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Those Who Disappeared by Kevin Wignall

Having read all of the awesomely named Kevin Wignall‘s books, when given the opportunity to grab Those Who Disappeared on NetGalley I jumped at the chance. And like most Wignall books, I can say that I enjoyed this one and read it pretty quickly.

When a man’s body is discovered in a Swiss glacier thirty years after he went missing, his son, Foster Treherne, hopes he’ll finally have closure on what happened to the father he never met. But then the autopsy reveals signs of a struggle, and what was assumed to be a tragic accident suddenly looks more sinister.

Foster tracks down his father’s old friends, but when he starts to ask questions it becomes clear that there’s something they don’t want to tell him. While some are evasive, others seem to wish the body had never been found. What exactly is their connection to each other, and why are they so reluctant to discuss the day his father disappeared? Who are they trying to protect?

If he wants to uncover what really happened, Foster must follow the trail of secrets and lies—no matter how devastating the consequences, and what they might reveal about his father. Because the truth can only stay buried for so long…

It was a thought provoking and engaging read. Wignall’s characters are always interesting and unique and Faster is no exception

Layover by David Bell

I will admit to being a fickle reader these days. My life has been rather crazy at the last four months or so, more anon on that perhaps, and so my mood seems to change regularly. Sometimes I am reading serious nonfiction, sometimes literary fiction but at other times what I really need is something to entertain and distract me from the chaos seemingly surrounding me. The search for intelligent books that still manage to do this, is always going on.

It was this search which led me to Layover by David Bell. I have not read any of his previous works, but I was intrigued by the hook for Layover when I got an email from a publicist about a blog tour. What hook, you ask? Essentially, constantly traveling businessman meets beautiful stranger in an airport and decides his life is not what he wants it to be and so reckless chases after her. Trouble follows. No seriously, he ends up in a hospital trying to put his scrambled memory back together. The rest of the book is his confession of what happened.

I will confess this is not the type of thriller I typically read. If I read thrillers it is usually the espionage or international intrigue type. And Layover got off to a slow start. But once I got into I actually stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to finish it.

There are two issues/problems as I see it. One is plausibility. Many readers might question whether the seemingly sane lead character, Joshua Fields, would really make the type of asinine decisions he does. And the second, is that the secondary character, Kimberly Givens, is given a lot of time when it didn’t seem to add a great deal to the story. She is a divorced single-mom trying to win a promotion, etc. But how exactly her personal life adds to the overall story I am not sure. Her detective work didn’t really add an element of suspense it just was a vehicle to add details to the plot from a perspective other than Josh’s.

Layover served its purpose in giving me an entertaining distraction but it wasn’t good enough to make me what to seek out more of David Bell’s writing. As always, your mileage may vary depending on how much you enjoy this genre, style, etc.

Quick Take: One Fatal Mistake by Tom Hunt

A little torn on One Fatal Mistake by Tom Hunt. It turned out to be the fast paced thriller I was looking for when I grabbed it from NetGalley. But I was left cold by the ending. Everything went barreling toward a climax and then it just kind of ended.

When eighteen-year-old Joshua Mayo takes a man’s life in a terrible accident, he leaves the scene without reporting the crime to the police. He hopes to put the awful night behind him and move on with his life. But, of course, he ends up telling his mother, Karen, what happened.

Karen has raised Joshua on her own in Cedar Rapids, Iowa–and she’d thought they’d finally made it. He was doing well in school and was only months away from starting college at his dream school. After hearing his dark confession, she’s forced to make a choice no parent should have to make. A choice that draws them both into a web of deceit that will change their lives forever–if they can make it out alive.

The story is an interesting exploration of how things can go horribly wrong in a flash and how these intense moments, and a fierce dedication to loved ones, can make moral decision making difficult.

A fast and entertaining read but didn’t stick the landing, IMO.

A Fragile Thing by Kevin Wignall

Note: this has been edited. I hit publish a little too quickly and wanted to add a little more background and context.

I have been a fan of Kevin Wignall for some time (I think my first review was over 13 years ago).  And you would think I would not be disturbed by his approach at this point (I mention it in every review).  But I seem to have been tripped up once more by his latest work, A Fragile Thing.

