thriller


The first book in the Jurassic Park duology.

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Publication year: 1990
Finnish publisher: Tammi

Finnish publication year: 1992
Format: print
Finnish translator: Tarmo Haarala

Page count: 518

I’m a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie series. I saw the first Jurassic Park film in the movies and it was a huge experience to see the dinosaurs on-screen. I read this book over ten years ago and have only dim memories of it. The memories were accurate.

The film is pretty faithful to the book, except that it omitted characters and shortened scenes and left some scenes out. In fact, the book starts with a family vacationing on a beach and small dinosaurs attack a little girl, just like the beginning of the second movie. The beginning of the book has quite a few background scenes; we get to the park about 150 pages in. And the changes made the film better.

New gene technology allows scientists to extract dinosaur DNA from insects that have been preserved in amber and to add reptile DNA to it, to fix it. Hammond wants to make a dinosaur park for wealthy people and especially wealthy kids. But some of his financiers have started to become nervous and demands the experts will evaluate the park. So, Hammond brings in two paleontologists, Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler. The financiers’ lawyer Gennaro is afraid that the park will be a disaster and he brings in Ian Malcolm, a chaos theorist. If you’ve seen the movie you know what happens. 🙂

The book is deeper and longer than the film. Ellie is a minor character compared to her role in the book, which is the only thing I didn’t really care for. The book works very well. Perhaps the most boring aspects are Malcolm’s lectures about how science will fail because scientists have become too arrogant and because science doesn’t take into account the chaos of life.

The ending is also different, more bloody and ambiguous.

The book has a lot of POVs, especially in the first third which jumps from the family on the beach to the doctor examining the girl to a rival genetics company that pays Nedrey to get samples from the dinosaurs. But the rest of the book also has several POVs from Alan Grant to Timmy who is Hammond’s grandson to Hammond to Ellie to game warden Muldoon to the main engineer John Arnold who is desperately trying to get the computers to work again.

Malcolm starts to warn the reader that everything will go wrong, even before we see the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are, of course, the center of the book. Some of them are more intelligent than in the movie. There’s even a suggestion that since they’re related to birds, some of them could be migratory. I loved the descriptions!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I intend to read the sequel soon.

The first book in the Dani Silver Comic Thriller series.

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Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 255

Dani Silver is one of the children of Leroy Logan who is one of the greatest con artists ever. But Leroy is getting older and Dani thinks she can do a long con, a complicated con scheme, all on her own. We get a teaser of Dani gathering her crew to swindle a lot of money.

When the story starts, she has just run out of her fiance Nick (who apparently wasn’t a nice guy at all) and swindled him for little over a million dollars. With it, she buys a house from a small town. But she really wants to do her own cons with her own crew. Dani meets her next door neigbor, a young woman whose husband is hitting her, and Dani decides to help her,

– by swindling the abusive husband.

Then Dani returns to New Orlans, to start her life as the head of her own group of con men and women.

The story had a bit of a slow start but when things get going, it’s like a roller coaster ride. Dani is not a perfect person, in fact she makes rather big mistakes at the start. She also constantly doubts herself and her skills of actually doing the con she set out to do. She knows her crew already but they’ve always worked for her dad and don’t respect her. Dani also has a lot to prove to her dad.

The humor in the book was very much in the silly side, sometimes even distracting from the main plot. For example, Sammy is a hacker but he prefers to do his work in a firm, which he doesn’t work for, hacking himself in at first and then doing the actual work in their office. Funny, but could also be very bad for the job.

Dani is the main first person narrator but we get a few short scenes from other characters’ point-of-views. Unfortunately, the book has some editing errors and some of the humor didn’t really work for me. Still, I enjoyed it.

This was a light-hearted fun read, similar to many con artist movies.

The fifth book in the Robert Langdon series but it can be read without reading the others.

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Publication year: 2017
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Format: print
Fnnish translator: Jorma-Veikko Sappinen
Page count: 463

I’ve read the DaVinci Code but that was years ago. Fortunately, Origin doesn’t require the reader to know anything about the previous books. There are a few references here and there but nothing crucial.

Edmond Kirch is a forty year old tech genius who has impressed the world again and again with his inventions and accurate prophecies in the tech world. He invites hundreds of people to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to see his newest presentation which he promises will change the world by answering two profound questions: where do we come from and where we are going.

Harvard Professor Robert Langdon is one of Kirch’s teachers and he’s also coming to the presentation. He’s not sure what to think of it all but is curious. But just before Edmond is about to tell his astonishing revelations, he’s assassinated in front of everyone.

