Samantha Downing – My Lovely Wife

Samantha Downing – My Lovely Wife

They did it before and they are about to do it again. What looks like the absolute average family in Hidden Oaks – the father a tennis coach, the mother in real estates and two lovely kids – is all but average. They have a secret, or better: secrets in plural since they have killed more than one woman. And they are looking for their next victim. They are clever, a lot cleverer than all the other inhabitants of their small community and most certainly smarter than the police who don’t even know that somebody is missing. Yet, every run of luck has an ending and theirs is about to come, isn’t it?

Samantha Downing’s debut is a terrific thriller which combines the core emotions of human beings: love and hate. It’s masterly constructed and when you think you finally know what it all adds up to, you get a big surprise and a twist that takes suspense to another level.

First of all, the couple at the centre of the novel. The story is told from the husband’s point of view – interestingly, he never gets a name, there are only his aliases when he makes contact with possible victims. The point of view is limited of course which will play a major role and undeniably helps to lead you to wrong assumptions. As a reader, I should have known better, but I fell easily prey to Downing. At the beginning, you get the impression that the parents are a bit different, even strange to a certain extent, but even though you know that they have killed before, it doesn’t really keep you from seeing the loving father and mother who try to educate their children and deeply care for them. At some point, I even wished for them to get away with murder. Well, they are great in deceiving their environment and so is the reader.

An impressive psychological thriller which only reveals its full extent at the end of the novel and definitely makes you think about what you really know of the people around you and how easily you can be tricked and misled.

Peter Swanson – Before She Knew Him

Peter Swanson – Before She Knew Him

Hen and Lloyd have left busy Boston for a quieter place to live and where Hen can do her art work in a real artist’s workshop. Their neighbours Matthew and Mira seem to be nice, but the dinner Hen and Lloyd are invited to takes a strange turn when Hen during the tour of the house sees something she shouldn’t see. She does not want to believe her eyes, but it has been there and there is just one simple explanation to it: her neighbour Matthew is a killer. But who would believe her, the woman with a history of false accusations and a diagnose of bipolar disorder? Well, Matthew believes her and confirms her suspicion – sure that she cannot threaten him in her position…

Peter Swanson’s novel is a thrilling read that does not play to the normal rules of the genre. We quickly figure out that Matthew is a serial killer, since we get also his side of the story, it doesn’t take too long to sort this out. But then just a third of novel is over, so what is there more to come? A lot and very unexpected turns.

Even though the focus of the story is shifted again and again, each part of the novel has its own thrills. In the beginning, it is the fight between Matthew and Hen, who is stronger, who will win? This is the part I liked most since here the thrill is at its peak. This doesn’t mean that the rest is lacking suspense, it doesn’t at all. Swanson really could surprise me and I was wondering constantly if this could be true: people living with the knowledge of murders but keeping silent.

All in all, a psychological thriller full of suspense and surprising developments.

Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, the Serial Killer

Oyinkan Braithwaite  – My Sister, the Serial Killer

Korede and her sister Ayoola live in Lagos together with their mother since their father dies. Korede, who works at a hospital as a nurse, is a decent, but rather plain young woman whereas Ayoola always has all the looks on her. Even though the sisters couldn’t hardly be more different, they are sister after all so when Ayoola calls her, it is without any question that Korede shows up with some bleach to wipe away the mess of another murder. They have done it before and will also succeed this time. Why does she have to kill all her boyfriends? Korede wonders but since none of the was really important to her, she remains secret and the sister she is supposed to be. But when Ayoola starts dating to one man Korede really likes, things become a bit more complicated.

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is a hilarious read full of absurd situations and fantastic characters. The author, who graduated in Creative Writing and was a 2016 finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, surely knows how to create outstanding characters and how to combine humour with an actually very serious topic. What I appreciated most is how she, on the surface, wrote a funny story that, beneath, offers so much crucial and grave issues. What it all comes down to after all is the well-known fact that blood is thicker than water and that without any question, you know which side you have to be on.

