Virginia Feito – Mrs March

Virginia Feito – Mrs March

Mrs March leads the classic life of a New York upper class housewife and mother. Her husband George is a successful writer whose latest novel has catapulted him to the top of the bestseller list. Mrs March was raised to this life, from her childhood on, she has learnt how to behave in society and how to present herself and her family in an adequate way. Yet, her whole life has somehow become only a scenery of a life and she has lost herself. When a young woman’s body is found, she is intrigued and soon she finds more and more evidence that her husband’s inspiration might not just come out of himself and his imagination but might actually stem from actual experience. Is she sharing her bed with a murderer?

Virginia Feito’s debut novel “Mrs March” is an intense psychological study of a woman who has lost connection to reality and is gradually plummeting into an abyss. Brilliantly the author shows how a strongly self-controlled character more and more loses power over her life and in the end can hardly distinguish between what is real and what is only imagined.

It is quite clever how the protagonist is presented to the reader, she is only ever referred to as “Mrs March” thus defined by her status as a married woman and without a first name. She is not given anything that she brings into the marriage from her childhood. From her flashbacks you learn that her parents treated her rather coolly and that she has always felt like not doing anything right, not being the daughter they had hoped for, not fulfilling the expectations, until, finally, they can hand her over to her husband. The only persons she could bond with was her – rather malicious – imagined friend Kiki and a household help, yet, she couldn’t cope with positive feelings since this concept was totally alien to her.

Behind the facade of the impeccable woman is a troubled mind. First, it is just the assumption that people talk behind her back, compare her to her husband’s latest novel’s protagonist – not very flattering since this is a prostitute who is paid out of pity instead of for good service rendered – then she sees cockroaches and finds more and more signs which link George with the murder of the young woman the whole country is talking about. From her point of view, it a fits together perfectly, but she does not see how she herself increasingly fractures. Most of the plot happens behind closed doors, she does not have friends or family she is close to, thus, there is nobody to help her.

As readers, we know exactly where she is headed to and then, Virginia Feito confronts us with an unexpected twist which lets you reassess what you have just read. The distinction between reality and paranoia sometimes isn’t that clear at all.

A wonderfully written, suspenseful kind of gothic novel set in New York’s upper class whose signs of class affiliation are repeatedly mocked while also showing that not all is well just because you live in a posh apartment and can wear expensive clothes.

Amy Suiter Clarke – Girl, 11

Amy Suiter Clarke – Girl, 11

Elle Castillo’s podcast on unsolved murder cases has gone through the ceiling since she started talking about Minnesota’s famous The Countdown Killer, short TCK. Two decades before, a series of missing and then found murdered girls shock the area of Twin Cities, obviously, they were chosen for their age thus forming a countdown. Only one girl could escape and in this way, the place where she had been hold captive was detected just as two dead bodies. The police believed that the killer was one of them even though both persons have never been identified but the fact that no more kidnapping happened seemed to prove it. However, the new popularity seems to have triggered him to restart – or is it just a very good copycat? No matter who, when Elle’s best friend’s daughter is abducted, Elle knows that she is responsible and in charge of finding the girl.

I really liked the perspective of the podcaster who goes through old materials and builds her own theories on what could have happened. A big fan of true crime podcasts myself, I enjoy listening to podcasts – no matter if the case has been solved or not – and I find it interesting how at times a new perspective of somebody without formal training in investigation can lead to new clues. Amy Suiter Clarke’s protagonist Elle in “Girl, 11” is therefore quite some sympathetic character whom I liked to follow from the start in her quest to find TCK.

All cases of young persons being abducted and killed are followed by the public impatiently, if it happens to be a whole series, people are even more into it. The character of TCK was interestingly created since he did not chose random victims but acted meticulously, even obsessively, to a strict programme. Elle’s investigation is led by her gut feeling, but from the start, you know that there is much more behind it, the author thus creates double suspense, on the one hand, the hunt for the killer, ln the other the question why Elle herself is that obsessed with especially this case.

A suspenseful thriller which accelerates its pace increasingly and also has some fascinating psychological aspects on both sides – the killer and the investigator – to offer.

Graham Moore – The Holdout

Graham Moore – The Holdout

A reunion they have never really wanted since all of them only wanted to forget what happened ten years ago. When lawyer Maya Seale is first approached by Rick, she refuses, but her boss convinces her to take part. They were the jury on the most popular case of the time: 15-year-old Jessica had vanished and was supposedly murdered by her teacher Bobby Nock with whom she obviously had had an affair. Even though the body had never been found, the whole country was convinced that the black man had killed the daughter of a rich Californian real estate mogul. However, the jurors followed Maya’s arguing in finding Bobby not guilty. It took Rick, one of the jurors, a decade of his life to investigate privately and now, he has come up with new evidence he wants his co-jurors and the whole world to see. They return to the hotel where they were kept away from the public for months, but then, Rick is found dead – in Maya’s room. All is just too obvious: the one person who is responsible for the killer of a young girl running free now wants to protect herself by keeping the evidence secret. Thus, consequently, Maya is arrested.

