Sunday, June 26, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Harper, 2011
368 pages

I discovered this novel on Amazon.com's Best Books of the Month for June 2011 list. Here's the overview: A woman wakes up one morning, only to find a strange man in bed with her. She goes to the bathroom and looks into the mirror, only to see the hands, face, and body of an older (age 47) woman. She freaks out, and the man in bed comes to her rescue, telling her that he's her husband, Ben. Turns out the woman is Christine, and this happens every morning. Christine has a type of amnesia where her memory is erased every time she goes to sleep, due to an injury to her brain from an "accident" when she was in her late twenties.

One morning after Ben leaves for work, Christine gets a phone call from a man named Dr. Nash who claims to be her doctor. Dr. Nash tells her to look in a certain place in her house for a journal. Turns out, Dr. Nash has been working with Christine on the down low, and he had encouraged her to keep a secret journal to record her memories. One of the first things Christine reads in the journal is the cryptic message written in her own hand: Don't Trust Ben.

Let the nail biting begin!

Every day, Christine must piece together clues. As she does, she begins to realize that Ben has lied to her about several key things in her life. Yet he has taken such good care of her since her accident. Or so it appears.

This is a fast-moving read and very cleverly written. I read it during an unusually busy week (we were moving into a new house), so often I could only read a few pages or a few minutes at a time -- which was quite challenging because I wanted to keep reading. The last 50 pages or so are particularly engaging and difficult to put down.

This is a psychological thriller in the true sense, and one of the best I've read in a really long time. I've no doubt that someone in movie land is going to jump on this soon and make a film version -- probably starring someone kind of big (Nicole Kidman comes to mind). Read the book now, and you'll be way ahead of that game. :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The English Breakfast Murder

The English Breakfast Murder
Author: Laura Childs
Berkley, 2003
274 pages

The fourth book in the Tea Shop Mystery series finds Theodosia Browning (owner of the Indigo Tea Shop) and her young pastry chef, Haley, volunteering with the Charleston (South Carolina) aquarium's sea turtle rescue program. It's late at night; the sea turtles are hatching and instinctively making their way to the water; and Theo is absolutely amazed with the beauty of it all . . . until she spots something in the water. Swimming out to get a closer look, she discovers the dead body of Harper Fisk, a local antiques dealer who was a member of a circle of friends known as the English Breakfast Club. It soon becomes apparent that Fisk's death was no accident, and once again, Theo (along with sidekicks Haley and Tea Master Drayton) get caught up in solving a murder.

The English Breakfast Murder is a fun, quick read that introduces us to several possible suspects, all of whom are either in the same business as Fisk, or share his hobby of exploring shipwreck sites and looking for treasure off the coast of Charleston. Once again, the author excels with spinning a yarn while sharing her knowledge of Charleston's rich culture and history, and making me hungry for shrimp and grits (and, of course, Haley's scones). I'm ready to plan a trip to the Low Country. Who wants to go with me?

Previous books in this series that I've reviewed:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Red Wolf

Red Wolf
Author: Liza Marklund
Atria, 2011
400 pages

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it was the cover of Red Wolf that captured my attention. I love it. So, kudos to the designer.

Welcome to the multidimensional world of Stockholm's Annika Bengtzon. Annika's an investigative journalist who writes mostly about terrorism, something she's actually had first-hand experience with. She's also a wife, mother, and best friend, and if you're like me, you'll be wishing she was one of your friends by the time you get halfway through Red Wolf.

While researching an incident that happened on a military base in northern Sweden in the late 1960s, Annika travels to the Norrland town of Luleå to meet with another journalist. Unfortunately, she arrives too late -- the journalist is dead, the victim of a hit and run. Annika soon learns that this was no accident. In fact, it's just the first of a string of murders -- all different, but all sharing similar cryptic clues.

Back home in Stockholm, Annika's husband Thomas is experiencing mid-life crisis. He's a sort of project manager in a boring government agency, and although he loves his family, he's feeling unappreciated and unfulfilled. This leaves him vulnerable to a young coworker who is more than happy to pay him some attention. In the meantime, Annika's best friend Anne is having serious troubles of her own. I won't say more except that one of the strengths of this book is its emphasis on relationships and the behind-the-scenes "non-work" stuff that actually makes the main character who she is.

But this is a crime thriller, with a crooked politician, a scheming business executive, and an old revolutionary who has come back home after many years away. There's a lot of interesting Swedish cultural and political stuff woven into the storyline. Marklund definitely has a strong sense of place which is reflected in Red Wolf. It makes me want to visit Scandinavia and drink lots of coffee.

After I finished reading Red Wolf, I learned that it's not the first in a series, nor is it a standalone novel. It's actually the fifth book featuring Annika. I would have preferred to read them in order, but the truth is, in this case you don't really have to. I'm planning to start from the beginning next time, and as soon as the first book The Bomber is available on Kindle, I'll be buying it.

Gonna read something light next. :-o