Astonishingly beautiful Ambra Vidal who is the Museum’s curator fears that she knows who was behind it. She convinces Langdon to flee with her before they can be the next targets.

This was an entertaining and fast-paced read. The chapters are short and often end in cliffhangers. Most of the story takes place in Barcelona and takes us to Gaudi’s famous buildings, La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. In fact, the setting in clearly a character by itself. The theme is rather old, though: religion vs science. The book has an element of near-future science fiction.

Even though Langdon is nominally the main character, the book has many other POV characters. In fact, the book starts with the POV of one of the bad guys. He’s actually depicted quite sympathetically: his family died horrifically and he can’t get over it. He thinks he’s working for a good cause. It’s ironic that he knows how people in his position can be manipulated but can’t see it when it’s done to him.

If you’ve read a Langdon book before, you’ll likely know what happens in this one. But if you like this sort of thriller/mystery, it’s very entertaining.

Currently the first book in the Sabel Security thriller series.

Publication year: 2015
Publisher: Machined Media
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 365

Jacob Sterne is an Army veteran. Now, he’s employed by Sabel Security, an international security organization. He has some problems, though. He hears the voice of Mercury, the Roman god of messages in his head. Mercury usually warns him about danger but sometimes he just makes snarky comments about how soft Jacob is, unlike tough old Romans in the good old days. Jacob knows that Mercury is most likely a reaction to trauma but they still banter. He also has problems with women: he wants to sleep with all of them.

Pia Sabel is a former Olympic level soccer player. Now she’s a multimillionaire and runs the security company. She has her own problems because she saw her parents murdered when she was very young. Her adoptive father owned the security company, among other firms, and gave it to her. She’s headstrong and used to getting her own way. But she also wants to do what’s right, no matter if that’s cutting off body parts from rapists or tracking down corporation which are trying to poison millions of people. Jacob is in love with her but considers her way out of his league.

The story begins in Borneo where Pia Sabel is building a school. But she and her team manages to get on the nerves of the local tough guys and they must leave quickly. On the road, Pia meets a young girl who is carrying her sick younger brother. Pia insists that they stop to help, even though Jacob is against it. The team finds a place they think is a hurriedly built hospital full of local sick people. But the place has guards with guns and the medics are too nervous. Jacob steals three vials. Jacob, Pia, and the team are forced out and to leave the girl and her brother behind. Later, they hear that everyone in that camp are dead. Worse, someone tipped off the media that Pia and her company were there.

Pia is determined to find out who killed the people and why. Also, killers are determined to get back the vials Jacob took.

This is a fast-paced story with lots of violence but the plot is surprisingly complex. Sabel Security seems to employ almost exclusively former soldiers so they also swear like soldiers. The hunt for the bad guys takes Jacob all over the world. However, it does have a couple of gruesome torture scenes. And a lot of people are shot. Sabel Security actually uses dart guns with tranquilizers but their enemies don’t and Jacob and the others change to regular weapons when needed and when Pia isn’t around.

Jacob is a first person narrator for most of the book, but there are two other POV characters in third person. One of them is one of the bad guys so we get a pretty good picture of how they operate and bit about why. Still the full explanation for the reasons of all this came as a surprise to me in the end.

Surprisingly many of the secondary characters are women, in addition to Pia. Two of them are actually Jacob’s ex-girlfriends and he isn’t very comfortable working with them, at first.  Many of the women are former soldiers who are just as good in a fight as Jacob and the other men.

This was like a summer action flick with lots of action and some humor. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters but it was entertaining.

While the book is labeled as the first in the series, there are references to past events. In fact, near the end one plot point is dependent on them.  Apparently, this is the third book about these characters. The first two books are now called Sabel Origins series. But that’s a pretty minor point.

The first book in the Eric Steele action/thriller series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 19 minutes
Narrator: R. C. Bray

Eric Steele is a former Special Forces soldier who has served US in many countries and wars. Now, he’s an Alpha – a soldier with a special mandate answerable only the US president. He usually works only with his handler, Demo. But when a nuclear missile is stolen from a military convoy, he must team up with Meg Harden, a former Army soldier and current CIA operative. Unknown to Steele, matters are very complicated at Washington: president Cole has terminal cancer and CIA’s director Robin Styles is ruthless in pursuing more power.

The book has five main POV characters: Steele, Meg, vice president Rockford who is a former soldier, Nate West who has stolen the missile, and CIA director Styles. A couple of minor characters also get a POV chapter. The first chapter is written from a minor character’s POV.

Steele is a loner, a patriot, and extremely capable. His enemies also know that he’s one of the best and try to eliminate him. Meg is also a loner but more because the men around her push her away. She’s very beautiful, very good with computers, and a fighter. She’s also attracted to Steele from the first. Rockford is very loyal to the president and is doing his best conceal Cole’s illness.