Ayoola is a serial killer – absurd as it may sound, the title is absolutely clear about it and after the opening scene, you know all about her killings. Yet, this is one of the least interesting aspects, much more remarkable is the sisters’ relationship: jealousy, love, anger, hatred, support – the full spectrum of emotions. Of course, it is Korede that the reader commiserates, she is obviously the good girls that nobody notices, neither their parents nor the men. I wondered if Ayoola suffered from some kind of mental illness, she somehow does not really seem to realise what she does, but she definitely is rather egocentric and not very considerate when it comes to other people’s feelings.

“My sister, the Serial Killer” is a black comedy that should not be taken too seriously I guess. It is a great read that I utterly enjoyed. I am absolutely looking forward to reading more from the author.

Jo Nesbø – The Snowman

Jo Nesbø – The Snowman

Es ist relativ ruhig in Oslo als zwei vermisste Frauen die Aufmerksamkeit von Harry Hole wecken. Ein anonymer Brief, den er wenige Wochen zuvor erhalten hat, ließ ihn damals noch etwas ratlos zurück, doch jetzt fürchtet er, dass ein Serienkiller am Werk sein könnte. Außer seinem Team ist niemand so recht von der Idee überzeugt, aber vor allem Katrine Bratt, die Neue, findet schnell weitere Hinweise, die diese These stützen. Gemeinsam haben die ungeklärten Fälle immer eine Sache: am Tag des ersten Schneefalls wird eine Frau Opfer und immer findet sich in der Nähe des Tatorts ein Schneemann. Die fieberhafte Suche nach dem Täter beginnt, doch das Team ahnt nicht, in welche Richtung die Ermittlungen führen werden.

Band 7 der Reihe um den norwegischen Kriminalkommissar Harry Hole erfüllt einmal mehr alle Erwartungen: ein komplexer Fall, ein interessanter Protagonist, eine gelungene Mischung von Kriminalfall und persönlichem Schicksal. Hole ist gerade trocken und dabei sein Leben wieder auf die Reihe zu bekommen, als er mit diesem Fall konfrontiert wird, aber die Geister der Vergangenheit lauern an jeder Ecke, was ihn zugleich beruflich wie privat an seine Grenzen bringt.

Was mich einmal mehr bei Jo Nesbø überzeugen kann, ist die Atmosphäre, in der er seinen Roman ansiedelt. Der norwegische Winter spielt im „Snowman“ eine entscheidende Rolle und dringt auch zum Leser durch. Die Kälte, die man zu dieser Jahreszeit vermutet wird gepaart mit jener, die durch den Grusel vor den Taten entsteht. Dazu ist der Autor ein Meister im Spuren legen und lesen, so manches, was man nebenbei überlesen könnte, stellt sich hinterher als wesentliches Element heraus, man ist gefordert als Leser und wird dafür bestens unterhalten.


Joy Ellis – Beware the Past

Joy Ellis – Beware the Past

It was his most important case, 25 years ago, and now it all seems to be coming back to him. Detective Matt Ballard was still young when a series of murders of three boys hit the remote area of Gibbet Fens. The killing suddenly stopped when their main suspects was killed in an accident, but nevertheless, doubts remained and now the killers seems to have resumed his series. The team is working around the clock and soon they have to realise that this is not just a normal murder case, it is a cat and mouse play with Matt Ballard at the centre. The killer wants his full attention and he want to hurt the detective – therefore everybody close to him is in the highest danger.

Joy Ellis’ thriller is just want I’d suspect from a crime novel: full of suspense, many clues and leads that only lead to dead-ends. Interesting characters with a past and buried secrets. A fast paced story with twists and turns and quite a surprising motive of the predator.

For me, the strongest aspect of the novel was actually the plot and the motivation of the killer. It is hard not to tell too much since it really comes as a surprise, but the way Joy Ellis drafted the novel, the killer’s procedure and the solution of the case was just brilliant. I was kept in the dark about who is behind it all for such a long time – ok, one might have guessed, but actually, the fact that I was totally taken by surprise makes it an outstanding thriller for me.

