In Anatomy of a Scandal, a plodding pace and unsympathetic characters ruin a timely high-concept plot.
Anatomy of a Scandal details what happens to supporting players when someone is accused of a sexual assault that may or may not be consensual. It is set in the British government. The book includes the point of view of the accused, the wife of the accused, the victim and the prosecutor.
Released in the middle of the #metoo movement, Anatomy of a Scandal has an extremely timely plot. If this was a true story, it would be fascinating. However, it is fiction so a certain level of plot speed and movement is expected. The story moves s-l-o-w-l-y especially in the first half. Everyone revisits every decision in the smallest detail. The accused and his wife’s back story are agonizingly described in flashback chapters.
Even though others are calling this a character driven novel, none of the characters are fully fleshed out or sympathetic. The accused is just a privileged jerk. The victim is young, drunk at times and naïve. The accused’s wife doesn’t want to lose her privileged life. The prosecutor is a workaholic witch. Everyone has secrets. There are several twists but they didn’t integrate well into the plot. The twist at the end was good but by that time this reviewer was already over this book. Anatomy of a Scandal is recommended only for those readers that like slow-burning reads. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Atria/Emily Bestler, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: #metoo, Jan 23 2018, sexual assault, slow-burning
While doing your job as a CIA Analyst, you find something that will rip your family apart. Do you reveal it to your superiors?
Vivian is a counterintelligence agent with the CIA. While employed, she developed a new program to find Russian sleeper cells inside the United States. She is married with a perfect husband and four kids including a set of infant twin boys. Without providing spoilers, Vivian discovers something that may rip her family apart. Even with confirmation, she decides to approach the problem from a unique angle leading to a twist-filled tale of conflicting loyalties.
The author was formally a CIA Analyst so she knows of what she writes. To be honest, that is actually scary since the security at the CIA seems remarkably lax.
Need to Know is an enjoyable fast-moving read. The best part is the fantastically unexpected ending. It has been optioned to be a movie with Charlize Theron. I can’t wait! 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for the review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: family drama, Jan 23 2018, sleepers, Spy
When does love and attraction turn into obsession?
Sam Grist is a college student in Kate Youngblood’s writing workshop. Kate is impressed with his writing style. She is also feeling a “strong river current” pulling her towards him. However, Kate is hoping to get tenure. Starting an affair with a student would not be smart and might even be career-ending. Her first crime novel was moderately successful but her agent hates her latest book. She needs the teaching job to support herself now that her husband has left her for a much younger woman.
Sam also has strong feelings for Kate. He stares at her with longing during class. Soon he starts following her and peeps in her windows. His obsession only grows from there.
Watch Me is a slow-burning thriller alternating between Kate and Sam’s point of view. At first, a reader feels sympathy for Sam’s love for Kate. It seems like a heartfelt student’s crush on his older college professor. But then Sam begins to go too far. As Sam’s history is revealed, his intentions begin to look much darker. The eerie atmosphere and Sam’s darkening worldview propel the plot forward even though the action doesn’t really start until more than a third into the book.
Watch Me is highly recommended to fans of character-driven psychological suspense. The relationship between Kate and Sam resembles the one between Agent Starling and Hannibal Lecter. It is obviously not healthy and will probably end badly but it is both a compelling and unsettling trip to that end. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, and NetGalley for the advance review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Jan 23 2018, psychological suspense, student-teacher romance
Have you ever thought, “Every plot has already been used so what’s the point in reading (or writing) another”? If so, Smoke City is going to surprise you. No book or movie is anywhere near its plot for imagination and creativity.
Smoke City is a captivating genre-smashing novel. Here are the major genres that are colliding like atoms within this novel:
- Historical fiction (Joan of Arc’s death)
- Horror (ghost story)
- Tragedy (predestination during reincarnation)
- Adventure (adult male bonding during a road trip)
- Literary fiction (famous artist hits the skids)
- Magical realism (see above)
It sounds like it would be a huge mess. But somehow it works!
Half-visible wraiths nicknamed smokes are appearing in Southern California and northern Mexico. Mike Vale, a washed up previously famous artist is desperately trying to get to a funeral in Los Angeles.
Mike picks up Marvin Deitz after Marvin is unceremoniously kicked out of his record store’s lease by his shady, possibly mob-connected, landlord. Marvin is convinced that he will die violently before his 57th birthday in a few days. Why? Throughout his multitude of reincarnations, he never lives to 57. Marvin is convinced he is being punished for executing Joan of Arc in 1431. His therapist thinks it is just a delusion. Convinced he has seen the current incarnation of Joan of Arc on a talk show, Marvin is going to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding forgiveness from a woman he has never met–at least in this lifetime.
On the way to LA, the pair pick up a stowaway, Casper. The plot continues to get curiouser and curiouser from there.
Deciding to read this book takes a leap of faith. There is no comparable book or movie to say it resembles. Smoke City was written by a relatively unknown writer and published by a small press. However, take this reviewer’s advice and read this book. It is truly fantastic and totally different from any other book you will read this year! Kirkus Reviews gushed (for them) that it was “strangely satisfying”. It is worth 5+ stars!
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: Historical fiction, Jan 23 2018, magical realism