Nate West is a former Special Forces solider who has grown bitter because the government couldn’t prevent his family’s deaths. He enjoys torturing and killing people. He’s Steele’s former mentor and when Steele finds that out, he wants to take out West any way he can. Styles is also a very nasty enemy. She’s the first female CIA director so she’s under a lot of pressure. She knows how to manipulate people and is very ambitious. She even chose her girlfriend because she can manipulate her easily.

For the most part, this was a very fast-paced read with lots of action. The fight scenes are detailed and we got a lot of information about the various guns. The enemies are vicious and there are a couple of detailed torture scenes, as well.

I enjoyed most of the book but the torture scenes were a bit much for me. The narrator fit the book very well and did a great job.

The first book in the Stillhouse Lake mystery/thriller series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours 4 minutes
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith

Gina Royal was an ordinary housewife with a considerate, if cold, husband and two children. The day when a drunk driver hit their garage, changed everything. Melville Royal was a serial killer. He had tortured and murdered women in his garage. He had cut out their vocal cords, first, so Gina and the kids has no idea what he was doing. But the world at large doesn’t believe that. Gina was tried but acquitted. But many people still believe that she was Mel’s accomplish and they hound her and the kids.

To protect them, and herself, Gina has changed her name and moved many times during the four years after Mel was put to prison.

Now, she’s Gwen Proctor who will do anything to protect her kids. She’s learned how to shoot and has just passed her test for carrying a concealed weapon. She’s always on her guard, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She also stays on top of what the lunatics are saying about her in the internet. The stalkers and trolls are still looking for her and want to kill both her and her kids. She has one ally, a mysterious man called Absalom who arranges for their new identities and helps them stay one step ahead of the men looking for revenge any way possible.

But Gwen’s children, who are this time called Atlanta and Connor, are tiered of moving around and living with restrictions. Atlanta is 14 and a rebellious goth girl, always getting in trouble in school. Connor has become closed off, introverted. Gwen has severely restricted their internet access which also makes them different from other kids.

They’ve stayed in the house on the shores of Stillhouse Lake long enough that they’ve finally getting comfortable. But then a body of a mutilated young woman is found in the lake. The MO is similar to what Mel did and Gwen is horrified. She tries to run but someone has told the authorities her real identity and suddenly she’s again a suspect. Even the few people she has started to trust view her now with suspicion.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Gwen is paranoid and always expecting trouble. She also has a lot of guilt because while she was innocent she also also so naive that she didn’t realize what Mel was up to right under her nose. She’s had to live with fear for four years and it has taken its toll: at first, even mistakes drive her into a defensive mode. But of course this is a thriller, so her precautions turn out to be more than necessary. Gwen and her kids felt like normal people who had been thrown into a terrible situation and are now trying to cope as best they can.

The first chapter is in third person but the rest of the book is in first person, which was an interesting choice and reflected on how much Gwen/Gina has changed. It’s written in present tense which heightens the tension.

However, Gwen’s internal monologue can feel repetitive. Sometimes I also wondered why USA doesn’t have a protection service for the families of a killer, because they can be victims, too. While the internet trolls’ writings are horrible, especially when they photo shop Gwen’s kids’ heads to pictures of murdered kids, I’m pretty sure few would actually do anything in real life. Of course, all it take is one deranged person to kill them all. Also, I sometimes wondered why nobody recognized Gwen. The kids had been growing up and their looks change, so I could buy that nobody recognized them but Gwen is an adult and she doesn’t think about disguising herself. I found the description of the murder victims gruesome. Luckily, in an audio book they went past quickly. Also, while the ending is mostly satisfying, there’s a twist which leads to a second book.

The story starts a bit slow, with Gwen and her kids doing everyday stuff. But there an ominous mood and tension which just builds and builds.

The reader was very good and I think she suited the book very well.

The first book in the Alex Cross thriller/mystery series.

Publication year: 1995
Format: Print
Page count: 355
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Finnish translator: Jorma-Veikko Sappinen

This story starts with the villain who is fixated on the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son in 1932. He wants to be as famous as the man who did that, Bruno Hauptmann. We find out a lot about the villain during the story.