J.D. Barker – The Fourth Monkey

The Fourth MonkeyGeboren um zu toeten von JD Barker
J.D. Barker – The Fourth Monkey

Immer dasselbe Muster: erst das Ohr des Opfers, dann die Zunge, dann die Leiche. Und immer soll ein naher Verwandter damit betraft werden, denn dieser hat etwas Böses getan. Seit Jahren jagt Sam Porter den sogenannten Four Monkey Killer, der Chicago in Angst und Schrecken versetzt. Doch nun scheint das Schicksal auf Seiten der Ermittler zu sein, denn beim Ausliefern des Ohres eines vermissten Mädchens wird der Bote überfahren; bei sich hat er auch das Tagebuch des Killers. Doch schnell müssen Porter und sein Team feststellen, dass der Tote nicht der gesuchte Serientäter sein kann. Sie ahnen jedoch nicht, dass dieser ein perfides Spiel für seine Jäger vorbereitet hat, sie sind zu sehr mit dem Fall beschäftigt, um diese Option in Betracht zu ziehen und bringen sich damit selbst in höchste Gefahr.

J.D. Barkers Thriller „The Fourth Monkey“ lässt keine Wünsche offen, die man an einen spannenden und nervenzehrenden Fall stellen könnte: Eine komplexe Story, deren Einzelteile sich erst langsam zusammenfügen und schließlich einen clever konstruierten Plot ergeben. Ein zunehmend hohes Tempo der Handlung. Teilweise grenzwertig brutale Szenen, die jedoch sehr deutlich schildern, wie weit der menschliche Abgrund reicht und wozu Psychopaten fähig sind. Dies lässt einem nur umso mehr Sorge um das bedauernswerte Opfer haben. Dazu ein vielschichtiger Ermittler, der mit seinem Privatleben zu kämpfen hat und dadurch weitere Facetten jenseits der Ermittlungsarbeit erhält.

Bereits sein erster Roman wurde begeistert aufgenommen und für den Bram Stoker Award nominiert. Der Thriller um den Four Monkey Killer ist J.D. Barkers zweiter Wurf, der den Leser sofort packt und der geschickt sie Spannung so platziert – zahlreiche Cliffhanger nicht nur zwischen den Kapiteln, sondern auch am Ende des Buchs, was geradezu nach einer Fortsetzung schreit – dass man den Roman schlichtweg nicht weglegen kann. Dass die Filmrechte bereits verkauft sind, wundert dabei auch nur wenig.


Ein Dank geht an das Bloggerportal für das Rezensionsexemplar. Mehr Informationen zu Titel und Autor finden sich auf der Verlagsseite von Random House.

F.G. Cottam – The Lazarus Prophecy

F.G. Cottam – The Lazarus Prophecy

Three prostitutes have already been killed in London. Since the police do not publish anything about the serial killer, he chooses a much more popular victim: the actress Julie Longmuir. Women do not feel secure anymore and Jane Sullivan, head of the investigation, and her team are under pressure. The parallels with Jack the Ripper are stunning, but of course, the Ripper has been dead for decades. Has he? At the same time in the French Pyrenees region. A couple of old monks try to keep a secret and fulfil their sole task as a clandestine order, but there has been a major incident and now they have to face the consequences.

F.G. Cottam’s thriller combines a murder story with religious aspects and paranormal elements. What I found most interesting were actually the killer’s message at the crime scene, his knowledge – there is a clear reason why they named him “The Scholar” – about ancient languages and the holy books. The cross references and allusions of course are not very singular, but I like these kind of books and I appreciated that not all is based on this but that we also have other interesting aspects in the novel. The protagonist, Jane Sullivan, is an interesting character. She is not the super hero but struggles with the case, sometimes close to giving up, but then again following her intuition and striving to solve this case. She is open for the paranormal and goes a road not often travelled in police work.

Yet, this is also the point which left me not completely satisfied with the novel. I would have preferred a more down to earth solution for the case. In the novel’s development, it was all logic and stringent, but readers who are avid of mystical explanation will not really appreciate it.