Tag Archives: suspense

The Last Days of Night – Graham Moore

Review (Amazon): New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.

My Review (Not many spoilers on this since it’s historical fiction):

Executive Summary: Interesting

This was our book club pick for Thriller/Suspense. Why? I don’t really know, as it was definitely a historical fiction in my mind. Ah well, it was still a good read. Not really fast paced, but not slow either.

Have you heard of George Westinghouse? Thomas Edison? J.P. Morgan? Nikola Tesla? Yes? OK, How about Paul Cravath? No, well, he’s the unknown, but central character to this book.

Paul is a young lawyer who has been hired (just him, not his firm) to represent George Westinghouse who is suing Thomas Edison. But Thomas Edison is also suing George Westinghouse. Three hundred and twelve lawsuits to be exact. He’s on his way to meet Thomas Edison for the lawsuits when he sees a electrical line worker get electrocuted. Electricity is just becoming common place and this is not good publicity.

Paul is a recent grad from Columbia. He’s never tried a case. So why did Westinghouse hire him? Probably because he will fight as hard as he can to win, and the fight is the story. Paul is also the tool for the non-electrical engineering (I’m mechanical 🙂 ) reader to have all the technical stuff explained to them in layman terms.

It’s actually quite the epic battle. It’s not just a meager lawsuit over who owns the lightbulb. It’s AC vs. DC currents, and how to get the currents to travel far enough distances that it is a sustainable product for an entire town, let alone city, to subsist on it. They all have their strategies, even going so far as to bringing up the idea of the electric chair, bringing Alexander Graham Bell into the fray, or buying out each other’s company.

In the end, it turns out to be a pretty good feel good story. Paul ends up with the famous singer who has been helping him out with his case. Westinghouse, Tesla, and Edison, despite being basically at war, are all scientists underneath, and they realize each other’s values. The way the book leaves off, they have coffee once a month and talk about science.

Verdict: 4 stars

It’s definitely a very specific book, but I think it’s a good read and a great peek into an interesting point in American history. It’s tough to summarize because it’s very detailed, but it does move at a steady pace and has a lot of fairly surprising twists. I suppose that’s why it was touted as a thriller/suspense, but to me, it’s just an interesting historical fiction

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Innocence – Dean Koontz

photo (1)Book Description (Amazon):

In Innocence, Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: weird

I have never read a Dean Koontz book before, and it seems like this might not have been a good one to start with. This was our “New York Times Best Seller” for the year (which essentially balances our classic). I had no idea where this book was going for most of the book, and when the ending finally happened, I was sorely disappointed.

The story begins with Addison, possibly human, who lives alone after “Father” has died. I say possibly human because there’s something different about him that makes people fear and attack him. A disfigurement perhaps but what sort of disfigurement would cause people to do that?

Addison lives in some sort of bomb shelter of sorts–a secret home below the city. He was born and lived his early life in the country with his natural mother (his father was worthless and left her before he was born). When he was born, the midwife tried to kill him, but his mother pulled a gun on her. Addison’s mother tried very hard to love him, but she spent less and less time with him as he aged (and also spent more time with drugs and alcohol). Luckily he was a mature child as she told him to leave the home at age 8 and then she subsequently killed herself. Ouch.

He found his way into the city where he luckily came across “Father”, another like him in the midst of a fight. Father showed him some of the lays of the land including welcoming Addison into his home (where he had been welcomed in by another many years before). They lived in relative peace until an accident involving some police officers led to Father’s death. (This is technically where the story begins. Addison’s history was pieced together throughout the story with awkward flashback chapters).

Addison, now 26, is in the library one night after hours (he knows when/how to enter buildings at night so he won’t be seen or caught) and there is a girl in there as well. She is being hunted by a man but manages to evade him. Addison knows the library well and seeks her out of her hiding spot after the man has left. Her name is Gwyneth and she is dressed like a goth. She’s 18 and has a similar social anxiety to Addison. Addison hates to be looked at, whereas Gwyneth hates to be touched.

They become friends seemingly out of necessity. Gwyneth’s mother died in childbirth and was raised by her loving father until he was poisoned to death by the man who had been chasing her in the library. She lived alone after that, moving between a series of apartments that her father set up for her.

The book continues in an overly descriptive manner but honestly nothing really happens. They spend their time trying to avoid Ryan Telford (the man from the museum) who is hunting them. In the end, Telford tracks down the mysterious secret girl who Gwyneth has been hiding and kills her guardians. Addison and Gwyneth appear in time before the girl is killed, and they find that Telford is dying due to some genetically engineered Ebola+flesh eating bacteria. They take the girl back to Teague Hanlon’s. Teague had been her guardian since her father died, and it is revealed that he is also the priest who allowed Father, and then Addison, to shop in the food pantry and thrift store after hours.

It turns out that Gwyneth and the young girl whose name is Moriah are both the same as Addison. And it isn’t that they are disfigured; it is that they are devoid of the original sin. The reason people fear and resent them is that when they are looked upon, people see all their sins revealed to them which makes them very angry.

So then Addison and Gwyneth get married. They take Moriah and three other children, given to them by “the clears” who presumably are angels and they leave and go to the country while everyone else dies from the plague. The end.

No, I’m serious. That’s how it ends.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so strange, and not in a good way. The entire middle 80% or so of the book was nearly impossible to get through, and in the end, the plot lines that occurred during that section didn’t matter anyway because everyone died. In addition to that, this book actually had potential to be a good religious novel, but not by killing off all the “regular humans” (because, we as readers would fall into the “regular human” category even those of us who aren’t pedophiles (there was an unusual attraction to that particular sin in this book)). The characters in the book who were perfect already did not attempt to help any of the “normal” humans either physically or by teaching them how to be better people. This paints a pretty bleak picture that unless you are born without sin (which is no one) you cannot be saved. Yikes.

