I Will Find You

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Review #30: Non-Fiction

I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

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At times equally terrifying and engrossing, I Will Find You grabs ahold of you from page one and demands to be read until the end. Joanna Connors writes with such honesty and bravery about such an uncomfortable topic for readers, and an extremely traumatic one for her, that you can’t help but keep turning the page. We don’t want to to know, and yet, we have to know.

This must be how Connors felt when she decided to research her rapist 30 years after the attack. She documents her experience and tells her survival story with courage and grace, even allowing the reader into the moments she decided she needed to tell her children what had happened to her, something she thought she would never do. Connors brings us along on her journey to find peace, and does it beautifully and intelligently.

Being a journalist, it is no surprise that this book is extremely well written, well researched, and unbiased — amazingly so. It is spectacular the way in while Connors is able to research and write about a man who brutally raped her, as if he were any other person she were covering for a story. She speaks to his family and friends, people who were involved in her lawsuit and other cases against him, and stays mostly neutral.

Though she does explain who she is and why she’s interviewing them to some of the man’s family, mainly Connors just tries to find out who he was, and maybe why he did what he did to her, and to others. In doing so, she touches on so many important and topical issues. This book sheds light on institutional and socialized racism, sexism, domestic abuse, victim blaming, and the failure of our current justice system to really do anything about any of them. I Will Find You is so much more than one woman’s search to understand her rapist and to find closure from her one experience.

Joanna Connors perfectly recounts her rapist’s life, the actions that lead to his attack on her, shedding even more light on the idea that crime begets more crime, violence, more violence. He lived in poverty, was addicted to drugs at a young age, was subjected to domestic violence and a violent life on the streets. Though none of this makes you sympathetic to the man who committed such gruesome acts of violence against Connors and others, it does make you pay more attention to the underlying causes of such acts; it makes you see how society both creates criminals and punishes them for it.

In heart-pounding, stomach-wrenching, thought-provoking prose, Connors gives us an awakening not to be missed.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

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The Final Silence

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Review #19: Fiction

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

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*I received this book as an advanced readers copy at the Book Expo America in New York City in May, 2014. The hardcover goes on sale October 28th, 2014.

The newest novel from award winning crime/thriller writer Stuart Neville is a roller coaster of gruesome murders and deadly secrets. This is the fourth installment of his Belfast novels, revolving around now disgraced investigator Jack Lennon.

Rea Carlisle, whose father is a prominent politician, inherits her uncle house after her mother’s brother dies. While cleaning out the house, Rea comes across an upstairs bedroom that is locked. After prying the door open with a crowbar, Rea discovers a secret book. The contents of the book describe several grisly murders; journal entries about committing the crimes, newspaper articles, and even hair clippings and fingernails of the victims.

Rea wants to take the book to the police immediately, however, her father (thinking of his political aspirations) wants to keep the whole thing quiet. Not knowing what to do, and not wanting to keep the book and the crimes a secret, Rea reaches out to an old friend — Jack Lennon. Since Jack is not currently working on the police force, he can’t do much other than look into Rea’s suspicions. But after the book goes missing and another horrible murder is committed, the Belfast police become fully involved.

DCI Serena Flanagan takes the case and, in a sense, (secretly) teams up with Lennon to track down the book, and the killer, before more murders pile up.

The plot moves at breakneck speed, with lots of secrets, lots of lies, and, well, lots of murders, both in the past and the present. Neville sets up an intricate web of good guys, bad guys, and every type of person in between. There are a few twists, and a handful of quick shocks that keep the story moving, and the pressure on DCI Flanagan and Lennon to find the incriminating book, catch the killer, and, in a way, begin to clean up Lennon’s heavily tarnished reputation.

Neville creates deep, flawed, real characters that move this story along just as smoothly as the actions do. Each has a very unique voice, and detailed and specific view of the world and the events that take place, and are genuine in their personalities.

With these characters and the action-packed and chilling plot, Neville does not disappoint old or new fans.

Though this novel stands completely on it’s own, and does a good job of integrating any relevant background information on Lennon and his career and relationship with his daughter and deceased wife’s family, I found my lack of complete understanding of Jack’s history a little annoying. There is a lot of mention of past events dealing with Jack’s police work, his wife and family life, and trauma in his life and his daughter;s that, though ultimately holding no real bearing on the plot, disconnected me from Lennon as a character because I didn’t know the full story. This is not a detriment to the book or Neville’s writing; anything really important was fleshed out, but I was always wanting more information. Whenever something from the past came up, I wished I was being reminded of information I already knew rather than hearing about it for the first time. So, my only issue with reading this novel is that it was my first Lennon book but the fourth in Neville’s Lennon collection. I would suggest anyone interested in this title and Jack Lennon’s story start with Collusion or it’s prequel The Ghosts of Belfast (where Jack is introduced as a minor character).

