Magpie Murders

This book is so indescribably clever. It’s a book within a book, mystery within a mystery. The plot is incredibly intelligent, so much so that, trying to give a synopsis of it, would be a complete killjoy and a spoiler. After a really long time, I have come across a murder mystery that’s taut, sharp, compelling and a page turner from the word go. The narrative is atmospheric whilst the attention to detail is phenomenal. The language used is rich, articulate and eloquent. And for once, there isn’t a damaged and dysfunctional woman as a protagonist here. Thank you, Anthony Horowitz, for bringing the joy back to reading thrillers and for keeping it so unpredictable. Also, can’t thank Read a Kitaab Bookclub enough for picking this gem as their December Book of the Month. Now, I can’t wait to read the next one in the series; Moonflower Murders.

Must, must read.


Daisy Darker

Daisy Darker, the protagonist, is born with a broken heart. And now, she has come over to her Nana’s house, Seaglass, for her eightieth birthday which also doubles up as a family reunion. Her estranged family, which includes her parents who are divorced, her two elder sisters and her niece all land up at Seaglass one after another. Seaglass is an old house on the Cornish coast, on an isolated island at the bottom of a cliff that’s only accessible at low tide. As the night progresses, Nana lays out her feast and reads out her will, which displeases all of them. Soon, someone is found dead. This is followed by more murders with every passing hour. Nobody is able to leave the house till sunrise because of the high tide. Everyone who hasn’t been murdered is frantically trying to save themselves whilst also trying to find out the killer.

The above plot does seem very intriguing and has been written in a gripping manner. However the climax is a major letdown. Honestly it’s laughable and extremely frustrating. The explanation for all the killings is so simplistic and so juvenile that you end up feeling exasperated for the author having wasted your time. How is this book even a best-seller? Who are these people who are liking this idiotic mystery?

Total trash! Avoid.


The Paris Apartment

Lucy Foley’s latest is another one of her slow burn thrillers that keeps you hooked till the last page. This time the story is set in the stylishly seductive city of Paris. The main protagonist, Jess, has run away from her dysfunctional and troubled life back in London. She has come to Paris to be with her brother Ben, who has always maintained a distance from her. She lands in Ben’s uber luxurious apartment located in the most upscale neighbourhood of Paris, only to find him missing. As time passes by, Jess begins to worry and starts searching for her brother with whatever little clues she’s able to decipher. She finds herself in the midst of extremely unfriendly and brusque neighbours who vehemently refuse to divulge any details regarding him. She begins to wonder if Ben is even alive and suspects each one of the residents of this Paris apartment, responsible for his disappearance.

The story has all the requisite elements, making it an edge of the seat thriller. The narrative is told from each of the characters’ viewpoint. The setting is atmospheric and deliberately dark. Paris becomes this silent hum in the background and its mysterious beauty etched ever so beautifully in Lucy Foley’s writing. The climax, just like her previous book, The Guest List, did make me wanting for more; but nonetheless, it’s definitely worth the read.


The Maid

This story is so much more than just a murder mystery. At the heart of it, it’s a story that encapsulates the human spirit; celebrates humanity and drives home the message that all of us are the same and kindness matters to each one of us. The protagonist is Molly Gray, a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. She’s proud of her job and takes it seriously. Her personality and traits show similarities with Sheldon Cooper from TBBT. She finds it difficult to read people and surroundings, interpret their emotions, and decipher sarcasm. Hence she has a structure to her day and goes about it in the most meticulous manner. One day, when Molly discovers the dead body of a wealthy businessman, Mr Black, whilst cleaning his suite; she becomes caught up in the aftermath of the event, soon becoming the prime murder suspect.

Throughout the narration, Molly comes across resilient and determined. Despite her inability to understand the world around her, which does chip away at her confidence and makes her question her self worth; she stands tall and never lets go of her pride and dignity. Her command of the English language coupled with requisite politeness, makes Molly Gray, the most lovable character.

Kudos to the author, Nita Prose, for portraying such a delightful character like Molly and centring her in the midst of a murder mystery. Through her, the author makes a strong case for, how assumptions based on someone’s appearance and station can be detrimental to them. The narration is fast paced and by the time it’s the end, you are rooting for Molly and the real murderer remains just an afterthought.

