Must-read thrillers and crime novels for this winter

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February 6, 2019
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February 7, 2019

Must-read thrillers and crime novels for this winter

Scrublands by Chris Hammer, Atria Books, US $26.99, Pp 384, January 2019, ISBN 978-1501196744
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken, Ecco, US $27.99, Pp 372, February 2019, ISBN 978-0062862853
The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $25.00, Pp 352, March 2019, ISBN 978-1328577856

Riversend is an isolated but peaceful rural town. Recently, it ran out of luck when a long drought hit the community. As people started having sleepless nights because of the drought, another misfortune hit them when a young priest — who is later thought to be a pedophile — kills five parishioners before killing himself too. A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden returns from the war front and is assigned to report the situation in Riversend one year after the tragedy happened. Martin is tasked to describe how the people have been impacted by the tragedy that happened a year ago. As Martin starts investigating, he realizes that the young priest may not be after all pedophile. But the problem is Martin’s own newspaper had published a story establishing the priest as a pedophile. Selling a story that says the opposite would not be easy to sell to his newspaper. Martin is determined to dig out the truth but suddenly the bodies of two German backpackers are discovered in a dam in the scrublands. The two German backpackers went missing at the same time as the church shooting. It is suddenly a whole new ballgame for Martin. He has to discover the real reason behind the priest’s shooting spree and also if the deaths — or murders — of the two Germans are connected to the priest in any way. But he finds himself as determined to pursue the truth as ever although now his job, his mental state, and his life are at stake as the unexpected happens again. Scrublands is a uniquely thrilling crime novel. This beautifully-written novel has established Chris Hammer as a powerful new voice in the genre of thrillers and crime novels. You will not be able to put this great debut down easily.

About the author

Christopher Hammer lives in Australia and has been a journalist for over twenty-five years. He has been an international correspondent, the chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, and a senior political journalist for The Age.

*****

The story in Bowlaway revolves around three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alley. The protagonist is Bertha Truitt who has been an enigma to everyone who knows her in Salford, Massachusetts since she was found unconscious in a local cemetery at the turn of the century and had nothing to talk about her past. Her past is shrouded in a mystery. She appeared as if she had forgotten everything about her past. All she had was a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person. Most people in the town feel intrigued by her origins. People are more intrigued when they find out that she is marrying Doctor Leviticus Sprague and start a new life. Doctor Leviticus Sprague had helped her regain consciousness. Among the townspeople, Bertha is known for her tenacity, but when she starts her bowling alley business, they discover a creative entrepreneur in her. Her bowling alley quickly becomes a favorite place in Salford where Bertha is the most prominent resident. When Bertha dies in a mysterious accident, people in Salford start discovering her past slowly as her never-heard-of son arrives in Salford and lays a claim on the Truitt Alleys. In her death, Bertha keeps defining future generations through inheritance struggles and suspect paternities and mysterious wills. Bowlaway is a family saga that gives a deep insight into the twentieth-century American family structure. This brilliantly written novel is more thrilling than a typical thriller. Elizabeth McCracken is a natural story-teller.

About the author

Elizabeth McCracken is the author of five books, Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry (stories), The Giant’s House (a National Book Award finalist), Niagara Falls All Over Again, the memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and Thunderstruck & Other Stories (winner of the 2014 Story Prize, long-listed for the National Book Award), three of which were New York Times Notable Books. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.

*****

The Stranger Diaries is set in West Sussex where middle-aged Clare Cassidy is a high school English literature teacher who specializes in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, a writer of gothic tales who once lived in the school where she teaches. She lives with her teenage daughter and her dog. She teaches a course on him every year. She is also planning to write the biography of R.M. Holland. Gothic writer R. M. Holland was literature for her — until one of Clare’s colleague and closest friend is found dead in mysterious circumstances. The killer had left a Post-it note on the body with words from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, ‘The Stranger.’ ‘The Stranger’ is her favorite and she suspects it was a message for her. There have been murders in the town where the killer used similar methods but this murder chilled Clare’s spine as the victim was her close friend. Clare never thought the events of a story will come true in real life. She is horrified to see how the line between real life and literature become blurred. As this is not enough, police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. In such situations when she doesn’t know whom to trust, Clare always turns to her diary — her confidant — and notes down her darkest suspicions and fears about the murder. The day before Halloween, Clare discovers that someone has left a strange message on one of her diaries: “Hello Clare. You don’t know me.” Who has tried to read her diaries and why? are the questions that agitate her mind. Is there something she cannot read between the lines? She is not sure about the motives of the writer of these words. As she thinks about it, she increasingly becomes certain that ‘The Stranger’ wants to terrify her. The Stranger Diaries is an utterly mesmerizing thriller. If you like chilling thrillers, this is what you should be reading next.

About the author

Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series, and the standalone novel The Stranger Diaries. It is her first stand-alone novel. She is a recipient of the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the CWA Dagger in the Library Award.

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8 Comments

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  7. lcmug.com says:

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  8. Cenceme.org says:

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