thriller

REVIEW: Electric Souk by Rose McGinty

With nothing left for her in Ireland, Aisling travels to the Gulf to live out the Arabian Dream. There she meets fellow expats living the dream including debonair Brian who has heaps of charm and champagne, though is perhaps not all he seems. She also gets to know locals like Laila, her translator, and activist Hisham and finds herself in between the sleazy world of expats and wanting to learn more about her new home. As the Arab Spring erupts, Aisling is faced with a world of violence and fear and she’s left not knowing who she can really trust.

Set in an unnamed country in the Gulf, though I presume it to be Saudi Arabia based on a throwaway comment that the book Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea is banned, Electric Souk doesn’t always paint the city and its people in the best light. The divide between the Western expats and the locals is starkly obvious and the way characters act about the rules of the country they’re currently living in made me uncomfortable. Some of the expats talk in quite a derogatory manner about how the locals live and the rules of their society, and it’s a pet peeve of mine when people don’t accept other people’s way of life so that part of the book really grated on me.

Electric Souk is a bit slow to start but there’s an air of suspense and uncertainty throughout the second half of the book that made it much more compelling. With people disappearing, hints of corporate espionage and civil unrest edging ever closer, it becomes more of a thriller than the story of a woman trying to make a success of her new life. When Aisling starts to hear conflicting accounts of events, some of which she was involved in, she’s unsure of who to trust and starts to doubt everything she knows about the people she’s come to count as friends and the place she’s starting to call home.

I really liked how Aisling and Laila’s friendship grew. Aisling surprised me by being an expat that was actually interested in the culture and people she was now living with, instead of just being into the alcohol and partying like the majority of Western characters seen. She doesn’t want to be a part of the “us vs them” mentality but doesn’t always get a say in the matter which makes an interesting dilemma.

Aisling is often a character who a lot of stuff happens to, and she’s not always proactive in her own story. However, while I found that a bit frustrating at times, I realise that Aisling is a victim of circumstance and there is so much out of her control. Electric Souk ends up being a compelling and fast paced book with a real air of threat and danger. 3/5.

REVIEW: Message from the King (2016)

South African Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) arrives in Los Angeles to find his missing sister who appears to have gotten involved with the criminal underworld.

Boseman gives a solid performance as a guy who’s more than capable to take on anyone and anything thrown at him on his mission for justice. King is a smart man and has an aura of control that brings him to the attention of pretty much anyone he encounters.

The plot moves slowly in this film as there’s a lot of layers to this criminal underworld King dives into. With a lot of layers comes a lot of characters including major players Wentworth (Luke Evans) and Preston (Alfred Molina). Wentworth is more interesting of the two as he’s the middle man who knows everyone and attempts to deal with any potential problems.

The fight sequences are brutal and on the most part they are well-shot and easy to follow. They are also rather bloody and King is not afraid to be violent to get the information he wants.

Message from the King is an average crime thriller that’s only real notable achievement is having a great lead in Chadwick Boseman. 3/5.

REVIEW: Miss Meadows (2014)

Prim and proper elementary school teacher Miss Meadows (Katie Holmes) moonlights as a vigilante, but her quest for justice gets put in danger when she becomes involved with the local Sheriff (James Badge Dale).

Miss Meadows looks more like a 1950’s housewife than a killer and the two juxtaposed together can be shocking and unsettling. Miss Meadows has old-fashioned values and all the children in her class seem to love her but knowing what she’s really like makes her interactions with the children feel a bit weird. She’s lovely and kind but through her there’s a steely core.

Katie Holmes gives a good performance here. Throughout the film you start to see the different layers of Miss Meadows, why she does what she does with little to no remorse and how she can be so smiley but deadly. The romance between Miss Meadows and the Sheriff works really well, these two people who are technically on opposites sides of the law come together and Holmes and Dale have good chemistry.

Miss Meadows is a bit of an odd film. It’s sweet yet bloody, and Miss Meadows is an interesting character. There’s often a dark sense of humour about it all which doesn’t always work but it does make for a weirdly captivating film. 3/5.

REVIEW: Europa Report (2013)

An international crew of astronauts set off on a mission to see if there is any life on Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa.

Europa Report is a tense and claustrophobic film. This is in part to how 99% of the film is set on the space craft heading to Europa and all of this was filmed using cameras that were a part of the ship and the crews gear. In many ways it feels like you’re spying on the crew and it makes their lives seem very confined and limited. The reason there’s all these cameras on the craft is because the footage is being monitored and sent straight back to Earth so the whole world knows how the mission is going. So when there’s a probably with the uplink, the cameras are still recording but the footage isn’t being beamed back to Earth.

The surface of Europa looks beautiful and the whole film is well-shot. The found footage style filming, which sometimes includes some shaky-cam when taken from an astronaut’s helmet, is never hard to follow.