Basically Neville writes a fast-paced thrilling murder mystery that incorporates a collection of flawed (though in most cases well-intentioned) characters that sends shivers down your spine from the shear twistedness of the crimes.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

*cover art from Amazon.com

Summer House With Swimming Pool

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Review #18: Fiction

Blogging for Books #3

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

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I haven’t read any of Herman Koch’s previous work, but apparently he is known for his unlikable characters, and on this point, his fans won’t be disappointed. I found each character either unremarkable to the point where I didn’t care at all, or unlikable to the point where I wasn’t all that interested in how the story played out for them. I read to find out where Koch was going with this plot, to see how he would tie all the ends together, but for the most part I was not engaged with the characters.

I do enjoy a good unlikable character, but I always feel like at least one needs to be likable enough to keep me rooting for them throughout. Each character in Summer House was either forgettable or reprehensible. Bad things happened to bad people and I guess I just wasn’t concerned with how it all ended, because no matter the consequences, they’d earned it.

That said, Koch clearly knows how to write these characters; he did a wonderful job making each one just horrible enough that you could never really decide which was a worse person than the last. The adults in the novel were awful to each other and the men especially awful to women. I suppose this was all part of creating the unlikable characters, but the blatant misogyny and sexism, though effective, wasn’t my cup of tea. Even the children, save the two youngest, were rude, self-centered, and conniving. Again, it’s clear that Koch is a master of the unlikable character, so if that’s the type of story you gravitate toward, this might be a great read for you.

The story revolves around Dr. Marc Schlosser and his patient and famous actor Ralph Meier. Schlosser runs a general practice and Ralph comes to see him about a lump he’s found. Soon after, Ralph is dead and people begin looking to Schlosser for answers.

We’re given the story from the present, when Ralph’s wife confronts Schlosser at his office, accusing him of murdering her husband. We’re then taken to the previous summer when Schlosser’s family spent time with Ralph’s family at the Meier summer home. Through the events that happen at the summer house, we’re given glimpses into the awful lives the adults are living, and the addition of their children (two girls for the Schlossers and two boys for the Meiers) we see their actions and behavior as even more despicable.

Something happens at the house that turns Schlosser against Meier, though the true facts are kept from him and reader until the end of the book. The meaty part of the story is finding out what really happened at the summer house, what in turn happened to Ralph (and if Schlosser was involved), and what comes next. Though we are finally told what really happened at the summer house, and exactly how Ralph died, we are left without the “what comes next” part. We see Schlosser and what consequences he could be facing for his actions throughout the book, but we never see if he gets what’s coming or not.

I was interested in finding out the truth behind the tragedy at the summer house, and also how Schlosser was connected to Ralph’s death, but I was disconnected a bit. I didn’t care that Ralph was dead because he was such an unlikable character. I was concerned with the truth of the events at the summer house, however, I felt let down when it was finally revealed; it was all a bit lack-luster. And as I also cared very little for Schlosser, not seeing if he had to face the consequences of his actions left something to be desired. I wasn’t looking for a happy ending, I just felt like there wasn’t an ending at all. It felt a bit open-ended. I would have rather known definitively if he got what was coming to him or if he didn’t rather than, perhaps he did, perhaps he didn’t.

Regardless, Koch did a great job of making his characters unlikable, though I personally found them therefore be uninteresting and found myself disconnected from the story surrounding them. I like that we start in the present to set the scene and then are taken back to the summer (and given short scenes from even further back to when Schlosser was in med school), then back to the present where we move forward with the characters.

I’ve seen reviews of this book where people say the story is too graphic. I, however, found it appropriately graphic for the most part. Some of the graphic descriptions help depict the awfulness of the characters and their thoughts and actions. This is also an adult novel, so language and graphic visuals shouldn’t really be much of a shock. We’re also dealing with a medical novel. The main character is a general physician and he goes into detail about his work (and what he hates about it) and I found those passages to be necessary for both mood and character building. To this point, I think it’s very much personal preference; I don’t find it overly graphic, though Koch does not sugarcoat anything, so don’t expect that.

In the end, I read to see what happened, but I in no way found myself unable to put it down. It was not a page-turner, it was well-written and seemed well-researched when it came to the medical aspects, and the characters are brilliantly written (if not personally enjoyably). I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.