Some dark but gripping thrillers

Reviews: Vivien Horler

Camino Winds, by John Grisham (Hodder & Stoughton/ Jonathan Ball)

When She was Good, by Michael Robotham (Sphere/ Jonathan Ball)

The Silent Wife, by Karin Slaughter (HarperCollins/ Jonathan Ball)

If I can say it without sounding rude, John Grisham is a book machine. Camino Winds was published this year and his next thriller, A Time for Mercy, is due out next month. And the list of his titles runs to more than 40, including a single non-fiction book.

And they all – well the ones I’ve read – make for engaging reading.

Hurricane Leo is bearing down on Florida’s Camino Island, and the state governor gives the order to evacuate. But Bruce Cable, owner of Bay Books in the island town of Santa Rosa, decides to stay put.

The hurricane hits and is terrifying. Buildings collapse, the water and lights go off, trees are uprooted and a sea surge floods houses and shops. Twenty-four hours later around 12 people are dead, including Cable’s writer friend Nelson Kerr.

He is found on his patio with wounds to his head. Why would he have gone outside in the storm, puzzles Cable. Maybe his dog got out and he went after it? But Nick, a college student who works in Cable’s bookstore in the holidays, is a detective thriller devotee. He looks at the body and suggests the head wounds were deliberately inflicted.

The police are overwhelmed with the task of clearing up after the storm, and aren’t interested, but Cable and Nick become convinced Nelson was murdered. They find the manuscript of Nelson’s latest book on his computer, all about how care homes are giving dodgy drugs to old people to keep them alive so they will continue paying the high care costs.

Could this be true? Cable and Nick interview some care home staff and begin to suspect that Nelson was on to something, and that powerful interests didn’t want the book published.

The description of the evacuation of the island, the hurricane and its aftermath make for great reading, and then there’s also the murder mystery to solve. Camino Winds is a great read.

Michael Robotham’s thriller When She was Good is darker and has child abuse at its centre.

Cyrus Haven is a forensic psychologist who has befriended Evie Cormac, a teenage girl with a troubled past. The body of a small-time criminal, Terry Boland is found, tied up and gagged, in a house. He has been tortured. His body is removed and the house is cleaned up.

Then neighbours complain about things going missing: food, sweets, playing cards, and the police assume it’s kids. But a young special constable, Sacha, is suspicious. She arranges to spend a night in the house and discovers a feral child of about eight, living in a secret compartment built behind a cupboard.

No one has reported her missing, and she refuses to divulge her name. She is eventually made a ward of the court, given a new name and sent to a place of safety. Six years later she is a difficult teenager who is threatened with being admitted to a mental home.

Cyrus, who wants to protect her, interviews Sacha to find out if there were any details she remembers that may help Evie unravel her identity.

But powerful people with terrible secrets do not want that to happen. So while Sacha and Cyrus are seeking clues to the puzzle, Evie herself is convinced that they will lead Terry Boland’s killers to themselves and to her.

This is an often unsettling but compelling read.

Karin Slaughter’s The Silent Wife is also pretty dark. One likes to think that in real life there are very few of the kind of sicko who is behind attacks on young women in a small American college town.

It starts with a young student going for a run in the woods. She begins to feel uncomfortable and is right to do so – someone is watching her and attacks her. When she is found she is so badly hurt that at first police believe her to be dead.

Agent Will Trent and forensic pathologist Sara Linton are contacted by a man in jail for murder. He was convicted of a similar attack 10 years ago that left a young girl dead. The modus operandi in the two cases is identical, but the convict couldn’t have been second attacker.

So they start investigating the old case, and discover the original dead girl wasn’t the only one. Trent and Linton seem to have stumbled on the trail of a serious pervert who is also a serial killer.

It’s all pretty horrific, but again an engrossing thriller.




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