Category Archives: Thriller

If I Die Before I Wake – Emily Koch

Hi Lovely People!

I hope you’ve been basking in the beautiful sunshine today. It’s glorious out there! Spring is in the air and boy is it fabulous!

Time for my choice of book for the Waterstones Book of the Month. There was one book for March that just grabbed my attention which, as a result, meant that the others didn’t get a look in! That is If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch.

Unlike my other reviews, this won’t be as detailed and thorough with the plot. I wouldn’t want to give anything away and ruin it for you! I hope you enjoy.

What’s it all about?

The novel centres around the first person narration of Alex. Unfortunately for Alex, two years ago he was involved in a rock climbing accident. As a result, he is living in a permanent vegetative state. However, we as a reader get an insight into Alex’s internal dialogue. He goes through phases of utter despair, depression, frustration, positivity and everything in between.

“I’ve always been fighting, since the moment I woke up in hospital. But I haven’t always been on the same side of the battle lines.”

However, he does have access to some of his senses. He can see a little through the slits in his eyes. He can hear exceptionally well and can smell too. It’s his sense of smell that enables him to work out who is in his hospital room and when.

‘She only has to walk into my room and I feel a little bit better. For a start, she smells motherly and comforting, like marzipan -‘

Since Alex’s fall two years ago, he has remained in an unresponsive state, according to the doctors treating him. To begin with, because of the pain he could see his family going through, he decides it would be better to die. However, the more various family members and his girlfriend, Bea visits, the more he wants to show them he’s alive inside. He desperately tries to move, to focus on one point to get it moving, even if just for an inch.

As the novel progresses and time passes by, his family have to make the incomprehensible decision whether or not to turn off his life support machine. His parents, sister and girlfriend push for continuous medical tests. All the results show the same: nothing. Unresponsive. They continue to hold on.

Whilst everyone involved are in agony, Alex’s internal agony is so much worse. He can hear all the discussing about what decision to make regarding Alex’s current position. Eventually, they agree that it is time to move on and let him go. Alex knows that this will result in his life and there is absolutely nothing he can do about it.

‘I must have exhausted myself after several hours of panic. I found I was asleep, trapped in the same visionwatching from the corner of our flat, trying to help her, trying to shout to her but realising that saline drip lines bound my wrists and ankles, and the sponges used to clean my mouth were stuffed into it, gagging me.

Whilst heating the conversations about his impending death, Alex doesn’t have the energy to communicate (or try to) that will make the doctors and his family pay attention.

Something is different though, Alex has got some new visitors: the police. Recently, they have been around Alex’s hospital trying to unearth clues and information regarding Alex’s rock climbing accident. It appears that accident isn’t quite the correct word to describe what had happened to him.

‘The question I would have asked myself back then, if I’d known what I know now, was: But what if it wasn’t fate that made you fall?’

Alex has all the time in the world lying there to try and work out what happened to him. Everything is a blur though. His memories are severely damaged, if not gone. Yet, he still tries. He has a unending sense that something bad is happening with Bea too. The two link together in his mind and we see utter frustration from Alex because there isn’t nothing he can do apart from think.

Alex knows that he needs to use the senses he does have to try and work out what happened to him. As the pages fly by, time is running out for Alex (and everyone else) to solve the mystery of what exactly happened to him. After all, murder is a crime and Alex‘s accident might not be an accident at all. Time is running out for them all. This needs solving before they can say their last goodbyes.

“And so, I hope if you can hear me, you will forgive me…After I read this to you, I’m going to talk to your dad. You know what I’m going to say to him.”

Final Thoughts

Everything Alex’s character felt, I felt. I desperately wanted to shout and scream and get people to see what I was reading. A novel like this makes me feel great allegiance with the tragic character. Emily Koch did an amazing job at giving someone in a vegetive state a voice. Every nuance, every feeling was well thought out. I was gripped until the very end. I don’t want to ruin this for you but I urge you strongly to go and read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Big love all xxx

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Filed under Book review, Thriller, Waterstones Book of the Month

The Midnight Line – Lee Child

Hello Lovelies!

I cannot believe we are in February now. Where is 2019 going?! I hope you’re all well and are having a fantastic start to the year.

I want to share with you a review of a fantastic book I read recently: The Midnight Line by Lee Child. I’ve never read anything by Lee Child before. I picked this book up not knowing it was a Lee Child as it was one of those ‘Blind Date with a book’ books where it’s wrapped in brown paper with a clue. Thankfully, it turned out to be a gripping read. In fact, I was really pleasantly surprised to learn that he’s written a fair few books! I’ve got my new one on the shelf ready for reading.

What’s it all about?

The novel opens the morning after the night before, where Jack Reacher has spent the night with a woman called Michelle Chang. Reacher is travelling through Wisconsin when he happens to stumble across a pawn shop. Inside the window, he notices an unusual ring: a 2005 West Point class ring.

She had used a simile, to explain and flatter and apologize all at once. She had written, “You’re like New York City. I love to visit, but I could never live there.

The item is priceless and wouldn’t be given away without a valid reason. Reacher is convinced of that fact. He suspects that it is stolen and decides against leaving town. Instead he questions the pawnbroker. Following questioning, Reacher learns that the ring was sold to him by a biker named Jimmy Rat.