It is basically the story of Max Emerson, the son of a wealthy expat family living in Europe parents in Switzerland, sister in Lyon, etc.).  But Max’s growing fortune comes from investing, and laundering, the money of international criminals and oligarchs.  Despite his wealth, there are clouds on the horizon.  His family has ostracized him, the FBI is looking into his past, and hackers are poking around his business.  Soon it seems like the secrets of his past, and as his parents secrets are revealed, are going to upend and unravel his life.

I finished reading it in June and posted this at Goodreads at the time as an initial response/reaction:

Hmm, not sure how I feel about this one. Some interesting elements and characters but left me kind of confused at the end. Almost felt like book one in a series where the characters are introduced but there is a lot left to flush out. Ending felt abrupt. Still mulling it.

When I realized it was released today and I needed to post my thoughts, I went back to the book and tried to wrestle with my ambiguity.  I enjoyed reading it but something just didn’t settle right; I was unsatisfied in some way.  After thinking about it, I think I didn’t like the book as much as I normally do Wignall’s writing for two reasons:

  1. It bugged me that the main character was a man comfortable using mobsters and other unsavory characters (something of an understatement) to gain fabulous wealth.  And was comfortable having people killed and killing people himself.  He seems cold, cut off and rather arrogant.  I just really didn’t like him.
  2. The book read almost as a series of vignettes that ended somewhat abruptly with a number of loose ends tied up. My first reaction to the book being finished was huh? It left me unsatisfied.

The second point could be more related to my reading it in fits and starts on my Kindle before bed. I might have struggled to get into it because I was reading for only a few minutes at a time but then it seemed like just when I got into it and the action picked up it was over.

The first issue, however, is just something you have to deal with when you read Wignall.  As I noted in my review of Who is Conrad Hirst?:

If there is something that makes me uncomfortable about Wignall’s work it has always been what I take to be his moral ambiguity.  Wignall doesn’t reflect a moral equivalence like some Cold War spy novelists – the idea that America and the Soviets were equally power hunger and willing to kill for their cause – so much as an absence of clear right or wrong.  Each individual has to define what is right and wrong for themselves.  The individualism/relativism is strong but it sometimes feels darker; there is almost a touch of nihilism involved.

Does moving that approach from hit men to wealthy investor/businessman make it worse somehow? I don’t know, but I think that underlying perspective still rubs me the wrong way.

All that said, I did enjoy reading A Fragile Thing.  I thought the plot hook was interesting and kicked the book off with a sense of tension and mystery.  And  there is some deft character building and plotting throughout. Max and his employees and contacts; his relationship with his family and the backstory of his parents; and his self-exploration about his lack of relationships and friends outside his business are well done and interesting in many ways.

There is a building suspense as the pressure mounts and the secrets are revealed. The reader is thinking: “How is Max going to deal with the multiple thread in his life that seem to be coming undone?”  And Wignall answers this question with some twists and turns.

But I have to say, I just didn’t like Max Emerson and in some way probably wanted him to fail.  But as I like to say, your mileage may vary … ;-)

 

PhDeath: The Puzzler Murders by James Carse

PhDeath: The Puzzler Murders by James Carse is a murder mystery/thriller that is fast-paced and hard to figure out.

From the publisher:

PhDeath is a fast-paced thriller set in a major university in a major city on a square. The faculty finds itself in deadly intellectual combat with the anonymous Puzzler. Along with teams of US Military Intelligence and the city’s top detective and aided by the Puzzle Master of The New York Times, their collective brains are no match for the Puzzler’s perverse talents.

According to Carse, the book is directed toward four types of people – readers of the thriller genre or attracted to a novel of ideas, puzzle aficionados, and those concerned about the erosion of the university’s commitment to universal education. After reading the book, I can see all of those people enjoying this book.

The puzzles are intriguing (although I have to admit I skipped a few of them to get to the solution) and the way the puzzles are solved by the committee created to solve them is fascinating. Carse knows how to create a puzzle and how to explain how to solve it.

Carse also uses his insider knowledge of higher education (emeritus professor at New York University) in developing the characters and plot. The murder victims are composites of people who are very realistic. However, one of them apparently was based on a real person – he leaves it up to the reader to determine who that is.

An engaging and easy read.

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