Tag Archives: Creating Suspense

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Synopsis: Time travel makes a vicious serial killer unstoppable, but when one of his “shining girls” survives, the paradoxes in her case send her looking in the right direction, even as the killer grows more disorganized and deadly. Review: The Shining Girls is, quite simply, a great crime story with time travel element that probably has Stephen King kicking himself for not thinking of it first. In 1932, Harper has found a house filled with shining objects, and when he steps outside he can will…

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The Face of Trespass by Ruth Rendell

Synopsis: A poverty-stricken writer flees a failed affair, but things may have already gone too far. Review: The Face of Trespass is an early novel by one of my favorite writers, Ruth Rendell. It’s a short book and a quick read, yet packed with psychological complexity and fascinating characters. I loved the hermeticism of Gray’s world and his believably strange relationship with his French stepfather Honoré. Not as transcendent as some of her best works (Judgment in Stone in particular) but well worth the read.…

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The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Synopsis: When a child turns up gruesomely murdered, the midwife is accused as a witch, and the local hangman must turn up the real culprit or else torture and execute his innocent friend. Review: The Hangman’s Daughter seems to be one of those books that everyone is talking about, probably because the price on Amazon is so low. I enjoyed the historical detail from 17th Century Germany but the plot really let me down. It became a rather run-of-the mill thriller of the kind that…

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My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

Synopsis: Kaylee is a bean sidhe, a soul screamer who thinks she can save lives–until she discovers that some souls–like a talented pop star–are beyond saving because they’ve made a deal with the Netherworld. Review: My Soul To Save is a quirky read with an interesting concept, albeit one that never quite came together for me. I had difficulty grasping the worldview behind the notion of soul screamers and grim reapers (all attractive teens, of course), and so it was hard for me to connect…

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Homework by Margot Livesey

Synopsis: Celia’s relationship would be perfect, if it weren’t for her boyfriend’s troublesome young daughter, and when she moves in with them, Celia finds herself caught in the middle. Review: Sort of a chick lit version of The Bad Seed, Homework combines splendid prose with a lackluster plot. I could see where it was headed a million miles out, and it didn’t surprise me at all. I was hoping for more, with such strong characterizations and enjoyable writing. Share on Facebook

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Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Synopsis: A collection of short stories. Review: Just After Sunset offers a lackluster selection of short stories, hardly any of which really grabbed me by the collar. Many of them had a fancy twist ending that could be spotted a mile away (“The Mute”), while others were just deadly dull (“The Things They Left Behind”). I did enjoy “N,” which evoked the same creepy unease that I so loved in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. However, once it reached the final section it had…

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The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff

Synopsis: Reeling from a betrayal by her fiance, a psychologist finds herself fascinated by Duke University’s research into the paranormal from the early 20th century, and decides to replicate one such experiment that ended in tragedy and closed down the department for good. Review: I’m so glad Superfast Toddler took a loooooong nap today because I don’t think I could’ve taken another night trying to read The Unseen in a dark bedroom with only a tiny booklight. I finished in the bright June sunshine and…

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Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Synopsis: An aging rock star buys an old suit that brings with it a vengeful spirit with a personal vendetta. Review: Let’s just get it out of the way. Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. His debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box, is a work of horror. And not only is it damn good, it’s good enough to stand on its own. Hill has crafted a simple, elegant, scary little story that manages to delve deep into the nature of regret and repentance. The spectral figure who…

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The Tremor of Forgery by Patricia Highsmith

Synopsis: While working on a novel in Tunisia, a writer encounters his own heart of darkness. Review: I had written a truly brilliant review of Patricia Highsmith’s The Tremor of Forgery, but it got eaten. Fie! The salient points were: Patricia Highsmith plays cat and mouse with the reader just like her most famous creation Tom Ripley played cat and mouse with anyone he encountered She is a master of nuance characterization The final third of the novel is a tour-de-force of subtle character dynamics…

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Come Along With Me by Shirley Jackson

Synopsis: Short stories, essays, and an unfinished novel by Shirley Jackson, queen of American Gothic and author of “The Lottery.” Review: My love for Shirley Jackson has been well documented in this blog, so I was delighted when my husband got me Come Along With Me for my birthday. The collection opens with “Come Along With Me,” the novel that Jackson was working on when she died at the untimely age of 44. At about 33 pages, there isn’t much of a narrative, just a…

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