I always want to read thrillers and suspense in late winter. It’s a great time of year to hunker down with books, and something about the cold and dark lends itself to darker stories. I’ve been reading a lot of Minette Walters, as well as re-visiting Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books.
Here are two thrillers that got me through some dark and snowy afternoons recently!
In Tips for Living, Nora has finally gotten her life back on track after her husband’s affair and their subsequent divorce. But then her ex-husband and his new wife move into Nora’s adopted small town. Shortly thereafter, the two are found murdered in their home. Even worse, Nora is a sleepwalker suffering a relapse, and cannot remember her whereabouts on the night of the murders. Nora has to clear her name while all the while wondering if, in fact, she did commit the crime.
As a bonus, I think anyone who lives in a small community with a large summer population will totally understand a lot of the snarkiness displayed in the newspaper article subplot of the book (the “Tips for Living” of the title). There’s great small-town atmosphere, that sense of community that’s sometimes claustrophobic and insular.
Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game is less of a who-dun-it mystery than Tips for Living, and more of a thriller with many layers of deception. It’s about four friends who have been hiding a secret for years, only to have it come back to bite them. The scene-setting is great and the characters are interesting–Ware has a talent for atmosphere and dialogue. If you like Paula Hawkins and S.J. Watson, you might like Ware’s books.
Though I enjoy whiling away winter afternoons with thrillers, I’m definitely looking forward to springtime and being able to read them with more sunshine and an open window!
Rose works as a typist in a shabby police precinct in 1920’s New York City. She’s made a lifetime of being plain and unremarkable, stiff and Victorian and out of place thanks to her upbringing by nuns in an orphanage. All this changes the second that the glamorous and mysterious Odalie joins the staff at the precinct as a typist.
It doesn’t take long for Rose to become obsessed with Odalie, nor for the two of them to become roommates. Soon Rose is pulled into Odalie’s world of speakeasies, dark secrets, and shady dealings.
Rindell spins out tension masterfully. Certain facts about Rose fall into place one by one–that we are in the future, that she is seeing a doctor who wants her to write these events down, and that Rose has done something for which she feels she must defend herself. All the hallmarks of an unreliable, unsettled (and unsettling) narrator. You also learn a lot about Odalie, and are uncovering clues and lies just as Rose does about her rather dark past.
What I like about Rose is that she’s unlikeable from the outset, more than simply just being plain and misunderstood. Because she’s so unreliable you have to read between the lines to decide whether she’s truly nuts or not. The epilogue raises a few questions and confusions about the story and the ending, such that you can decide for yourself what’s going on with stolen identities and personal obsessions and secrets. Rose is a wonderful, strange character at odds with her time and place, and it comes through in much of the narrative.
The atmosphere and sense of place are both incredible in this novel–1920’s New York comes alive. There’s more than one nod to works like The Good Soldier (is Rose crazy, or a betrayed person worthy of our sympathy?) and The Great Gatsby (Odalie is, in many ways, a female Jay Gatsby). The writing gets more intense and compelling the further into the story you go.
Right off the bat this reminded me of Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh in terms of the narrative style and our narrator’s personality. I also thought of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, and, of course, The Talented Mr. Ripley. I think The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters might also appeal to people who liked The Other Typist, if you particularly enjoy the atmosphere and relationship between Rose and Odalie. Give The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald a try (or a re-read!), too, if you enjoyed this book.