Europa Report is an intelligent science-fiction film. The way the characters deliver the technical jargon and the way the space craft looks makes the whole mission feel more real and plausible. This in turn makes any dangers the crew faces more threatening and unsettling.

The whole cast is great and all feel like intrepid explorers who want to achieve their mission to find life outside of Earth. However they also feel like real people who have become close after such a long time in confinement with one another.

Europa Report is a great film. It slowly racks up the tension as you learn what the crew has gone through in order to try and achieve their mission. It’s a film that’s an almost perfect blend of science-fiction, horror and thriller – an underappreciated gem. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The babysitter cancelled last minute and Anne and Marco’s neighbour didn’t want their dinner party interrupted by a crying baby. So they leave her at home. They’re just next door, they have the baby monitor and will go and check on her every half hour, she’ll be fine. But it’s not fine. And when Anne’s desperately searching their too quiet house she comes to the dreadful realisation her baby is gone. Her baby is gone, the police are in her home and who knows what they will uncover…

The Couple Next Door is a gripping and twisty mystery. You never quite know where it’s going to go next as these characters lives very quickly start to unravel and more and more secrets and lies come to the surface. There’s tensions between Marco and his in-laws, Anne feels guilty and blames her husband for the fact they left baby Cora on her own and the press is out to get the family for the perceived neglect of their daughter.

I really felt for both Anne and Marco. Their whole world’s been turned inside out and the desperation and confusion they feel over their missing child really comes through in the writing. They are both unreliable narrators, Anne especially, which adds to the uncertainty both you as the reader feels while trying to piece everything together as well as the detectives looking into Cora’s kidnapping.

I feel like the writing in The Couple Next Door wasn’t the greatest but it was a compelling story that often had surprises and revelations at the end of each chapter which helped make it a very quick read. Sometimes the twists did seem a little far-fetched but as it was such a quick and enjoyable read I didn’t really mind too much.

The Couple Next Door is a good mystery thriller that leaves so many breadcrumbs for the reader to figure out the mystery but there’s so many unexpected revelations that I never did figure it out till the book actually wanted me to. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Denmark: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Copenhagen Detective Inspector Carl Mørck has been taken off Homicide to run a new department for unsolved crimes and he’s not happy about it. Soon things get busy when his first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, a politician who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead, he thinks they’re right. But that might not be the case, and Merete’s time is running out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a detective thriller and The Keeper of Lost Causes did not disappoint. Carl is one of those typical cranky detectives who doesn’t work well with others, his colleagues don’t really like him but they still ask his advice on difficult cases, but he’s still a decent person who’s good at his job. It’s great to see bits of the case come together because as the reader you sometimes know more than Carl but you never get the whole story till the final chapters.

Carl Mørck’s department is in the basement of police headquarters and it’s just him and his assistant Hafez el-Assad. They’re an odd combination and provide some moments of humour. Assad is Syrian so he doesn’t always get how things work in Denmark but he’s never portrayed as stupid, in fact he’s a great help to the case, seeing things others don’t. It was really nice to see how Carl respected Assad’s religion, getting a floorplan of the station so Assad knew which direction to pray – the religious aspect of Assad’s life was so natural and just a part of him and no one made a big deal of it.

Assad is a very likeable character with some hidden talents, I enjoyed seeing him and Carl slowly start getting to know each other, each dealing with each other’s unusual habits and personal traits. Carl is definitely a character I didn’t like to start with but he grew on me, especially because he has a very dry sense of humour and is often brutally honest.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a proper-page turner, there were revelations at the end of most chapters and a sense of desperation as the novel progressed as you learnt more about Merete and the horrible situation she’s in. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

purge election yearYears after almost taking part in Purge night himself, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) has become the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) a Presidential candidate whose vow to end Purge night makes her a huge target.

The Purge: Election Year is grounded by solid performances from its central leads. Grillo and Mitchell have good chemistry and you can feel that their characters have had a solid relationship. The secondary characters who each try to survive Purge night but also end up helping Leo and Charlie along the way are pretty one-note but likeable enough. Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) is one of the more interesting characters as she’s a volunteer paramedic who offers her services while the regular paramedics don’t venture out on Purge night.

When it comes to the fight scenes they are often chaotic and hard to follow, you could say this is a stylistic choice or it could just be bad filmmaking. The film tends to get away with it whenever there’s a gun battle or a chase scene but when it’s a one-on-one fight that’s when things become confusing.

The Purge: Election Year tries to say a lot about socio-political themes that are very relevant to today while still having a lot of gore and violence. It doesn’t always work and it’s pretty heavy-handed at times but it is interesting.

The Purge: Election Year keeps the tension and surprises but it does feel very similar to but not as good as its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy. 3/5.