street cash.

Aside from the stinger of a prologue to catch our interest, we're thrust into Faye's world where she catches mistakes for other interns, makes plans and contingency plans, expects to help her sister also leave Kentucky, and hopes to make it big. The betrayal comes early, and the full-time position she thought she earned by crunching numbers and orders like a machine, skipping meals, and covering for others, was taken by those she covered for. As she says, "It's a class ceiling. For everyone." Without the paid job, all of her plans and dreams go up in smoke, and it would be going back to the trailer park in Kentucky. The theft is meant to be her severance package and is essentially a vault heist using money for special accounts that she had handled and remembers the account numbers for.

As much as Faye tries to plan ahead or get by on her Southern charm, of course, there are things she can't predict that send it all sideways. Enough of the steps had gone through without a hitch, and once it goes bad, it goes bad.  That makes it even more intense and thrilling to read, and it's a roller coaster ride until the very end. It's a great story, sure to keep you up at night.

Buy The Girl in the Vault at Amazon

Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker

book cover of thriller novel Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker
November 2023; Angry Robot; 978-1915202734
audio, ebook, print (360 pages); thriller

When David was young, people went missing in town and there were nests of bones and bodies up in the mountains. His parents and sister avoided talking about it, saying they were protecting him. Now that he's twenty-six, living alone and not thinking much about the future. A package arrived stating he had to stay on planet Earth, rekindling memories he'd long suppressed.

The literary prose of the book adds to the haunting sense of grief that surrounds David. There are two threads to the story, labeled Before and After; at first it isn't entirely clear who the After chapters are all about. But the Before thread starts with David as a child bonding with his grandfather and being kept away from news reports of the missing people in town. He's silent and odd, and even his own family doesn't understand him. People assume the worst of him, and don't try to get his point of view or even ask why he does the things that he does. The silence around him means David really doesn't have much understanding regarding death or the missing, so he comes across as much younger than he actually is. His oddness continues as he grows up and gets an apartment on his own more for the space to craft a chrysalis out of dirt, leaves, branches and decayed animals. He doesn't have much connection to the world, and seizes on signs that might tie his reality to his grandfather, who had studied string theory and parallel dimensions. Suddenly it all clicks, and he's one of those people who are simply born into the wrong universe.

Keeping David and the reader in the dark somehow still draws us in, likely because young David's story is intercut with the After thread of the story, where the narrator is searching for Mothtown and the mountain that will bring him a sense of belonging. He's out of supplies, out of sorts, and being followed. The dread is palpable, and I kept turning pages to find out what would happen next, even as I didn't fully get the sense that I understood David any better than his family did. I understood the lack of connection to others and the mistakes he made along the way. He's desperate for a place to belong, for a connection and sense of purpose he never found before. This novel is lyrical and sad, a melancholic study on the ways loss can transform people, and that further transformation is necessary for healing. 

Buy Mothtown at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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