Archive for Adult Fiction – Thrillers

Ash by James Herbert

When asked what, throughout my 35 odd years of avid book reading, is my favourite book, my answer is always ‘the book I am currently reading’. Ash by James Herbert is my latest read and I enjoyed every page! If you want action served with your chills, this is the book to get!

The ‘Ash’ of the title is a complex absinthe drinking parapsychologist occult investigator called David Ash who for an occupation involves himself in the paranormal. A character in the book states “ghosts, they can’t harm you” – but how far from the truth this turns out to be.

If you are a James Herbert fan you may be familiar with the character of David Ash who has turned up in earlier titles such as “The Ghosts of Sleath”.

In Ash, following an inexplicable death the parapsychologist is commissioned to attend Comraich, a haunted Scottish castle with a secret agenda. He has to determine the degree of the problem and to attempt to eradicate or at the very least provide solutions as to the exorcizing of the paranormal activity that seems to exist.

Comraich Castle is a secret hiding place for people generally in the public profile who the rest of the world believes are dead but who live in secret here, for a big fee. These people live in palatial surroundings whilst below ground, within the dungeons exist those poor souls defined as criminally insane. Why are they here?

Ash by James HerbertThere is a bold array of characters in the book such as the bald assassin Cedric Twigg, the demure psychologist who Ash falls in love with, the guilt ridden ex priest now security guard at Comraich, the incestuous twins Petra and Peter, the demon love child of Hitler, the mutant “Boy”, former presidents and military genocide dictators and so on.

Ash realises before long that everyone is in danger and that an evil demon has been awakened in the Castle that in fact the castle itself and the grounds surrounding it, are in fact deadly. The first manifestation was the death of one of the guests. His body was arranged in the style of a crucifix and seemingly and impossibly stuck to a wall. The second manifestation of evil at the castle was the flies at dinner time and the third was in the form of the hunting pack of Scottish wildcats. Whatever is likely to happen next? You will be on the edge of your seat, flicking those pages ten to the dozen!

Ash by James Herbert is an exceptional read! Treat yourself!

Perfect People by Peter James

This is not an Inspector Roy Grace book but don’t hold it against it!

If you’re in the mood for a bit of escapism with some patches of reality combined with a fast paced thriller, you could do worse than to pick up a copy of “Perfect People” by Peter James. I’m new to his books and find they’re a lively read with great vividly described characters. Having devoured Perfect People I am now trying for size one of his Roy Grace novels “Looking Good Dead”. I have become a convert to this style of book and hungrily reading all about this sinister world packed with murder and psychopaths.

Perfect People - Peter James

In Perfect People you immediately find yourself along with the couple John and Naomi Klaesson aboard a boat off the coast of America. It soon becomes apparent that the couple are here not on holiday but with the intention in mind to design a baby along with the geneticist Dr Leo Dettore. The couple, finding that they were both carriers of the disease genes that were responsible for the terrible illness and death of their first born son have decided they need a son without the risk of dying an horrific death.

The genetics programme they are about to commence takes place offshore because it is considered immoral and not to mention illegal. The treatment is extremely expensive and they have borrowed considerable amounts of money from their friends and family.

The book takes a sinister turn when the couple meet with the geneticist to discuss the character trait they would like designed for their baby. A huge list is produced and the couple are shocked having to consider all the traits they would prefer of their child though they would just rather their child was healthy.

This was a book that took Peter James nearly 10 years to write and since starting to write it the fantasy of using genetics to create a specific make up of child has become a reality today. This raises questions like will genetic profiling lead to a Utopian society or will it be the downfall of the human race?

You can sympathise with the characters of Naomi and John, totally understanding their need to produce another child without the risks. But playing god with childbirth is something that comes with a number of risks which include threats of murder by religious cults.

Throughout Naomi’s pregnancy you fear for her life as it becomes obvious the religious group want to put an end to her life as they have done previously with other genetic profiling recipients. The suspense keeps coming even after childbirth. Watch out for the paranoia taking over as Peter James skilfully plays with your nerves. You’ll be hanging onto every word!

Ultimately and undeniably, this was an amazing read with a shocking ending, of which I will not spoil! Go read it folks! I can highly recommend it to you!

