thriller


A stand-alone science fiction thriller.

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Publishing year: 2015

Format: Print

Publisher: Del Ray

Page count: 445 + a novella set in the writer’s other world, the Dire Earth

Peter Caswell is a very capable assassin who never remembers his work. He has an implant that not only gives him a huge edge in a fight but also makes him forget his missions so that his conscience is clear. However, he doesn’t control the forgetting aspect of the implant. That part is controlled by Monique, his partner whom he’s never met face-to-face. The implant speeds up his thinking, giving him ample time to plan and execute his moves in a fight. It also enhances his senses and suppresses pain, hunger, thirst, and emotions. All of these abilities work only for a limited time.

Now, Monique has sent him on a mission that doesn’t require a memory wipe. A spaceship that was lost a couple of decades ago has been found again. Peter needs to infiltrate the salvage crew. However, once inside the old ship, Monique tells Peter that the ship holds such sensitive information that this now becomes a mission Peter will later forget. Usually, he only forgets a couple of days. Now, he will have a time window of two weeks to find and kill the only surviving crew member of the old ship. But the catch is that the survivor is not on the ship nor on Earth. She’s on a parallel Earth, a world Peter knows nothing about. But he has no choice; the mission has already begun.

The other Earth has its own history and politics. Our other point-to-view character is Melni who was born and raised on that other Earth. She’s a member of a minority race and also a spy in a culture she didn’t grow up in.

This was a very entertaining book with lots of action. Melni and Peter are very different. They’re thrown together and must work together to survive. While Peter is very good at his job, he doesn’t know the world and he can’t even eat the food. As much as he hates it, he needs Melni. Melni doesn’t know him but realizes that he’s very peculiar and strangely similar to the genius she’s spying on.

I really enjoyed the alternate world, even though we are thrown in without explanations and need to figure out who is who. The differences in culture were fascinating, such as that the doorknobs are near the ground and used with toes, not hands. This world’s technology is behind Earth’s.

I guess the biggest problem I had with Peter is that we don’t really know him. What is the company he’s working for? Why is he an assassin if he doesn’t want to remember killing? Why does he trust Monique? We do get an explanation for the latter questions near the end. Melni seems a very capable undercover agent, but she was too trusting with Peter.

And the ending. Not a fan of it. While this is technically a stand-alone book, that ending pretty much requires a sequel.

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A stand-alone thriller that was the inspiration for Hitchcock’s film starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

Publisher: Guernsey Press

Publishing year: 1953

Format: Print

Page count: 199

I think I’ve seen the movie To Catch a Thief many years ago but I don’t remember much about it. I didn’t even remember the ending.

John Robie used to be the famous jewel thief Le Chat. He was caught and sent to prison, but during the German occupation during WWII, the Germans let out a lot of prisoners, John among them. He joined the French resistance, the maquis, and was a guerilla. After the war, the maquis got unofficial pardons and John retired to a villa in France. One of the local policemen is even a friend of his.

To John’s dismay, someone else is now robbing jewels, using his style. He knows that it won’t be long before the police are after him again, especially his police friend Oriol.

So, when the police arrive, John makes a daring escape. He goes to his former fence and current friend Bellini who has lots of contacts, criminal and otherwise. He was also in the maquis. He convinces John that the only way John can clear his name is to catch the thief. Also, the police are now after all of John’s former friends trying to blame them for the thefts. Reluctantly, John agrees. He knows that the most tempting jewels are in the Riviera nightclubs and casinos. He invents a pseudonym Mr. Burns, disguises himself, and goes to the casinoes.

There he intends to use all his former skills as a thief to figure out where the copycat thief will strike next and trap him. Also, he meets a couple of very interesting characters.

This was an entertaining read set in the glamorous Riviera. John is loyal to his friends and doesn’t see stealing as immoral. He still has his remarkable agility and strength. He’s worried that Oriol and one other close friend feel that John has betrayed them and he can’t explain things. He’s mostly a loner, choosing to live alone except for his elderly housekeeper/cook. Now, he must rely on Bellini and a couple of his criminal friends to help him. Also, he meets an interesting woman or rather a couple of interesting women.

John is the main third-person point-of-view character. There are brief POVs from other, all male, characters.

The seventh Dirk Pitt book.

Publishing year: 1984

Format: Print

Finnish translator: Maria Sivonen

Page count: 418

Finnish publisher: WSOY

This adventure book starts with two plotlines that merge. In one, Dirk Pitt and his friend Al Giordano look for a sunken ship that is carrying a stolen shipment of nerve gas. The gas is escaping and killing people. The second plot involves the kidnapping of the four most important politicians in the US.

The story starts with Arta Casilighio, a bank teller who finds the passport of another woman. Arta gathers the courage to steal a lot of money and head to Europe aboard a ship. Unfortunately for her, a group of Korean men highjacks the ship and kills everyone on it.

Twenty years later, something is mysteriously killing people on ships. The US government sends Dr. Julia Mendoza from the Environmental Protection Agency to order Pitt and Giordano to look for a sunken ship that is spreading the poison. Pitt does so but Dr. Mendoza is exposed to the poison and dies. Pitt swears revenge.

Meanwhile, the four top men in the US government go missing, and the men closest to them try very hard to cover it up while both the FBI and the CIA are looking for the president and the other men.

This was my first Cussler book, but I know the series is very popular. Unfortunately, this book didn’t really work for me. It has lots and lots of point-of-view characters. I didn’t have trouble telling them apart from each other, but none of them were very compelling. Also, the plot centers on politics which I didn’t find compelling. The book has also some racism toward Asians.

The plot has some incongruous elements. Perhaps most fantastical of them is not just mind control, but the notion that you can inject memories from one man’s brain to another’s. For a thriller book, the plot felt slow to me, because of the politicking.

A SF thriller, sequel to Jurassic Park.

Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1996

Format: print
Page count: 443

Finnish publisher: Otava

Finnish translator: Jaakko Kankaanpää

The book is very different from the second Jurassic Park movie. In fact, only a couple of scenes are from the book.

Five years have gone by since the Jurassic Park catastrophe, but most people don’t know about it because the Costa Rican authorities kept the survivors quiet. But strange creatures are found from time to time and even though Costa Rican authorities destroy them as soon as they know about them, rumors are circulating.

Richard Levine is obsessed with these creatures. He’s a scientist, but he wants to catalog things and theorize rather than do any field research. But then he finds clues that point to one Costa Rican island where dinosaurs could still survive and he must go there. He won’t even wait for his equipment. He just leaves. And disappears.

Levine isn’t a likable person, and he has few friends. Luckily for him, those friends include Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Thorpe, who is a former engineering professor who has nothing but scorn for theory. Also, two kids have been helping Levine, Arby and Kelly. When Thorpe, along with his assistant Eddie, and Malcolm put together clues when Levine could be, Arby and Kelly help them. But my favorite was Dr. Sarah Harding who is an animal behaviorist specializing in African predators. Sadly, her advice to young Kelly is still relevant. Some parents and teachers still tell girls that they’re worthless except for their looks. Unlike in the movie, the book Sarah is calm under pressure and focused on getting her colleagues off the island.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Jurassic Park. It has some bad guys, but they don’t really do much. The characters also discuss how humans are destroying the nature and themselves. Malcom offers his theories about how species go extinct.

But the book has plenty of dinosaurs, and they aren’t just a threat. Crichton puts down his own theory on how they behave and we get to see them sort of in the wild.

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.

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