“It’s not your station in life that matters. It’s how you conduct yourself that counts.”

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”


The Sanatorium

Another lengthy and laborious read from the thriller stack of Reese Witherspoon’s book club, Hello Sunshine. With this, I am beginning to doubt her choices when it comes to thrillers. Even her previous picks were duds. In this book, the protagonist, Elin, a detective in the UK, who is battling PTSD associated with the death of her younger brother; is now on a vacation with her boyfriend, Will, in a luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel has a dark and sinister past. Before the renovation, it used to be a sanatorium for Tuberculosis patients where some questionable practices were carried out. However, Elin and Will are here in the hotel for the engagement party of her other brother Isaac with Laure. As the weather becomes increasingly harsh with an impending blizzard, Laura disappears suddenly on the eve of the engagement. This is followed by a spate of brutal murders and Elin takes it upon herself to find the murderer.

Elin, does the most shoddy job as a detective. Also her intuitions are forever wrong. Her obstinacy to remain deliberately difficult because of the traumatic past, makes her the most annoying character. Will comes across as a narcissist who keeps gaslighting Elin. It’s appalling to note that the author, Sarah Pearse, has allowed it and has shown Elin to be accepting of it.

It’s become a trend to put troubled and damaged women as protagonists of thrillers. Very few authors are able to do justice to it and hence assimilate the personal traumas with the thriller plot line. This story should have been buried in the blizzard itself. It’s so ridiculous and drab, which makes me wonder at my own weird compulsion to having completed it.



A Slow Fire Burning

Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water, is back with another edgy and disturbing murder mystery-cum-psychological thriller. A young man, Daniel, gets brutally murdered in a London houseboat and now there are three suspects. Laura, his one night stand, who was last seen with him; Carla, his aunt; and Miriam, his nosy neighbour living on an adjacent houseboat. As the story unravels, so does the dark and damaged lives of the three women, intersecting and intertwining, ultimately leading to a grim climax.

The author is proficient at putting unlikeable and troubled women as her protagonists. In this book too, Laura who suffers from disinhibition, comes across as extremely unhinged. She is a victim of various childhood traumas due to which she has trouble managing her anger, emotions and behaviour. Through the various characters and plot lines, the book highlights the repercussions of PTSD, grief, loneliness and revenge.

Despite it being a page turner, the book still left me a tad underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because of the invariable comparison to the brilliancy of the author’s previous books. Nonetheless, Hawkins does create an atmospheric and creepy narrative. Do read!


The Maidens

Absolute page turner! This next psychological whodunnit thriller from Alex Michaelides (his previous was the brilliant, The Silent Patient) is gripping and riveting to say the least. The story is set in the prestigious Cambridge university. Mariana, a group therapist, in London, is struggling to cope with the sudden demise of her husband. Whilst she’s going about balancing her emotional state and conducting her group therapy sessions, she gets a frantic call from Zoe, her niece, who’s studying at Cambridge, about the mysterious and gruesome murder of her roommate. Mariana, immediately, sets off for Cambridge, to comfort her niece. During her visit, Mariana gets sucked into the sinister developments going on in the university. She gets especially intrigued about a secret society of female students called “The Maidens” led by a charismatic Greek tragedy professor Edward Fosca. When another one of “The Maidens” gets brutally murdered, Mariana gets convinced that it’s Fosca who is the murderer and she takes it upon herself to prove it so.

While keeping the story taut and chilling, the author throws some insight into Mariana’s psychology. Raised by a father who abandoned her emotionally and left her yearning for his love and attention, Mariana struggles to come to terms with her own issues. This juxtaposed with her trying to be an emotional anchor for Zoe, makes her feel depleted of her bearings. The way the author constructs this psychological arc of Mariana, intertwining it with the current sinister scenario and various characters and situations from Greek mythology, makes the book remarkable and exceptional.

The fast-paced narrative leads to a shocking climax, that’s bound to make you dizzy.

I finished this book in three days. It’s simply unputdownable!

~ JUST A GAY BOY. 😶‍🌫️