Upon meeting Jimmy Rat, Reacher beats him and his gang up and learns that the ring belonged to Arthur Scorpio, who runs a laundromat in Rapid City, South Dakota. Reacher decides he needs to follow the trail further and leaves town. He’s well aware that Rat has already warned Scorpio of his plans.

You threatening me now?”
“More like the weather report. A public service. Like a tornado warning. Prepare to take cover.

Whilst in Rapid City, Reacher finds two people with an interest in Scorpio: Gloria Nakamura, a detective who has tried and failed for years to pin something on Scorpio, and Terrence Bramall, a private investigator, hired by Tiffany Jane Mackenzie, a woman searching for her missing twin sister, Serena Rose Sanderson. Serena Rose turns out to be the true owner of the ring.

Hot on Reacher’s tail, Reacher allows himself to be picked up by Scorpio’s men. However, the outcome is not as expected. Reacher subdues them in less than three seconds. As a result of this, Scorpio provides him with the name of Seymour Porterfield, the man who originally gave him the ring. He trusts an associate of his, Billy, to kill Reacher before he finds Seymour.

Continuing his journey, Reacher travels to Mule Crossing, a rural town in Wyoming. This is where Porterfield last lived. A local shopkeeper reveals that he has been dead for well over a year. The story is, he was killed by a wild bear. Upon arrival at Billy’s house, Reacher meets Bramall. The pair decide to partner up and together they search Sy’s house. They discover evidence of a woman living with him.

Mackenzie shows up, having grown deeply impatient with Bramall’s lack of results. Reacher reveals his growing suspicion that both Rose and Sy were involved with the illegal opiate reader. Kirk Noble, a DEA agent, confirms this and requests he is kept informed throughout the whole investigation, especially if they find Rose or Billy.

‘She didn’t explain. So knowing that, where would you start?” “I could tell you, but then I’d have to bill you.’

Whilst continuing their investigation, three junkies try and scare the group off. But, Reacher intimidates them into leaving. They turn out to be friends of Rose. Reacher manages to convince them that they mean no harm. Consequently, they are taken to see Rose who has been hiding since an IED in Afghanistan shredded her face. She was left disfigured and in a constant stream of pain, making her dependent on opioids.

Mackenzie makes a plan to move her sister to her home in Illinois. She’s terrified her sister will die and would rather she looked after her. If she came back with her sister, they could treat her addiction in secret.

Stackley, the dealer who has taken over Billy’s operation following his disappearance, bribes junkies to kill Reacher. One is accidentally shot and subsequently dies. Whereas Reacher forces the others to lure Stackley into a trap; Rose manages to kill him with a rifle.

Scorpio said, “Billy, this is Arthur. I need to hear from you. You’re making me worried now. What’s with not answering your phone all the time? And you got that guy coming. Plus maybe another guy. We just got a message from Montana. They sent a rider down especially. They have a Fed up there asking questions. He just left Billings. We don’t know where he’s headed next. Eyes open, OK? And call me back. Don’t make me worried, Billy.” He clicked off and dropped the phone in the trash basket.

It is very likely that Rose will die without a new supply of opioids, Reacher, Bramall and Mackenzie’s decide to steal what she needs from Stackley’s suppliers. Reacher also makes a deal with Noble to protect Rose from having to testify against the dealers on the DEA’s behalf. Nakamura attempts to arrest Scorpio as she realised that he is the head of the operation. However, he chains her to a table and hits her.

Reacher confronts Scorpio and stuffs him in a mechanical dryer. Meanwhile, the DEA receive sufficient information to arrest Col. Bateman, a corrupt marine officer who had framed Seymour for trying to expose his theft of military opioid supplies for Scorpio.

As the novel closes, Reacher returns Rose’s ring to her. Rose promises to get clean before she, Bramall and Mackenzie drive off. Reacher then hitches another ride out of South Dakota heading towards Kansas.

Final thoughts

I was gripped with this book. It felt like an American Robert Galbraith. I’ve already picked out my next Reacher book I want to read: Night School. I love the character of Reacher too. Everyone wants a guy like him in their life. I thought it was really well written and it had the feeling of pages just floating by. I loved it!

Happy February everyone!

Big love to you all xx

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Filed under Book review, Thriller

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

 

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now, as I’d heard and read a lot about it. I was really surprised at the array of emotions I felt when reading this novel: anger, confusion, surprise, shock etc. I was completely hooked, and it’s one of those novels that’s incredibly difficult to put down. 

The novel follows the lives of three, somewhat unreliable women, Rachel, Anna and Megan. It begins with Rachel. She gets the same train every day, to commute to and from London for work (or so she says). Whilst looking out the windows, Rachel people watches, conjuring up a perfect fantasy life for a couple whom she is particularly interested in. She names them Jess and Jason. The train stops outside the back of their house each morning. 

The location of this house is significant, as, Rachel used to live on this street before. However, her marriage failed, she couldn’t get pregnant,  she started to drink heavily and her husband Tom cheated on her and divorced her. Her life, is somewhat of a train wreck. 