The reader follows Maya Seale in her quest to prove her innocence. You know from the beginning that she is not a reckless killer and that she’s got nothing to hide, but much more interestingly than this already answered question is the one about the legal system: Maya’s chances of being acquitted from murder rise tremendously if she pleads guilty of manslaughter – there does not seem to be a chance of just telling the truth and it simply being acknowledged. So the interesting question actually is: how does the truth have to be framed, or to put it more explicitly: manipulated, to get the result you want?

Graham Moore’s “The Holdout” is a real page-turner. Once you have started, you cannot simply put the novel aside. It is fascinating to see how the law works, to follow the arguing of the lawyers and their weighing the different versions of truth. I also liked how the author created a jury of very peculiar individuals who all have their small secrets they want to hide. Yet, ultimately, they all come out, some with more, others with less consequences. The big mystery looming over the whole story is who killed Jessica Silver and why. This is very cleverly solved but also challenges the reader’s moral value system. At the end of the day, life is complicated and, at times, you have to weigh different perspectives against each other and you may come to the conclusion that one version of truth might be better than another.

A gripping legal thriller full of suspense and a lot of food for thought.

Ilaria Tuti – Eiskalte Hölle

Ilaria Tuti – Eiskalte Hölle

Das norditalienische Bergdörfchen Travenì wird von einem brutalen Mordfall erschüttert. Nicht nur wurde ein geschätzter Bewohner aus der Mitte der kleinen Gemeinschaft gerissen, nein, er wurde mit bloßen Händen getötet und dann hat man ihm die Augen ausgerissen. Was für ein Mensch kann für so eine Tat verantwortlich sein? Auch die herbeigerufene Kommissarin Teresa Battaglia kann sich nur schwer einen Reim auf die Psyche des Mörders machen, fürchtet jedoch schnell, dass es noch weitere Opfer geben wird und zu ihrem Leidwesen behält sie Recht damit. Ein grausames Wesen treibt sich im Wald im das Dorf herum, auch die Kinder haben ihn schon gesehen und nennen ihn nur das Gespenst, weil er leichenblass ist und mit seiner Umwelt verschmilz und so geradezu unsichtbar wird, wenn er nicht gesehen werden will. Teresa hat es mit einem schwer greifbaren Gegner zu tun, doch noch ein anderer Feind setzt ihr zu: ihr eigener Körper. Wird dieser den Strapazen der winterlichen Ermittlungen standhalten und sie den Fall noch lösen können?

Das Thrillerdebut der italienischen Autorin packt den Leser schon nach wenigen Seiten. Leider wurde beim deutschen Titel einiges verschenkt, da die Aussagekraft des Originals („Fiori sopra l’inferno“) verloren geht, die im Buch wieder aufgegriffen wird und mit ein Schlüssel zur Lösung des Falls ist. Genau dieses ist es auch, dass den Roman von anderen des Genres abhebt: es gibt mehr zwischen Himmel und Erde als uns bewusst ist und es gibt Menschen, die eine besondere Verbindung zur Natur haben und mehr wahrnehmen können als andere. Ein schreckliches Ereignis ermöglicht den Blick in die Hölle, den man nie wieder loswird. So geht es Teresa, die ihre Dämonen ständig im Zaum halten muss, so geht es dem Täter. Nur hierüber kann sie sein Denken verstehen, nur so kann sie ihn fassen.

Ein Thriller kann auf vielerlei Weise beeindrucken. Die geschilderte Brutalität, die völlig degenerierte Psyche eines Täters, die clever konstruierte Handlung, das Charisma und der Intellekt des Ermittlers. „Eiskalte Hölle“ fasziniert jedoch durch etwas anderes – wenn hier auch die psychologischen Aspekte ebenso fesseln wie die Figur der Kommissarin – und rückt den Thriller schon stark in die Nähe eines Horrorromans. Die Schilderungen vor allem der Kinder, dass sie ein Wesen im Wald sehen, dass sie sich beobachtet fühlen, dass es eine nicht greifbare Präsenz gibt, jagen einem den Schauer den Rücken hinunter. Man weiß, dass es diese Figur gibt und man weiß, dass sie wieder zuschlagen wird und so beschleunigt sich der Herzschlag beim Lesen mehr als einmal. Vor lauter Sorge, dass doch wenigstens die Kinder verschont bleiben mögen, kann man gar nicht anders als weiterlesen.