Looking Good Dead by Peter James

An adrenalin fuelled, rapid page turner Roy Grace police drama from the one of the best, Peter James, Looking Good Dead starts as it means to go on. Company owner Tom Bryce, like many of us, finds himself sat on a train to work distracted by a loud character sat opposite him, yelling at high volume into his mobile phone. At his stop, the larger than life character gets off leaving behind a CD. Tom Bryce considers running after him but doesn’t bother deciding he will hand it in to railway Lost Property (to serve the man right for annoying him with his loud phone conversation).

Looking Good DeadWhat follows is something unimaginable. Tom arrives home with the CD and decides to take a look at what is on it. He is shocked and horrified. The contents of the CD is that of a piece of film of a woman being killed in her flat. Though it is in fact a snuff movie Tom Bryce thinks the attractive girl in the CD bears more than a passing resemblance to Gwyneth Paltrow and, though disturbed by the imagery, decides the realistic footage must be acting. The next day he receives a terrifying warning from the film maker/killer.

As soon as you pick this book up you feel you can’t put it down. The characters are easily understand and as this is my first Roy Grace book I found this very well done by the author. From the creepy sadistic Albanian to the shipping forecast reciter oddball The Weatherman the bad guys do their job and send chills down your spine from the off.  The spiritualist visiting DS Roy Grace is a detective inspector in the Sussex CID with a team of interesting and very different police officers of varying abilities and character flaws. Branson was a particular favourite on his quest to bring his friend and DS Grace kicking and screaming into the modern day with fashion, music and dating advice. Grace, whose wife disappeared some time ago has just about resigned himself to never finding out what happened to her and is ready to fall in love again. In this book he decides to ask the Chief Mortician Cleo Morey out to find after hitting it off with her on their first date that just as in the case of his work, she isn’t all she seems either. Is anything straightforward in a Peter James novel?

The character Tom Bryce on the surface is a happily married man. He loves his wife Kellie despite her addiction to eBay and such like. She can’t help herself seeking out ‘bargains’ and the truth is that the funds are not as bottomless as she believes with Tom’s business suffering in the recession hit market.

What follows is some unimaginable horror as the snuff market continues to thrive undetected until Sussex CID get the break they need to put an end to it or dare I say, ‘snuff it out’.

This is an excellent read complete with total escapism and characters that you can follow in the other Roy Gace stories. What more could you ask for?

The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert

Prepare yourself for an amazing richly atmospheric ghost story.

Writers like James Herbert and Stephen King are to blame for my overactive imagination! I have been reading Herbert ever since The Rats and The Fog hit the shelves. I can still remember the thrill of the read and how I, a mere teenager, first went upon my horror rollercoaster read as though it were yesterday! It’s good to know that there are others out there who hugely appreciate the talents of James Herbert – the king of the horror/ghost story!

The Secret Of Crickley HallThe Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert was fantastic! One of my favourite Herbert books! The story begins with the arrival of a family moving into the huge, forbidding but stately Crickley Hall in a place cheerfully known as the Devil’s Cleave. The family have moved as they have recently lost the young son – he tragically just disappeared. So, thinking it would be best for all, the father, the American Gabe, manages to convince everyone that moving into an old creepy mansion-like building would be just the ticket to help them move on from their tragedy.

The house is dark and as with all houses of a certain age, there are creepy sounds and puddles of water have a habit of appearing. Gabe being at work from day to day is oblivious to the paranoia that is as much a part of the house as the dust and the termites. Eve, the wife, becoming increasingly unsettled engages the services of a psychic or a paranormal investigator if you will (and who can blame her!). Throughout her grief for her son she and her daughter are hearing all sorts at night such as the sound of hasty bare footed running, the whipping sound of a headmaster’s cane etc. There is a very nasty scene where the daughter is actually whipped by a spectre who turns out to be the sadistic Cribben the ghost of the headmaster of what was previously an orphanage. As dark and atmospheric as Crickley Hall, it didn’t come anywhere near creeping me out as the character of Cribben did. Those children under his command feared him like he was the devil and he enjoyed the power that he had over them. You feel so helpless that you can’t help these innocent little children and save them from the unadulterated cruelty they have to endure in the place of the love they should be getting from their parents.