But the main character is a homicide detective Alex Cross from New York. He’s a psychologist and currently works for the NYPD. He and his partner Sampson are investigating a series of vicious murders of a prostitute, her teenaged daughter, and her infant son. But because the victims are poor and black, those cases aren’t news. He and Sampson are pulled off the case and pressured to investigate the kidnappings of two children of famous white people. Michael Goldberg’s dad is a minister and Maggie Rose Dunne’s mother is a famous actress. They go to the same school for the children of the wealthy and famous. They were kidnapped the from school and the investigation quickly points to their math teacher who has disappeared. Alex and Sampson are disgusted because they were feel that nobody cares about the killer who is murdering black people. However, Alex quickly develops a bond with Maggie and her mother, because of his own children.

The kidnapper sedates the kids (who are just nine) and buries them. One of the FBI agents gets too much air time, taking the media’s attention away from the kidnapper, so he kills the agent. Then he demands ten million dollars in ransom.

Alex is a widow with two young children. He lives in a bad neighborhood with his grandmother and the two kids. Her wife was shot and the killer was never found. He and his partner also help at the local soup kitchen. He’s a likable character who is constantly in trouble with his superiors who want to do things differently because of political reasons.

The story features a lot of rivalry between different police agencies. Right from the start, Alex and Sampson don’t trust the FBI and they’re right. The Secret Service is also involved because they were supposed to be watching the kids. The head of SS’s child detail is Jezzie Flanagan. She’s worked hard to get to her position and is determined to get the kidnapper. She’s very beautiful with troubled past.

This is a fast-paced story with many POV characters, a couple of whom are seen only once. Alex’s POV is in first person and the others are in third person. The plot has a lot of twists and even a courtship romance. However, I guessed the twist with the love interest. I didn’t like it and was hoping I’d be wrong. But this being the first book in the series, only three things could have happened to her. That’s why I don’t really like reading romantic subplots; they feel pointless.

It did have couple of surprises. I was surprised that the whole book wasn’t about getting the kidnapper. Most of the last half of the book is a courtroom drama and about the whole media circus around Maggie and the kidnapper. The time skips also surprised me.

This was a quick, mostly satisfying read although it left a few things open at the end.

The second book in the SF series Lock in. This one centers on an imaginary sport. It can be read as a stand-alone but I recommend reading the first book, Lock In, first.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 hours 36 minutes
Narrator: Wil Wheaton

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Lock In. It introduced us to a world where a significant minority of people suffers from Haden’s Syndrome where the affected are fully conscious but can’t move or respond to any stimulus. So, they’ve been fitted with neural implants and they operate robot bodies called threeps. They can also interact with each other in a virtual world.

Chris Shane in an FBI agent and a Haden. They (we never learn their biological sex) are also the daughter of a huge NBA star and his very business smart wife. When a sport star, who is a Haden, dies during a very high-profile game, Chris is just the right person to investigate.

The sports in question is hilketa where all the players use the robot bodies. They attack each other with swords and hammers and the aim is to rip off the head of one of the opposing players, called a goat, and take it to the goal posts. The robot bodies also means that the operators can be male or female in the same game. Hilketa is hugely popular not just in the States but all over the world.

Chris and their sarcastic partner Leslie Vann are plunged into the world of professional sports, trying to find out if the death of Duane Chapman is an accident or murder. And if it is murder who did it and why.

I really enjoyed this one, too. It’s got witty dialogue with Leslie chewing out pretty much everyone, and lots of humor. I sort of think that we all need a Leslie in our lives, to remind us that we don’t need to take crap from anyone.
I also enjoyed Chris’ roommates some of whom are hilketa fans and also fellow Haden sufferers. It also comments on disability and gender, although not as much as the first book.

It’s a fast-paced book with lot of twists which make it hard to put down (or in my case, stop listening). I also like Wheaton’s narrator style a lot.

A collection of six Modesty Blaise short stories.

Publication year: 1972
Format: Print
Page count: 214
Publisher: Souvenir Press

I thoroughly enjoyed these short stories; O’Donnell is in excellent form here. If you’ve read any previous Modesty books or comics, you pretty much know what to expect. Like almost all of the MB stories, they’re stand-alone and don’t require any previous knowledge about the characters. The stories are set in 1960s. Both Modesty and Willie are very competent fighters with various weapons and in hand-to-hand combat. They’re best friends for life and can always depend on each other. But they’re not lovers; in fact they often have other lovers.

In “A Better Day to Die”, Modesty and Willie are going to see a dying man who used to be part of Modesty’s criminal organization. However, their car breaks down. Willie stays in a small village to repair it together with the local men, but Modesty chooses to ride in an old bus. The bus is full of young women whom a priest it taking to city to work there. But the priest, Jimson, has heard of Modesty and her skills in violence. Jimson is a fervent believer in pacifism to the point that he think it’s better to die than to defend oneself. He lectures Modesty about the evils of every kind of violence. When a group of guerrillas stop the bus and take the passengers, Modesty is practically unarmed and must adapt to the situation.