“When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.” 

The illusion of the perfect fantasy life of Jess and Jason that Rachel created couldn’t be further from the truth. On one of her daily commutes to pretend to go to work, she notices Jess kissing a man that isn’t her husband. A few days later, Jess disappears. The true identity of the couple are revealed: Jess and Jason are actually Megan and Scott. Rachel spends days scanning newspapers, obsessing over the details of Megan’s disappearance. Noticing that nothing is mentioned about her affair, Rachel decides to contact Scott and inform him of what she knows. 

Together, Rachel and Scott reveal the mans identity: Dr. Kamal Abdic, Megan’s therapist. The case gathers pace as he’s called in for questioning by the police, but falls flat. Rachel still obsesses about him, so she books an appointment to see if he can help with her drinking, and significant memory loss. 

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.” 

Rachel, struggling and obsessing with her own personal problems, her drinking, knows she was in the neighbourhood the night Megan went missing. But, because she was drunk, she blacked out and doesn’t remember anything else. The only image coming to mind is the underpass. Rachel’s roommate, Cathy, disapproves of her drinking, but tries to be a good friend to her. Cathy soon realises that Rachel lost her job months ago, and feels resentment at Rachel wasting time and money on the train ride rather than finding a job. 

Why was she in the area? She doesn’t know, meaning we as readers also can’t know. We can assume. Obsessed with her ex husband, his new wife and baby much? 

Some time later, Rachel finally remembers something bad happening in the underpass. Although she can’t quite remember what it was, she can remember her ex Tom, and his new wife Anna, being there. Rachel spends a lot of time in the book obsessing over her marriage, over Tom and Anna. Rachel constantly calls Tom, leaves notes. Anna wants her to go away and leave them alone. The strange thing is, Anna is living in the martial home, where not much has changed in terms of its furniture. What links Anna and Megan together? She baby sat for her and Tom. (A twist that develops later!)

“One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl . . . Three for a girl. I’m stuck on three, I just can’t get any further. My head is thick with sounds, my mouth thick with blood. Three for a girl. I can hear the magpies—they’re laughing, mocking me, a raucous cackling. A tiding. Bad tidings. I can see them now, black against the sun. Not the birds, something else. Someone’s coming. Someone is speaking to me. Now look. Now look what you made me do.” 

When Megan’s body, or what’s left of it, is discovered buried in the woods, Scott and Rachel have a brief one night stand. Rachel insists she’s being supportive and wants to help. To an outsider, it’s strange behaviour. Especially when Scott has been treated as a suspect. Anna informs the police that Rachel is a creepy, obsessed stalker. Once Scott gets wind of this, he too gets drunk, angry and violent towards Rachel. Scott locks her in the room. Is this the anger of a murderer? 

Rachel is still desperate to answer the questions clouding her mind. She bumps into a red haired man on the train who remembers Rachel from the night of Megan’s disappearance. By talking to him, Rachel is able to piece together more details of that night. Importantly, Tom wasn’t with Anna that evening. He was with Megan. 

Whilst Rachel is suspicious of Tom, Anna too stumbles into a problem. She finds a secret phone in Tom’s gym bag. The pre-paid mobile turns out to be Megan’s. Why would Tom have this? Rather coincidentally, Rachel turns up trying to convince Anna that it was Tom who murdered Megan. Unfortunately for Rachel, Anna is unable to put her dislike for Rachel aside to leave with her. So, the evidence against Tom mounts. 

“I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose.”

Hawkins, to increase the tension further, flashbacks the narration to the night Megan revealed to Scott that she had had an affair. Her therapist has advised her to come clean, and had given her a friendly kiss after their talk. That’s the kiss that Rachel saw, and misinterpreted. Scott doesn’t take this news too well, assaults Megan, and she leaves running towards her lover, Tom. 
Tom comes home, surprised to see his wife and ex wife in the same room together. It doesn’t take long before Tom reveals everything that happened: he was having an affair with Megan and she was pregnant. Tom demanded she have an abortion, not realising Megan in the past lost a baby accidentally when she fell asleep in the bath. Megan reacted badly at the abortion demand, and started screaming claiming she would reveal their affair. Tom had to shut her up. 

After the confession, Rachel runs from Tom, but he attacks her. She stabs him in the neck with a corkscrew she took from the kitchen. Anna, clearly angry that Tom lied to her, finishes the job by twisting the corkscrew deeper. 

Tom dies. His lies are exposed. Everyone knows him for what he is. Anna and Rachel, ultimately become a team. The novel ends with Rachel taking the train. 

“So who do I want to be tomorrow?” 

The great strength of this novel is the fact that the characters all have their own traits that we as readers will naturally hate. Rachel’s drinking causes her own frustration, yet she doesn’t stop. Anna plays the good wife, but why move straight into the marital home of the ex? It’s just a bit weird. 

This novel is compelling, gripping and full of suspense. When stripped back, the plot comes from ultimately looking out of the window on a train. Millions of people do that every day. It’s clever to take something we all do, and manipulate it to turn it into something sinister as part of a wider plot. A brilliant read. 

Big love x

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Filed under Book review, Literature, Thriller