Die Angst, die im Dorf umgeht, der Schrecken, der von den verstümmelten Opfern ausgeht – der real gewordene Grusel, dem man sich nicht entziehen kann. Doch dann gelingt der Autorin etwas Unerwartetes: in dem augenscheinlich Bösen erkennt ihre Protagonistin noch etwas ganz anderes und die einfache Dichotomie von Gut und Böse muss infrage gestellt werden. Ein fesselnder Roman, der sich förmlich in den Leser hineinschleicht.

Un-Su Kim – Die Plotter

Un-Su Kim – Die Plotter

Eine Wahl für sein Leben hatte er nie. Raeseng ist schon in der Bibliothek bei Old Raccoon aufgewachsen und dort ganz selbstverständlich in das Metier eines Auftragskillers eingeführt worden. Doch die Lage in Seoul verändert sich, Wahlen stehen an, die Regierung schwächelt und es scheint als wenn unter den Plottern, die seit Jahrzehnten im Land entscheiden, wessen Tage gezählt sind, ein Machtkampf ausgebrochen ist. Auch Raeseng bemerkt, dass seine Arbeit kritischer wird und dass auch er selbst ins Visier der Plotter geraten zu sein scheint – eine Bombe in seiner Wohnung ist da doch recht eindeutig. Er forscht nach und kommt einer kleinen, aber interessanten Gruppe auf die Schliche, die ihn auf ihrer Liste stehen hat.

Koreanische Literatur ist häufig etwas härter als der durchschnittliche deutsche Krimi, auch „Die Plotter“ erfüllt in dieser Hinsicht alle Erwartungen. Menschenleben sind nichts mehr als Spielfiguren in einem Schachspiel, die bisweilen an die falsche Stelle rücken und dann aus dem Spiel entfernt werden. Ein ewiger Kampf ums Überleben, der am Ende nur einen Sieger kennen kann.

Zunächst erscheint der Auftragskiller als Protagonist eher unnahbar in seiner Abgeklärtheit und Kühle. Aber im Laufe der Handlung entwickelt Raeseng immer mehr Profil und vor allem zeigt sich seine menschliche Seite. Er ist keineswegs so gefühllos, als dass er unhinterfragt jeden Auftrag nach Vorgabe ausführt und sich keine weiteren Gedanken um seine Opfer macht. Gerade dieser humane Zug wird ihm schließlich zum Verhängnis, zeigt aber auch, dass man zwar in ein Milieu hineingeboren werden, aber trotzdem so etwas wie Mitgefühl entwickeln kann. Seine Neigung zur Literatur ist glaubwürdig motiviert, aber doch so außergewöhnlich für seinen Berufsstand, dass es die Figur umso interessanter macht.

Die Handlung ist in gewissen Maße abzusehen, die Erinnerungen Raesengs bringen diese auch weniger voran als dass sie zur Profilschärfung des Protagonisten dienen. Das Trio, das Raeseng letztlich ausmacht, hat auch eine recht unerwartete Note, in diesem Punkt kann der Roman sich wahrlich aus der Masse hervorheben: ein Mangel an Überraschungsmomenten kann man Un-Su Kim sicher nicht vorwerfen und derart eigene, ausgefeilte Charaktere findet man auch eher selten. Insgesamt ein stimmiger und außergewöhnlicher Thriller.

Karen Perry – Your Closest Friend

Karen Perry – Your Closest Friend

She shouldn’t have been there in the first place, Shoreditch, the part of London where the attack took place in which Cara was almost killed. It was this young girl, Amy, who saved her by pulling her into a store and then hiding with her for hours. Cara just left her lover when she met the killer, under the pressure of the events, she told Amy about her affair and the lost love of her husband. The events bring them close together and when Cara needs somebody to babysit her daughter, Amy moves in. What seems to be a close friendship, turns out to be something completely different and it won’t take too long until Cara doesn’t recognize her own life anymore and has to realize that she is in real danger.

Karen Perry, the pseudonym of Karen Gillece and Paul Perry, has chosen two quite different main characters for her sixth thriller: on the one hand, the down-to-earth successful radio maker Cara who supports her family and has established herself a picture book life – however, only when looked at from the outside. On the other hand, it is obvious from the beginning that Amy is suffering from hearing voices and that her extreme emotion leads her much more than a rational view of reality. Alternating their points of views gives the reader an advance which does not diminish the suspense.

You know exactly what is going to happen, yet, the question remains how far Amy is ready to go to attain her goal. Would she kill for it? Whom? How destructive is she actually or does she break down before something really bad happens? Something really bad is in the air – and then it happens.

I really liked Karen Perry’s style of writing which keeps you reading on because you want to know how this mess will finally be solved. Nevertheless, I was a bit disappointed by the protagonist Cara. At first, she seems to be quite clever and everything but easy to manipulate. But the more the plot advances, the more naive and even plainly stupid she becomes. This is a bit annoying because at a certain point, it is absolutely apparent who is behind it all, but she remains stubbornly ignorant. All in all, quite some entertaining thriller.