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Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

photo(2)Book Description (Amazon):

Marriage can be a real killer.
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

My Review:

Executive summary: sociopathic

The story is told alternately by Nick (first person) and by Amy via her diary.

The book starts out and you meet Nick and Amy and proceed through their life a little bit. You see how they meet (at a party) and how they eventually get married and start a life together in New York City. Then Nick loses his job (writing about celebrities for a magazine) and then Amy follows (writing quizzes for women’s magazines). Then it turns out that Amy’s parents are underwater in their mortgage and request most of Amy’s trust fund (obtained through their series of books about “Amazing Amy”). Nick’s parents are falling ill with cancer (his mother) and Alzheimer’s (his hated father). They decide to move back to Nick’s home town in Missouri to be closer to his family.

Amy supplies Nick and his twin Margo (Go) with money to open up “The Bar” *sigh* and she busies herself with mid-western tasks like taking Nick’s mom to chemo and taking care of their McMansion in the burbs. And then on Nick and Amy’s 5 year anniversary, Amy goes missing.

So at the beginning of the book, I’m mostly sympathetic with Amy. I agreed with the “cool girl” issue. (Although I just happen to naturally be one of those cool girls 😉 ) And it sounded miserable to first lose your job, then your financial stability, and then your life in the city you loved and grew up in. (However, I was not sympathetic to her stupid quizzes in the diary. Annoying.)

As the search for Amy grows, it is obvious that Nick is the main suspect. I’ve watched Law & Order. It’s to be expected. And then you find out that like on all the Law & Order episodes, Nick has a young hot mistress, and is kind of a douche of a person. He doesn’t put in any effort in any of his relationships and just spends all his time dwelling in what used to be. In short, he sucks.

But you’re waiting for the twist. This book wouldn’t be that popular if the husband did it, would it? The scavenger hunt that happens every year on their anniversary leads Nick to various places, and makes him start falling back in love with Amy…until it leads him to the woodshed full of things he said he didn’t buy on the credit cards he didn’t know he had. And then he realizes that Amy faked her own death and is setting him up in an overly elaborate detailed scheme. So you’re still kind of on Amy’s side. Nick is a jerk, but you realize that Amy is kind of insane. (And it seems difficult to me that this “cool girl” Amy has kept up this asinine treasure hunt game year after year when Nick never even gets the clues. That doesn’t make you a “cool girl”. It makes you annoying. It leads me to think that she gave up on the “cool girl” thing as soon as the vows were said.)

So Nick takes on his own detective role with his new lawyer and his token black wife (I only say that because I thought it was a bit ironic because that same statement was made by the author about Amy earlier in the book). He realizes he is being played so he decides to go on the offensive and play the game back. He convinces Amy that he is truly sorry and that he loves her SOOoooo much. He also finds out Amy has lied and manipulated people her entire life. He talks to a high school friend and a few ex-boyfriends and realizes that when she doesn’t get what she wants or has a point to prove, she will take it to an extreme level.

At the same time, Amy has changed her appearance and is hiding out at a cabin with $9k+ of cash. She then is robbed by two other vagrants she had befriended and then has to call one of the ex-boyfriends for help. He hides her out at his lake house, essentially holding her hostage (as he is very bizarre and has mommy issues himself) until she plans her escape. Her escape is letting him have sex with her, drugging him and then killing him. …

She returns to Nick (and the police and press) with the story that she had been kidnapped by her obsessive ex-boyfriend who raped her, so she killed him and escaped. Nick wanted nothing to do with her but he had no proof, so time went on as he, Go, and one of the police officers try to find evidence to link Amy to any of the crimes. In the end, they give up because psycho Amy has used Nick’s sperm from the sperm bank (that he forgot to get rid of) to trap him with a baby. He decides to man up and be a dad with the psycho and the story ends. Um…ok.

The book is addicting. You want to find out what happens. I read it in a day and a half. In that, I think the author succeeds in painting a really good, well-thought out story. Until the end. It starts sort of falling apart for me at the cabin. Amy changes her plan. She initially was going to wait to kill herself until after Nick was arrested, but then when she thinks he loves her again, she reneges. And, what sort of obsessive planner would flash around that kind of cash? (possible answer: a spoiled brat idiot one?) And then the quick wrap up with <>. It just seemed to become a bit hurried and a bit out of character. The ending itself didn’t really bother me as much as it seemed to bother others. I mean, we already knew that Nick wanted a kid. You couldn’t let your kid be alone with someone that insane. And obviously you’re insane if you think that a kid will fix your marriage. It actually seemed to work pretty well. You are left feeling really sorry for that unborn child though. With a sociopath and a whiny weiner for parents. He’s definitely never going to be the “cool kid”.

Verdict:

3.5 stars. The book sucks you in and makes you want to keep reading and find out what happens. (What happens may or may not be what you want, but it is for the most part an interesting ride.) In the end though, you don’t like any of the characters, and I think that is a bit disappointing. There’s no one really to root for, and because of that, I think the book is in some ways going to be very forgettable to me. In general, I’m usually fairly “meh” about these sort of crime/thriller books as they tend to be very uncreative/overdone or just completely unrealistic. I think Flynn put a genuine amount of effort into making this story as seamless as possible.

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