Summer fun is filled with colorful flipflops, sexy tan lines, endless cocktails, and scary blockbusters. And of course action-packed page turners. Not sure when we started complementing summer with thrills but maybe because getting goosebumps from scares helps to shoot down the stinging heat. Scary is refreshing sometimes. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and a string of thrillers have caught my attention. Some good, some bad. There may not be a lot of original ideas left when it comes down to stories but there are so many original ways of storytelling nowadays, dense with twists and turns and upside down thrills and mysteries. Entertainment via books should be a cool escape this summer. Here are a few. Happy thrillin’!
Without a Doubt by Marcia Clarke — Did you watch American Crime Story: People VS OJ? That was such a riveting reenactment of everything that happened following the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson in 1996. I was particularly keen about this case because I was only a child when I saw people all over the world glued to the television watching the famous Ford Bronco chase, and grew up to join the many strangers wondering how the judicial system failed to bring the man to a life sentence. I also lived nearby Simpson’s young daughter during my university years in Boston. So even though I knew the end to the story, I still picked up this book to revisit the case all over again, this time from Clarke’s powerful and convincing perspective. Factual perspective, in fact. She’s written the story so factually and personally that even if you know the end to the case, you’ll still discover the details of the details that were released to the public. It’s not a thriller per se, but a true crime story that still haunts today. Very well written. 5/5
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain — Riley McPherson goes back to her childhood home in North Carolina when her father passes away. The family’s terminal misery from her sister’s suicidal death from decades ago is still very much intact in the house and piled along boxes of unwanted memories. Riley was only a toddler when the incident happened. While in town, she goes through great lengths to reconnect with her aloof older brother of ten years to plan their father’s funeral. She also rekindles a relationship with her late mother’s best friend and her adult daughter. And it is through these relationships that Riley discovers how sheltered her entire life had been, from a crazy family secret. And with this new knowledge, there’s no turning back. The story is a testament to how fragile family can be and what it takes to keep it all together. 4/5
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham — This is apparently a “gothic” novel because it combines horror, death, and romance. It’s about Tilly’s return to her hometown after being unofficially exiled by her mother at the age of ten for false murder accusations of her classmate, Stewart. When she comes back to take care of her ill-stricken mother, she’s a couple of decades more thick-skinned and skillful as a professional dressmaker. As she reconnects with her peers and neighbors, she begins to learn how to manipulate relationships to avenge her family’s dying reputation from her past. She weaves lavish dresses for the townspeople by day and threads an intricate plan to bring the town to its demise. But Tilly’s presence just seems to be a curse as there is sudden surge of accidents and deaths in town. The story is very original and creatively unpredictable but a bit too out-of-the-box bizarre for my liking. Still entertaining though. 3/5
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith — I’m a bit late to the game on this one because I had always presumed that it’d be Harry Potter-esque (not a HP fan, never read one) but to my surprise it was a fun page turner! Cormoron Strike is not your typical winning detective but an unconventionally charming and intelligent character who mercifully takes on cases at nearly pro bono. His career takes an interesting turn when John Birstow, the brother of Lula Landry, visits him to insist that his high-profile model sister did not die of suicide but of homicide. The writing style is a bit like reading a movie script; meticulously visual and descriptive but colorful and fast-paced enough to keep up with the story. Definitely a fun one but I probably won’t pick up the remaining in the Galbraith series. 3.5/5