As the chills increase with nightly apparitions the story strips back the surface and takes you back to a time when Crickley Hall flooded. It was in fact during 1940 and the former orphanage was inundated with evacuees from Blitz fearing London. It turns out the children would have been much better off living in fear of the bombs in London with their mothers than in the hands of the sadistic headmaster and his sidekicks in bomb free rural Devon. Disaster ensues when the village is devastated by flood and Crickley Hall becomes terrifyingly flooded. Children used to hiding from Cribben within the wall panelling are unable to escape their self-imposed exiles and so tragically drown. We eventually discover that it is the spirits of these frightened children along with the sadistic headmaster who continue to this day to haunt the house.

If you like this book, some further reading by the same author that I highly recommend include The Magic Cottage and the Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert.

The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday

Here’s a creepy book if ever I read one! The thing is it doesn’t seem that way at first, until you get sucked in! Loved this rollercoaster ride! It’s a story about a married couple who have got stuck into their dull routines. Elizabeth is particularly fed up with things but Michael is quite happy pottering about in his dull uneventful manner.

The Girl On The Landing - Paul TordayMichael takes trips over to his gloomy ancestral Highland retreat  Beinn Caorrun. He’s proud of the house and is chuffed to be in a position to enjoy a stately Highland home no matter how damp and remote it is.

All of a sudden the boring Michael changes into a much more interesting character – someone who his wife finds exciting. This change seems to happen as a result of spotting within a picture what he thinks is a captivating girl on a landing in the Scottish house.

What you begin to discover as the story unfolds is that this is a story of mental illness. Michael takes pills to help with his depression until he stops one day. The brilliance of the book is due to the way the story is presented to us. At first you read a chapter and get to know the male character and his day to day type existence. I liked him at first although yes he was a tad dull. The next chapter, we got to know his wife Elizabeth. She’s not what you would call a contented wife however financially it is clear that she has no worries. She is pretty bored though. And so the story progresses as you get to know the 2 characters intimately and what makes them tick. Then gradually things change as the married couple become interested in each other. It is evident there is a case of mental breakdown going on but at first its not in a bad way. Everyone is having fun. Gradually, Michael’s character experiences vivid dreams or what turn out to be flashbacks of a time or times in his past.

As the story unfolds we are privy first hand to the mental illness of Michael and become concerned as you would a friend that he is losing his grip on reality. Most importantly, through the chapters on his wife you realise through her investigations that Michael does have problems with depression. What she doesn’t realise is that he is gradually becoming psychotic and her life will be at risk if she sticks around.

This is a book you won’t forget in a hurry! You will find the characters had very gradually cajoled you into living their experiences through them. As you would never take your eye off the ball in a match I found I couldn’t put this book down for doing so would make me vulnerable. I got dragged into this story hook line and sinker and like waking up relieved from a nightmare I was almost similarly relieved that the scary bits were a story and not my real life!

Paul Torday is a great writer. I have read a few other books by him such as The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – I loved each one of them. I now realise there are a few more to catch up on such as the Legacy of Hartlepool Hall and The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers. Watch this space!

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

Here’s an uncomfortable holiday read! This is a brilliant book that is probably best not read on or before a holiday … as did I to my regret! A holiday can be a rewarding experience especially when open to the cultural nuances and differences. We all have differing ideas of what a good holiday constitutes and for many of us, it is to meet new people and enjoy a learning experience. If we are lucky too, a good holiday offers peace and relaxation.

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan opens with a married couple, Colin and Mary. They are on holiday possibly to fix their broken relationship but to a greater extent, this holiday to them (I felt) is a way to take their attention off the failings of each other by enjoying new sights.

The Comfort Of Strangers - Ian McEwanThe holiday (in Venice or thereabouts) begins as many do with the couple taking things slowly, enjoying a meal out and an evening stroll until they get lost in a sort of labyrinthine collection of narrow streets with not a soul about. The holiday then feels menacing and claustrophobic. Not knowing what is waiting around the corner in a strange land is not something we hope to encounter on holiday and you read such terrible stories of what can go wrong during a seemingly innocent holiday in the sun.

