There’s nothing like a good thriller to get your heart racing on a cold winter afternoon. Of course that might also mean a bit less sleep if you make the mistake of starting a thriller at night but such are the occupational hazards of being a bookaholic. We’ve got three books for you today that it will be fun to cozy up with in front of a roaring fire with your favorite warm beverage. They’re each a bit different, and one has a dystopian edge to it. Let’s see if any of these are crying out to be put on your TBR pile…
Our first novel is The Heart Goes Last by award-winning author Margaret Atwood. When I first read Margaret Atwood’s work, I was just not in the right space; however, it intrigued me so I did something I rarely do. I went back to that novel about five years later and tried it again. I was in a whole different place and I fell in love with her writing style. It’s like a 5-star restaurant meal, something to be savored. Elements in this novel will be familiar to fans of 1984 and Pleasantville. The Heart Goes Last is actually a compilation and reworking of Ms. Atwood’s recent Positron e-novellas, which I had not read. It did not read like a compilation at all but like a very polished novel. It has a dystopian thread and, well, Margaret’s novels just have to be read to be believed.
It’s the near future. Unemployment is at astronomical levels and morale has hit a lower low than ever before. Charmaine and Stan have gone from solid middle class careers to living in their car, fearing for their lives while trying to fend off robbers and much worse people who roam the streets of what used to be a nice place to live. To say their relationship has suffered would be just the tip of the iceberg. They know deep inside that it’s just a matter of time until something really horrible happens to them no matter how much they try to deny it.
When they hear about the Positron Project, it looks like a way out. Positron is an experimental project that banishes hardship and the risk of crime for those accepted into it. Stan’s brother warns them that he’s heard some things that make him think it’s too good to be true, but they’re desperate. Their lives are at stake so they can’t lose, right? The Positron Project does have an odd set-up. Every other month, Charmaine and Stan live in a beautiful home, in complete comfort. They have assigned jobs to contribute to the community and they are guaranteed their safety, which would have sold them on this project all by itself. Good so far…but then on alternate months, they live in a prison. They also have assigned jobs while in prison – and they’re in prison. Still it’s better than being left for dead on the streets.
At first, they’re euphoric to be off the streets and have renewed purpose in their lives but, the longer they’re there, the more they begin to pick up on a scary undercurrent. Then people begin disappearing and no one seems to know what’s become of them. It doesn’t take long for Charmaine and Stan to begin piecing things together and to realize they may have made a fatal mistake. What is the Positron Project really about?
Our second novel is A Song of Shadows by bestselling author John Connolly. I believe, if I counted correctly, that A Song of Shadows is Book #13 in the Charlie Parker series. Normally I wouldn’t review a novel this deep into a series; however, I’ve found that the Charlie Parker novels can be read pretty easily as stand-alones. Obviously knowing Charlie’s background would help enrich the experience but I enjoy the hell out of them as independent reads.
Charlie first appeared in this series as a former policeman turned private detective who was determined to find the killer of his wife and daughter…a man on a very personal mission. He also has this tendency to attract beings of a somewhat supernatural aspect, which is an interesting twist. He’s a character I’ve grown to really like and I think you will too. If you’re looking for fast-paced, nail-biting action, look no further.
In the last Charlie Parker installment, The Wolf in Winter, Charlie received life threatening wounds. When A Song of Shadows begins, he’s still recovering from them. He’s chosen the small, declining coastal town of Boreas, Maine as the place where he can get away while he regains his strength.
There he befriends an elderly woman, Ruth Winter, and her daughter, Amanda. Ruth has deep secrets she guards with her life, horrible secrets that stretch back to a World War II concentration camp in the Polish town of Lubsko – secrets so old you’d think they wouldn’t matter anymore. But those secrets are coming back to haunt her because a killer wants them kept forever.
Dead bodies washing ashore, burned homes, murdered families, missing children, and a child with traumatizing dreams – plot twists that made my head spin. The bottom line? Charlie is the only person who can protect Ruth but she’s as afraid of him as she is of the person who might be hunting her. And Charlie is still far from back to the prime condition needed to handle such a threat. The only plus to that? It could make a killer over confident, which would be a huge mistake since Charlie is far from weak in other ways…and he has friends.
Several people have said they think this is the best novel yet in the Charlie Parker series. Since I, alas, haven’t read them all, I can’t say that. What I can say is that I was riveted to the story and knew this was one novel I had to let you know about.
Our third novel is Fatal Complications, a medical thriller by John Benedict. Medical thrillers interest me while giving me the shivers because I worked in a hospital at one point during my career. There’s nothing like working in a hospital to make you all too aware that some “gods” have clay feet. Fatal Complications involves a medical conspiracy with life or death consequences – wouldn’t be a thriller otherwise, right? The author is actually an anesthesiologist and the old adage, “write what you know,” has led him to write a compelling thriller that portrays hospitals very realistically. It also takes chilling leaps about what could actually go wrong in a very believable way. The thought of vulnerable patients putting their trust in doctors like the villains in Fatal Complications makes for some scary stuff.
Anesthesiologist Luke Dalton puts in grueling hours at the hospital. It’s especially hard right now because his wife, Kim, is pregnant and he feels particularly torn because he wants to be there for her more often, not less. He’s under a lot of pressure at work. The department chair, Dr. Jason Katz, has a volatile temper and Luke feels like he has to walk on eggshells around him as a new team member. If he can only make it through the new-hire probation period, maybe he will feel less like everything could fall apart any minute at a whim from Katz.
When Luke is called in to work with Katz on an emergency C-Section surgery, he becomes concerned at the way the surgery is conducted. This is the department chair we’re talking about but Katz did things in that surgery which were questionable at best and possibly things that could tip into malpractice. That concerns Luke on three levels; his concern for the patient as a physician, his concern for his position if he speaks out, and his concern for his wife’s upcoming delivery if Katz is in charge of that delivery. No way is Luke willing to risk his wife’s and child’s safety to someone who would do what Katz did during that emergency surgery.
As Luke begins to do some digging around, he goes from concern to alarm. Far too many of Katz’ surgeries have gone south in the same way the emergency surgery he assisted with did. Something very wrong is going on in this hospital and Luke is determined to find out what before his wife has to go there for delivery. After all, forewarned is forearmed, right? Well, maybe he wasn’t forearmed enough because now Kim’s treatment has gone very wrong, and she and their baby are in danger. Luke would do anything to protect them and he may have to.
Can’t wait to read these novels? The Heart Goes Last, A Song of Shadows, and Fatal Complications are all available at your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the link to go there to get them!
I’d love to get your comments on The Song of Shadows, Fatal Complications, and/or The Heart Goes Last, their authors and/or their other work, and/or this review.