HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Hillingdon Libraries Staff very last challenge of 2016 was to read a mystery or thriller in the month of December. Whether it was something that was steeped in either genre or a combination of the two was fine. But what really is the difference?
According to International Best-Selling Author Joe Goldman a Mystery is a “novel built around a secret and usually asks the question “Who?” Something has already happened – a jewel has been stolen, a person has been murdered – and both the reader and the hero know about it.”
Whereas, in a thriller “a reader usually asks the question ‘How?’ and is propelled through the story by action. Both the reader and the hero of a thriller novel already know who’s responsible for the crime.”
Do you agree or disagree? Or maybe somewhere in between? Let us know in the comments below.
Below are a few staff reviews – unfortunately due to the holiday period we only had a few but they are all of startlingly good quality!
1. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
This work is traditionally thought of as a fast-paced thriller, or ‘shocker’ as the parlance of Buchan’s day would term it. This is true, in that it is short (c100 pages only), written in a plainish, accessible & colloquial prose style in the main, & runs through a series of episodes or adventures which constitute the somewhat-threadbare & impoverished plot.
There is more to the story than that, though, as it is an ‘ironic’ travelogue, taking in the bustle of London, the glens & hills of lowland Scotland, & finally Kent & the North Foreland as parts of the hunt-&-pursuit theme. The narrative is also everywhere steeped with Buchan’s own experiences of South Africa, the upper echelons of the political Establishment, & echoes of the Scottish literary past, especially Stevenson’s Kidnapped (186, set in the mid c18).
The central character, Richard Hannay, is a typical gentleman hero/self-effacing character from this period, another Everyman figure who continuously doubts that he is up to the challenge of the evading his bloodthirsty enemies & saving Europe from Armageddon. In fact, at the climax of the tale, his ‘victory’ over his dastardly German foes is qualified by the fact that The Great War does indeed break out: “Three weeks later, as all the world does know, we went to war. I joined the New Army the first week…But I had done my best service, I think, before I put on khaki.” [10.111].
Unfortunately/fortunately, depending on what one wants from a mystery thriller-shocker, there is no love interest at all, & this is something that the various film versions (1935, 1958, 1978) tried to address with limited success. No doubt Buchan thought – if he did, even? – that a heroine or femme fatale would distract from the high seriousness of ‘1914 & All That’, & Hannay seems curiously an asexual beast as a result.
Anyway, the book is a ripping yarn & classic to boot, & the novella cannot include everything that a triple-decker C19 novel might have, or course. Buchan was well aware of this, & played to his strengths rather than took chances by experimenting with the genre.
5 out of 5 stars
By Len – Harefield Library
2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Meh – this was a huge deal a year or so ago, when every girl on the train seemed to be reading it, and of course it’s now a film.
Having found Gone Girl a very satisfying thriller, I thought perhaps this was a genre that might yield more goodness to me. The Girl on the Train, though, is pretty thin stuff. Whilst I felt a lot of sympathy for the main character, I didn’t like any of them and I wasn’t too intrigued by the central mystery. That said, I was gripped enough to read quickly and to the end, I read it with two reading groups who, although they felt similarly, had a lot to say about it, and the novel’s evocation of a dreary satellite-town suburbia (and the dark secrets it contains) was effectively done. I think I just wanted it to be a bit juicier.
3 out of 5 stars
By Darren – Uxbridge Library
3. I See You by Clare Mackintosh
First question on everybody’s lips is always, “Is it as good as ‘I Let You Go’?” and the answer is always “Well, kind of.”
As with her previous thriller, you jump straight into the action and it is non-stop. A sympathetic female protagonist sees a picture of herself in a personal ad in the free newspaper that everyone reads on the tube. Cue, weird creepy stuff starting to happen all around her and more unnerving newspaper pictures.
There is another semi-main character who is in the investigative role, so the book has a dual narrative that has excellent pacing and just enough twists to keep you guessing. For those who are familiar with London transport and travelling on the tube everyday then this is creepy AF! The premise of this novel is horrifying and I’d be surprised if someone hasn’t tried it already. For those who don’t travel on trains much I think this would be less thrilling and not really strike a cord.
Interestingly, the part of the novel that struck me most was when it focused on the police investigator, who of course has a troubled past, and how she copes with the stress of the job when it all rings a bit too close to home. There was an interesting comment on post-traumatic stress that I found quite insightful where the young investigator is told about a horrific traffic accident and who, after the event, suffered the most. The answer surprised me and revealed an honest life and experience in the police force that is one of Mackintosh’s aces up her sleeve.
4 out of 5 stars
By Lara – Harefield Library
Thanks so much for reading and we look forward to hearing about all the books that you’ve read in 2017.