Whilst this isn’t the most ideal of holiday reads because the book will leave you so paranoid that you won’t ever want to leave your apartment, I found I couldn’t put it down. There’s something about Ian McEwan for me. To read him is to feel like a wiser person. He knows things through his encounters and you feel grateful that he chooses to share his wisdom with you. You feel privileged somehow, this is why once I’d read Atonement, I picked up Solar, Saturday, Amsterdam and this one and I’m so glad that I did!

Back to the menacing storyline awaiting you! The lost unhappy couple are rescued by a local man. He’s big on charisma and offers to help them and takes them to a bar that is so hidden from the tourist trail that only the locals know about it. Ideal. A holiday that changes direction through a chance encounter with a local is the perfect way to tap into the underbelly of an unknown holiday destination. But there’s a big ‘but’, the couple are not allowed to take off and disappear into the nearest crowd of holidaymakers into oblivion, for their ‘rescuer’ wants to tie them into meeting up again. They get to know the man’s wife over at their home and a seemingly nice couples’ situation gets going. Everyone has their issues and Colin and Mary were certainly not without theirs and so too were their holiday ‘hosts’. What ensues is a very disturbing event followed by a macabre ending.

Read this book! You won’t be disappointed! But do not read this book on your holidays as it could spoil your trip – one way or another!!

The Water’s Lovely – Ruth Rendell

Born in London in 1930, Ruth Rendell is a prolific author of mystery novels.

Published in 2007, The Water’s Lovely, is centred around a London family torn apart by a long-buried murder. Told mostly in flashbacks, the story portrays Guy Rolland, stepfather to sisters Heather and Ismay.

Twelve years ago, at age fifteen, Ismay accepted Guy’s flirtations, but thirteen-year-old Heather did not. Heather ultimately kills her perverted stepfather by drowning him in the bathtub. The death is officially ruled as an accident, and the family boards up the bathroom where Guy drowned, continuing to live in the house as if nothing ever happened.

The Water's Lovely - Ruth Rendell

Now that Heather and Ismay are both adults with their own love interests, the long-ago murder begins to haunt them. As Heather prepares to wed her fiancé, Edmund Litton, Ismay feels compelled to tell her future brother-in-law of the murder. Ismay’s relationship with her boyfriend, a lawyer named Andrew Campbell-Sedge, also begins to suffer. Meanwhile, a retired detective keeps an eye on the sisters, suspicious of Guy’s “accidental” death.

Critics applauded the book, especially the story’s highly suspenseful plot.Connie Fletcher, again writing in Booklist, noted: “Combining potent imagery and exquisite plotting, Rendell twists the knife of suspense in a wonderfully excruciating way.” Echoing this opinion, a Kirkus Reviews critic observed that “the sense of impending calamity is palpable.” The critic added that The Water’s Lovely is “one of the most deeply pleasurable thrillers from the genre’s leading practitioner.”

Yet another laudatory review came from Jennifer Resse, writing in Entertainment Weekly. Reese noted that “while she never explicitly judges her characters, Rendell has crafted for each a cruelly perfect fate, one that reflects, sometimes humorously and sometimes tragically, the kinds of lives they have lived.”

Hayburner – Laura Crum

Laura was born on the family ranch in Santa Cruz, California. Involved with the training of horses from an early age, she uses her knowledge and love of horses as a base for her mysteries. Her heroine is a horse veterinarian in northern California named Gail McCarthy.

Published in 2003, Hayburner is another book featuring Gail McCarthy. In the book, Santa Cruz County detective Jeri Ward is investigating a rash of stable fires being set by an unknown arsonist. McCarthy helps the investigation by arriving at the crime scenes to examine the surviving horses.

Hayburner – Laura Crum

Bishop Ranch Stable is the first to be hit, and Ward suspects the stable’s own manager committed the crime to collect insurance money. But soon, two more stables fall victim to arson, and suspicions shift to a cast of characters, including veterinarian Hans Schmidt and petty criminal Marty Martin. McCarty happens to surprise the arsonist starting the fourth fire, but suffers a concussion and cannot remember the criminal’s face.

Hayburner was another hit for Crum, with critics regarding it as a worthwhile addition to the author’s growing mystery series. The book contains an “abundance of horse- and ranch-related detailing,” wrote Rex Klett in a review for the Library Journal. Others admired Crum’s sensitive portrayal of these devastating crimes. Hayburner has many “heart-rending scenes,” noted one Kirkus Reviews contributor.