January 17, 2013

Two Reviews From Long-Long Ago

I generally try and re-post the reviews I write for Shelf Awareness here within a few weeks, so that you get them while they're fresh.

But somehow I missed a bunch last year - I think the 31 Days of Awesome Kids' Books series set me back, since I didn't post about "grown-up" books for a whole month.

So here are two gripping (but very different) mysteries from last summer that I thought you'd enjoy!

The Viper

Arvid Traneus, a ruthless businessman who has been working in Tokyo, returns home to the Swedish island of Gotland. Within a few days of his arrival, his wife, Kristina, is found brutally murdered in the Traneus living room along with another dead body. It's soon proven that the unrecognizable victim is not Arvid but his cousin Anders, making Arvid the number-one suspect.

Detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson lead the chase for Arvid, digging into the history of the Traneus family to discover why he would want to kill Kristina and Anders with such viciousness. Hindering the investigation is the fact that Gotland is a small community where memories are long and people are unwilling to get involved in a family dispute.

Hakan Ostlundh heightens the tension of The Viper by recounting the lead-up to the crime from various points of view: Arvid's, Kristina's, each of their children's, and that of an unknown man. He intersperses these flashbacks into the unfolding of the current investigation, along with chapters set a few weeks in the future, where a police officer is lying unresponsive in the hospital. These chapters added a nice twist--the reader must figure out not only the murder scenario, but also how the police officer ended up in the hospital, whether it's related to the case, and how much time has elapsed between the murders and the future scenes. It's a touch that upgrades the novel's traditional mystery into one that is irresistible.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Um, probably not. There was one pretty disturbing dream-sequence that involved some weird sex stuff. Plus a hacked-up body... no good for grandmas.


Mischa Hiller (Sabra Zoo) has created another intense spy thriller with Shake Off, his second novel. Michel Khoury, in London, works as a courier, spy and strategist for his enigmatic boss, Abu Leila. Abu Leila and the Palestinian cause are all Michel has left. Haunted by the death of his family in a refugee camp, Michel drugs himself to sleep every night to avoid his nightmares. When he's awake, however, he is constantly aware--analyzing every gesture and word of the people around him as he works to fulfill his missions without detection.

Michel's life is a lonely one, with essentially no contact beyond that with Abu Leila, until he becomes better acquainted with the girl renting the room next door in his boarding house. Her name is Helen, and Michel finds her irresistible. As developments in the Middle East (and glasnost in the Soviet Union) complicate his professional life, Helen and her lover simultaneously complicate his personal life, increasing Michel's tension to almost unbearable levels.

Shake Off moves at breathtaking speed, flashing between Michel's life in Lebanese refugee camps, years of training in the Soviet Union and East Germany and his current life in London. With all these locations, Hiller has brilliantly re-created the late '80s setting, making the immediacy of the Soviet breakup and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all too real.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? I think so? It's been six months.... the details are a little fuzzy in my brain! There may have been some sex in it?

Do you prefer police procedurals like The Viper or spy thrillers like Shake-Off?

The images are affiliate links.