“The Giggle-Wrecker” is set mostly in East Germany during the Cold War. Tarrant asks Modesty and Willie to smuggle out a defector – who is Japanese and therefore very easy to spot. The duo must think their way very carefully. Also, they get to do some of my favorite stuff: disguises.

“I Had a Date with Lady Janet” is remarkable because it’s the only MB story told in first person, Willie’s. He’s on a date with his sometime girlfriend Lady Janet when a killer tries to kidnap him. Willie manages to turn the tables and finds out that an old enemy has returned. He already has Modesty but wants Willie, so that he can see her die brutally. This time it’s up to Willie to save her.

“A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck” features two recurring characters from the book “I, Lucifer”: Steven Collier who is a paranormal investigator and his wife Dinah. Dinah is blind but she’s loyal, tough, and has even has a supernatural power or two. Modesty, Willie, Steven, and Dinah are vacationing when they hear about a series of robberies. During a party, they’re also robbed.

In “Salamander Four”, Modesty’s long time millionaire boyfriend John Dall wants a wooden statue of Modesty. To do that, he hires an eccentric Hungarian artist who is living in Northern Finland. When Modesty is modeling for the artist, Alex, a wounded and half-frozen man staggers in. Modesty helps him but Alex, who has suffered in war, doesn’t want to get involved. However, the wounded man turns out to be an industrial spy who has info with him. A very dangerous organization called the Salamander Four are after him. Modesty decides to help him over the border to Russia.

The final story, “The Soo Girl Charity”, is the shortest. It begins very lightheartedly but turns out to be the most disturbing of them. Modesty has been coerced into selling flags for a charity. One man turns out to be too grabby and he seems to be a really nasty man in other ways, so Willie and Modesty decide to break into his house and steal some money to give to the charity. They find out a lot more than they expected.

While these all feel pretty straightforward adventure stories, they all have some sort of twist. They were written in the 1960s, so they show the attitudes of that time, casual racism and sexism. O’Donnell tries to do better but his attitudes are dated. For example, in the first story several men rape a teenaged, sheltered girl who seems to get over it quickly. Of course, she’s a side character and this is an action story, but the attitude is still too casual. Of course, neither Modesty nor O’Donnell condone it.

Two of the stories have disabled female characters who are shown in very positive light. Both are very good in their own jobs, bright, loyal, and have partners who clearly appreciate them. Dinah was born blind and Janet lost one of her legs in a car accident. Both are recurring characters in the comics.

Overall, I really enjoyed these despite the attitudes of the times. I love Modesty and Willie and their adventure and their great camaraderie. They have good villains and a great cast of supporting characters. I was thrilled to see one of the stories set in my native Finland, although we didn’t get to see Finnish people much. I also enjoyed the humor in the stories.

A stand-alone thriller with science fiction elements.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook
Page count in GoodReads: 472

Jennifer Adams a research assistant to Doctor Elias Storm at the Massachusette’s Maritime Academy. She’s separated from her husband Mark who is a computer expert. They have a twelve-year-old son Reese. When Jen’s leaving from her work, Mark calls him to tell that their son has disappeared but when she’s answering her cell she find her boss murdered, in her own car.

When the police leave, Mark reveals that the kidnappers have left a note: they have four days to find Dr. Storm’s answer. Jen is desperate to get her son back but she doesn’t know what the kidnappers mean. So, she drags Mark back to the academy to search Storm’s office. But while there, a group of British soldiers threaten them. Quickly, the solders tell that they know a lot about the kidnapping and that Jen and Mark should go with them. A little reluctant, Jen agrees. The soldiers take the couple to a submarine and head over to a underwater research station. It’s at the bottom of the sea, five miles down, and has been abandoned for thirty years.

Meanwhile, in Washington detective Craig Larson and his partner Dawson are asked to look into the kidnapping and research the mysterious eco-terrorist group which could be behind it.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It has an interesting premise but I didn’t really care about any of the characters and some of the plot twists didn’t really work for me. For example, I find it really hard to believe that Jen and Mark would trust the British soldiers and just go on a submarine to adventure to the unknown, when their son has been kidnapped and they have a pretty tight deadline. After the end reveals, I don’t even understand why the villains wasted time kidnapping Reese at all. The underwater base was mostly great and I liked the characters exploring it, but what they found there just didn’t add up. Also, I found it very unlikely that an achievement like the underwater station was just abandoned without a pressing reason. Also, the book has lots of spelling errors.

I mostly enjoyed reading it but when I think about it, the plot just falls apart.

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