Book reviews: Irene and Camille

Pierre LemaitreAfter an excruciating two-year wait for the Commandant Verhoeven trilogy, I was overjoyed to know that the two remaining books were finally translated from French. They truly did not disappoint and consistently kept me at the edge of my seat that I did not even realize that I had devoured them in one sitting.

When taken as a whole, this three-part series – “Irene, Alex and Camille” in running order – by author Pierre Lemaitre string together as a coherent read. (Read here for my review of the second book “Alex”) Individually, they function equally effective as standalone detective stories.

In “Irene,” the author laid down most of the groundwork to set up his central protagonist Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven. The first case Verhoeven had to deal with was a succession of gruesome murders where the victims were brutally hacked up and methodologically arranged in an almost illogical manner. The pressure ratcheted up when the cases received public attention after the media caught wind of the cases and sensationalized them. Continue reading

Book review: Alex

195kg46t59vd0jpgThis Halloween if you are looking for something frightful to read, look no further than ‘Alex’ by French author Pierre Lemaitre. This detective thriller will keep your fingers flipping and eyes glued to the pages while chilling you down to the bones.

Alex is the first book of Lemaitre, winner of multiple crime-writing awards, which is translated into English language. As an avid fan of detective stories, I thought I have seen all different types of story plots such that it would be relatively difficult to surprise me any more, but I was wrong. I was AWESTRUCK by this brilliant piece of work and let me explain myself.

At the heart of this novel is gory sex, the basic selling point found in many thrillers, especially in Scandinavian crime novels that I adore, repackaged to exude such calm and sophistication to give it the cold-blooded murder qualities. A young beautiful woman was kidnapped from the streets of Paris after dinner and taken to a warehouse as captive where her kidnapper told her, “I’m going to watch you die.” The details of her confinement are plainly horrifying and gruesome to read:

“All around the rats are watching, not knowing whether to attack her. Then she pulls her hand back, and they fight over the fresh blood, gnawing into the rope for a taste of it; they can’t get enough. But now they’ve had a taste of blood, now that she’s given them her own blood to taste, nothing will stop them.”

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Kindle serial: The fifth knight

The fifth knightWhen Amazon introduced the Kindle Serials late last year, I wanted to give it a shot and I was very impressed by this new product.

Kindle Serials are stories released in parts for subscribers who pay a one-time flat rate (most are priced at $1.99 for now) to gain access to all episodes.

Every two or three weeks, an email would be sent out to subscribers to download the latest serial, a concept very similar to catching up with your favorite weekly TV program. The only thing I have to do is to switch on my wireless network and the latest installment will be instantly loaded to my reader at no extra cost.

My first Kindle Serial is The Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell, an English period novel set during the medieval times. I surprised myself by picking a genre I usually do not gravitate towards and it turned out to be a very enjoyable read that kept me on tenterhooks.
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Book review: Caught

Having taken a hiatus from reviewing my favorite genre of mystery/thrillers (the last being Rebecca Forster’s ‘Hostile Witness’), I am back with ‘Caught’ by prolific writer Harlan Coben.

Having read a few of Coben’s works, ‘Caught’ did live up to its expectation as another wonderfully wrapped thriller that layers puzzles after puzzles after puzzles on top of each other.

The lead character is news reporter Wendy Tynes, who works on a tabloid TV show that exposes pedophiles, murderers and other criminals to ‘bring them to justice.’

Interestingly, Tynes was crafted at the start of the book to take on a rather controversial and unlikeable role – a tabloid reporter busting suspected child pedophile Dan Mercer.

But Mercer was portrayed throughout the story as an unlikely criminal, – a sad, sorry orphan who despite scrapping his way to an Ivy League school still firmly believes that ‘my destiny is to be alone.’
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My favorite childhood author: Caroline Keene

During our childhood years, I believe most people will go through an intense girly or boyish phase where if you watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you will not touch Polly Pocket toys. For me, that girlish phase was also reflected in the choice of books I read which included the Nancy Drew series and admittedly, the Sweet Valley series.

This blog post will be mainly dedicated to Caroline Keene, author of Nancy Drew. I was a huge fan of the teenage sleuth during my senior years in elementary school and went head over heels the entire series, making sure I read all that was available in the library.

So when I did my little research for this post, I realized that Caroline Keene was merely a pseudonym. In another words, this name never existed and she was technically not a real person. Instead, Keene represented a group of ghostwriters employed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate who published this series of books.

I must say I was honestly surprised by my finding because for many years, I have always imagined Keene as an American old lady, a bit like Agatha Christie. So my shock is best summarized by a 1999 interview done with the deceased Mildred Wirt Benson, who was one of the ghostwriters of the Nancy Drew series.

Reporter: I just talked to my mother and told her that there was no Carolyn Keene. She had never known.
Benson: That’s like saying there’s no Santa Claus.

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