Reviews: Thrillers and mysteries

By Pierre Lamaitre (MacLehose, RRP $38)

Reviewed by Jillian Allison-Aitken

If you are in any way squeamish, you might just struggle to get past the first few pages of this gruesome but compelling thriller by French author Pierre Lamaitre.

However, it's worth the effort and if you make it past those first awful moments, you'll be rewarded with a book that keeps the adrenalin flowing to the very end.

A beautiful young woman, Alex Prevost, has been kidnapped and taken to an abandoned warehouse. There, she suffers in an ordeal that is uncomfortable to read about, but disturbingly well written.

In kidnapping cases, the first few hours are vital. After that, the chances of being found alive drop drastically. For Alex, time is running out and her kidnapper wants nothing more than to watch his victim die.

Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has no leads, and Alex has no hope.

However, as he learns more about the young woman he realises she is no ordinary victim.

The story builds nicely, stacking twists and clues on the initial horrifically descriptive events to end up in a book that is a brilliant read.

From what I've read online, I believe this book is part of a trilogy to feature Commandant Verhoeven. This is the first thriller by Lamaitre to be translated into English and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for any future translations.

Plan D
By Simon Urban (Random House $38)

Reviewed by Mark Hotton

The golden rule of book reviewing is read the book and then review it. But in this case, the rule has to be broken. In spite of my best - and repeated efforts - getting through Plan D proved mission impossible.

In theory, it sounded like a great premise for a story: a mysterious murder (well, they all are aren't they?) set in East Germany in 2011. So there's the kicker - the Berlin Wall never came down. Great idea, a "what if this never happened" theme.

Problem is, the tale is as confusing as the German Democratic Republic's economic policy. There are too many characters, too many acronyms, too much political "intrigue" and there's a high expectation from the author that you have more than a passing knowledge of German history and themes. I got through 100 pages but there was nothing in it, no glimmer of hope, that made me want to keep reading and find out who dunnit. The "perfect thriller" it's not, despite what the blurb says.

A Colder War
By Charles Cummings (HarperCollins, RRP $35)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

British operative Thomas Kell returns in another modern-day spy thriller.

The story opens with Kell still under a cloud from earlier exploits and awaiting his return to the fold of MI6, which comes when the head of MI6's office in Turkey dies unexpectedly and routine checks need to be run.

As an old friend of the deceased and trusted by MI6's chief, Kell is sent to investigate. Discretion and skill are required as there seems to be a leak in security.

It's all very "new style" James Bond in tone, with a sensible plot, good narrative and likeable hero.