Reading Thrillers During A Pandemic

Today I have three books ready to give away and before I do that I thought I would write a short review of each of them.

Where I live, the libraries are currently closed as are most retail stores, but thankfully Indigo (aka Coles, aka Chapters) bookstore is available online. I sometimes also get books from Amazon, but I’m trying to share the wealth a little by shopping elsewhere when I can. Not that I have a lot of wealth, of course, but a good book sale usually manages to get some of it.

Since Covid-19 first restricted my movements back in March 2020, I have read and given away three or four books a month. I have put some in the three Little Free Library boxes that are within walking distance of my home, and I was going to give some to a nearby used book store but, sadly, it went out of business. Those books went to the thrift store because by the time I found out the bookstore was closed I had already been walking with a backpack full of books for too long.

My book reviewing skills leave a lot to be desired, and I was once amazed to discover that the other women in the book club to which I belonged all had vastly different understandings of the books we had read than I did. But, hey ho. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here are my thoughts on my most recent reads.

1. Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

I am putting this one first because it is my favourite. This book is a real page-turner and I could not put it down. In fact, I stayed up until 2:00 AM to get to the ending. It is set in London, England but you don’t need to know the city to enjoy the story.

The characters are so well drawn, I thought I knew them. There is a teenage girl who hides in the shadows, watching. There is a family that appears to be a regular, middle class, mostly contented, household. And then there’s the incel who creeps everyone out. All these lives intersect in the context of a police investigation into the disappearance of a local girl.

It is a whodunnit that is, at the same time, a thriller and an exploration of human foibles.

2. The Institute by Stephen King

Like most Stephen King books, this is a long read and a little too heavy to read while lying on your side in bed. It could have been just as effective as a shorter book, but who am I to criticize Stephen King’s writing? It is, as the genre expects, horrifying. He has imagined a world in which children are stolen from their parents who are then killed. The children are taken to a facility where they are incarcerated in order to be studied because they have special abilities.

One of the fascinating premises of the whole story is that The Institute was established in secrecy decades before by a previous government and then, essentially, forgotten about. Its work continues, nonetheless, and the staff are all sworn to keep the secret. This, it seemed to me, deserved a more thorough exploration, but the focus is not on the origins of The Institute but on the children and staff within it.

Each of the children has a unique personality and King makes them all sympathetic to the reader, even the nasty ones. They come from all walks of life and from all over the country. Despite their differences, their situation draws them together and that unity, in the end, is what saves them. It is a fascinating story, well told.

3. Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Fear Nothing is a psychological thriller with lots of gory descriptions. The plot has many twists and turns, and revolves around a police detective and two sisters. The sisters are the adult children of a serial killer and the detective is working on two cases that resemble his crimes.

This is not a genre I usually read, so I found the gory parts difficult, but I was intrigued by the exploration of the psychology related to pain. The sisters have different responses to pain, both its infliction and its experience, and the author provides a believable understanding of otherwise unbelievable events involving pain. She also develops a sympathetic foundation for the relationship between the two sisters, which I found less convincing. It seems to me that a sisterly bond depends on an early foundation of shared experiences which these two don’t have. Regardless, it makes for a good tale.

If you enjoy taught thrillers with lots of suspense and tension, this one is for you. It is exciting, and engaging because everything is not what you think it is.

4 Comments

  1. Well I love a good psychological thriller, I have read several over the last year and have to give myself a break by reading something quite bland and/or romantic. One of these is a delightful storey called “Away with the Penguins”, our recent book club choice. It is about an 85 year old lady who wants to save the penguins in Antarctica and embarks on a journey. It is a ‘feel good read’.

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