I love thrillers. I devour them. The more twisted the better. Sharp Objects is my second Gillian Flynn novel. I was captured by Gone Girl’s darkness. Dark Places will be my next read. Thus far, Flynn has not disappointed. She creates disturbed, dysfunctional characters. The imagery employed is revolting, but furthers the story brilliantly. The plot is unique while always demented. In this book she does a fantastic job of depicting mean girls. They are calculating and cruel. This was Flynn’s first book. She has a knack for developing bizarre, well constructed, ensnaring books. I can't wait for Flynn reads.
Scandinavian crime thrillers are usually dark and disturbing. Jonas Jonasson has taken a departure from this sinister style creating a quirky book with equally eccentric characters. I love the premise. Allan Karlsson, our centenarian protagonist hops out of the window of his "old folks' home" to further his life and need for adventure. With this as the beginning, you can only imagine that this story is loaded with ludicrousness. The book flips from present to the past where Allan has been involved in many of the major events of the 20th century. He has rubbed elbows with influential world leaders including Franco, Truman, Stalin, and Mao. Allan's present-day escapade turns into a crime caper filled with strange, scandalous characters that join in the fun. All of Jonasson’s characters are masterfully inventive. I especially loved the hot dog vendor with a multitude of almost completed degrees, Beauty, the red head who spews profanity and of course Sonya, the elephant. The book is odd but delightfully charming and very creative. It offers a radical change of pace to the harsh Nordic tales audiences have grown accustomed. Additionally Jonasson puts a wonderful spin on aging, showing growing older doesn’t have to be bad!
The One I Left Behind has an interesting premise and started off well. It had me engaged and questioning. Unfortunately it slowly and painfully disintegrated, becoming implausible verging on ridiculous. About the only enjoyable aspect of the story was how it toggles between present day and the main character’s memories of 1985. I thought Jennifer McMahon wrote a predictable plotline with the main character, Regina and her two quirky friends trying to ascertain the killer. Now in the present, again Regina takes it upon herself to determine the identity of Neptune, although warned to wait due to safety issues and concerns. Of course, this action results in Regina being caught by the killer. McMahon did not develop a unique storyline. This approach has been taken countless times. Then there is the tragic accident that resulted in the injury of a peer. This is poorly constructed and only serves to reconnect Regina and her two best friends in the present narrative. Early on I identified Neptune. The self-mutilation piece is glossed over and not sufficiently explored. McMahon creates Tara who promises to be an interesting character. She could have highlighted her more. Why was she so obsessed with the case? Why was she institutionalized? The ending has a multitude of problems. Many of the characters would have had huge issues surrounding the killer’s identity, impacting them significantly. McMahon writes as if these characters had a really bad meal out, not that they were intimately involved with a serial killer. The killer has surgically removed another character’s hand but with the same ease of losing a favorite sweater accepts the replacement of the prosthesis. McMahon could have gone much deeper, ultimately creating something different, special and much more entertaining.
The Scandinavian’s are great at creating spellbinding thrillers that are chilling to the core. Additionally the cold climate makes for great bleak, creepy backdrops. The Snowman put Jo Nesbro in the same literary category as Karin Fossum, Henning Mankel and Stieg Larsson, other wonderful Scandinavian crime fiction authors. All these authors write gruesome well-crafted tales. It is interesting that they can create such violent worlds when their countries are not plagued by the unthinkable violence they impart.The only issue I had, which I have found to be the case with other novels written by Scandinavian authors are the names of the character are difficult to follow. Many of the names are very similar. Once I got a hold of who was who I couldn’t put the book down. Nesbro creates complicated plot twist and turns. There are numerous plausible alternative suppositions and reversals before the killer is revealed. I enjoyed Harry Hole and am thrilled that Nesbro has featured this character in many of his crime stories. I will be enjoying and reviewing more Harry Hole detective series.
I don’t like short stories as I always am longing for more. Short stories only provide a small glimpse into the character’s existences. They usually lack a conclusion. Regardless of my short story frustrations and biases, Nell Freudenberge is a good writer who creates solid, absorbing characters. My two favorite stories were ‘The Tutor’ and ‘The Orphan.’
In ‘The Tutor’ a young American girl living with her father in India hires Zubin, a tutor. Freudenberge beautifully illustrates the reason for the girl's turmoil as well as the inner conflicts of Zubin. This story has a non-ending, but fits in with the overall style of the book, where we are only allowed to view a part of the characters lives and even then there is no final resolution to the part that we view.
'The Orphan' is the story for which I left craving for a complete book. Alice and Jeff a middle-aged couple have decided to divorce. They need to inform their children of this life altering choice. When the family unites there is an extreme awkwardness which I wanted the author to unravel further. Additionally, at the very start of the story, Mandy calls her mother to let her know that she has been sexually and physically assaulted by her boyfriend. During Alice, Jeff’s and her brother’s visit, Mandy introduces the boyfriend that sexually and physically assaulted her. This story was gripping and all the characters were multi-faceted. I would be very curious to read how Freudenberge would continue this story if it was turned into a novel.
Even if you are like me and do not gravitate or particularly enjoy short short stories I hope you will give Freudenberge a try as again, she is a strong, interesting writer.