Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

It is a huge challenge to review the remarkable and disturbing "Alex," by Pierre Lemaitre, an award-winning 2011 thriller recently translated from the French, without giving away any of the many twists and turns. The book begins, routinely enough as thrillers go, with the kidnapping of a lovely young woman, Alex, from the street where she has been shopping for wigs (early clue). She is held in a cage in an abandoned warehouse, tortured, left to the rats. But why? What is her captor's real motivation? What has Alex done to deserve such abuse? 

Solving that puzzle is left to Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven, a 4'11" malcontent who has just returned to police investigative work after the kidnapping and death of his own wife. As Camille and his team uncover, piece by piece, the tortured backgrounds of Alex and her kidnapper, with little help from Alex’s familyit becomes evident that Alex is both victim and predator, and that the seeds of her fate were planted many years earlier
Well-written and cleverly-plotted, this psychological stunner will please readers who were fascinated by Lisbeth Salander and loved books like Thomas Harris' "Silence of the Lambs" and Denise Mina's "Field of Blood." Be prepared for some long nights under the reading lamp, a chilling tale of abuse and revenge, and a denouement that is shocking and immensely satisfying.

Reviewed by Lawrence Katz

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review of The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn Review by Judith Starkston

book cover image The Serpent and The Pearl Kate Quinn Poisoned PenRenaissance food in yummy detail, a sophisticated, lascivious pope and his gorgeous (not to mention smart and courageous) concubine, murders reflecting some fascinating if sick mental states, an ornery but lovable dwarf, a mummified saint’s hand with strong opinions—what is not to like about Kate Quinn’s foray into the world of the Borgias? I’ve enjoyed Quinn’s novels set in the Roman period and I viewed her defection from the ancient world with mixed feelings, but she is now forgiven. The Serpent and the Pearl is full of the trademark Quinn humor, quirky, complicated characters and colorful historical details. She skillfully develops the darkly cynical politics of Renaissance Rome and uses this backdrop to reveal what her characters often want to hide: their deep-seated humanity and golden hearts (often surrounded by a casing of well-earned bitterness). You’ll luxuriate in the silks and jewelry, you’ll positively salivate over the descriptions of authentic period food and its careful preparation (do visit Kate’s blog for some recipes), but mostly you’ll keep turning pages with a plot full of seductions and betrayals of every kind, not just the sexy sort. This is one very fun, adventurous read. Review by Judith Starkston