Pines by Blake Crouch

pines-175How do you review this book without giving something away? This is the question that has plagued me since I completed it a few days ago.

I suppose I could tell you that Pines is a mystery/thriller/sci-fi novel which begins with a Secret Service agent, Ethan Hunt waking from a car accident and finding himself hospitalised in the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. Ethan has been sent to Wayward Pines to find two other agents, who were sent to the town to investigate a man called David Pilcher.

Soon after waking Ethan begins to realise that all is not what it seems in the town of Wayward Pines, and to complicate matters, nobody believes he is a Secret Service agent, and all of his belongings have gone missing… And this is where the trouble begins for a reviewer. From this point on, it is pretty much impossible to give you any details without spoiling the novel.

I suppose I can tell you that Pines is the first in a trilogy. And I guess it would be safe to tell you that the town of Wayward Pines is the author Blake Crouch‘s homage to the David Lynch television series Twin Peaks… There is even a “damn good coffee” moment.

I also suppose it will be okay to tell you that Wayward Pines like Twin Peaks, takes a few trips down to Freaky-Town, and has a few twists and turns that you won’t expect, unless someone has told you in advance, or like me you are reading this after watching the television adaptation.

I also think it will be okay, if not essential for me to tell you that Pines, like the town of Wayward Pine’s coffee is a damn good read. It whips along at a steady pace, and takes you places you never expected to go. There is even some surprises for those of you who are coming here after watching the television series. In fact I can safely say that anyone who likes to travel to small towns to get their mystery, thriller or science fiction fix will probably find something to excite them in Wayward Pines.

 

The Blackhouse by Peter May

Peter May’s novel The Blackhouse begins like so many other crime novels that have come before; with a murder. A gruesome and brutal act, committed by an unknown person. Unlike other crime novels though this murder isn’t committed down some back street alley in a thriving metropolis. The Blackhouse‘s murder is committed way out on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, a remote land where the difficulty of life is only out-weighed by the people’s fear of God.

After the opening prologue where the murder is committed, readers of crime novels are then thrust back into familiar territory. We meet the novel’s protagonist Fin Macleod, and like so many cliché crime novel detectives he is a man with a troubled past and to keep the clichés coming, a man dealing with a tragic present, who through a twist of fate is sent back to the Isle of Lewis, where he lived as a child. Sent back, not to aid with the investigation, but to simply either rule out, or confirm whether the murder on Lewis is connected, as fate would have it, to a case he is working on in Edinburgh.

However, it is when we as readers are taken to the Isle of Lewis that Peter May takes what at first glance is just another crime novel and transforms it into something else; something which I wasn’t expecting.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This is the second time I have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… This is however, the first time I finished it.

I don’t remember why I stopped reading it the first time around, but after dwelling into this fabulous novel for a second time I realise that my first abandonment of this novel was a mistake. Luckily though I was drawn back to this novel after seeing the film adaptations (more about them later).

The Blurb

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects seem bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

A disgraced journalist, a mystery and a girl with a dragon tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo begins with our protaganist, Mikael Blomkvist, an editor of a financial magazine entitled Millenium being found guilty of libel after writing an article about a shady financier. With his career and magazine in tatters, and an impending stay in prison approaching Blomkvist takes a leave of absence from the magazine. Mikael however, doesn’t remain unemployed for long because he is soon hired by an entrepeneur, Eric Vanger to research and hopefully solve a forty-year old mystery… The disappearance, and suspected murder of his niece, Harriet Vanger.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Lisbeth Salander;a mistrustful, anti-social, and oft-violent twenty-five-year-old woman with a dragon tattoo. Despite all of her problems though, Lisbeth is also a top-notch researcher for a security firm. Through her expert skills as a researcher, she eventually is approached by Mikael to help him in his search for the truth about what happened to Harriet Vanger.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is an extremely well plotted story, with memorable, well-drawn characters that will eventually hook you once you make it past the long, and not too exciting back-story that makes up the first thirty pages or so of the novel. For me however, the sub-plot of the life of Lisbeth Salander is the part of this novel that will stick in my memory for some time, and it is her character that will have me reading the other parts of Stieg Larsson‘s Millenium trilogy (The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest).

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About the Author

Swedish journalist and author, he was the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Expo from 1999. He had previously worked at a major news agency for many years. He was one of the world’s leading experts on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi organisations and was consulted at Scotland yard and in Brussels on the way fascist networks operated.

He died suddenly and without warning in November 2004, soon after delivering the manuscripts for his three crime novels to a Swedish publisher. These novels make up the Millenium Trilogy. Tragically, Larsson did not to live to see the worldwide phenomenon his work has become.

From LarssonTrilogy.com

The Films

You cannot really mention The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo without mentioning the films based on the book. There have been two successful adaptations of the novel for the silver screen. The first and probably the truest adaptation was the Swedish version, which I saw a few years ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.

If Swedish isn’t your native language, and you don’t like reading all of those subtitles, than luckily a very good adaptation of the film was also made by my favourite director David Fincher for you… It isn’t as true to the novel as the Swedish version but it is still a good adaptation, though personally I would recommend the Swedish version for true lovers of the book.

Second Opinion

Click here for a second opinion from the Reading Lark blog

Information

  • Published September 16th 2008 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2000)
  • Kindle Edition, 658 pages
  • ASIN B0015DROBO

Safe House by Chris Ewan

When Rob Hale wakes up in a hospital after a motorcycle crash, his first thought is for the gorgeous blonde, Lena, who was on the back of his bike. The doctors and police, however, insist that he was alone at the scene. The shock of the accident must have made him imagine Lena, especially since his description of her resembles his late sister, Laura.

And so begins one of the most average thrillers I have read for years…

It all started out well. A gripping mystery, a beautiful girl, and a setting, on the Isle of Man that I have never encountered in a novel before. Then the mystery starts to unfold, and everything just seems to fall into place too easily for our hero and his companion Rebecca (a British spy who conveniently falls onto the scene, probably so she can appear in a future novel).

Of course for anyone who reads a lot of thrillers, it often seems that a lot of the plot twists are borrowed from other novels, but in Safe House everything just feels a bit too ‘paint-by-numbers’; even the villains of the story feel like they have been stolen from one of those late 1980s action films with Bruce Willis or Geena Davis. My biggest gripe about Safe House is the mediocre ending to the novel, which left me wishing the author had taken it in a different direction.

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