Review: A Dark Mind – T.R. Ragan

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Lizzy Gardner #3

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer is terrorizing Sacramento, preying on happily married couples and unleashing unspeakable cruelties upon his victims. The ordeal rekindles disturbing memories for private investigator Lizzy Gardner, who barely escaped a serial killer clutches only years ago. But while most Sacramento residents are hiding in the shadows, paralyzed by fear, Lizzy is compelled to go after the Lovebird Killer. So it no surprise that, when a routine workers- compensation case suddenly leads her and her two young assistants onto the killer trail, she welcomes the chase, determined to bring him to justice before he can claim another victim. She never imagines he could be two steps ahead, watching her every move and plotting his bloodiest, most triumphant conquest of all. – via Goodreads

You know what? This is the Lizzy Gardner book I have liked the most. Yes, it still had some hectic issues, but it was so much better than the previous two. For reals. The first two books were pretty bland, nothing special, though still not the worst things I had ever read, but enough to keep me wondering. Okay, I lie, the biggest reason I read this was because I thoroughly enjoyed the start of her new Jessie Cole series, what with Her Last Day. I was like why can’t the Gardner books be better? Well, it seems that they have started to go that way.

The Lizzy Gardner books still require you to suspend a lot of belief, but if you are okay with that, then it is okay. A Dark Mind introduces us to what I feel is the first compelling villain of this series – and he is truly not okay. He is obsessive and creepy and totally delusional, which makes him even harder to nail down. I enjoyed reading chunks of the book from his perspective, to get a look at what made him tick and how it was all put together.

Lizzie and Jared are still kicking it together, and while I like them together, I sometimes feel that the relationship doesn’t feel natural, sort of like it is there because it is expected to be there. Hayley is back in action after chopping off Brian Rosie’s nether regions, and her obsession with breaking rules and just hating the world is also really getting old. I liked her quite a bit in Abducted, I thought she had potential to be more, and instead, Ragan has even managed to alienate me as a reader, so nope, not winning. I enjoyed reading a bit about Tommy, though his character is starting to become (imagine this) a little bit unbelievable (like most parts of it all). Kitally is a new character that Ragan has introduced, and I am interested to see where this goes.

Anyway, A Dark Mind is the most solid read in the Lizzy Gardner series, and has convinced me to keep going with these books. It’s almost as though they get better as time progresses, which is not a bad thing at all. This book is flawed, certainly, but entertaining. The Lovebird Killer is also a character that pushes further than any of the weak (I know how bad that sounds) we have had so far. Alright, that’s all I have to say about that.

Review: The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson

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SYNOPSIS: Everyone in the small town of Central City, Texas loves Lou Ford. A deputy sheriff, Lou’s known to the small-time criminals, the real-estate entrepreneurs, and all of his coworkers–the low-lifes, the big-timers, and everyone in-between–as the nicest guy around. He may not be the brightest or the most interesting man in town, but nevertheless, he’s the kind of officer you’re happy to have keeping your streets safe. The sort of man you might even wish your daughter would end up with someday.

But behind the platitudes and glad-handing lurks a monster the likes of which few have seen. An urge that has already claimed multiple lives, and cost Lou his brother Mike, a self-sacrificing construction worker who fell to his death on the job in what was anything but an accident. A murder that Lou is determined to avenge–and if innocent people have to die in the process, well, that’s perfectly all right with him. – via Goodreads

I had no idea what I was getting when I ordered this book, so I went into this one totally blind. In fact, I didn’t even read the synopsis when I opened it, I just decided to go ahead and see what it was all about, and see how dark and twisted it would be, how accurate the blurbs from King and Kubrick would be, and I was not disappointed.

This book is told from Lou’s perspective, and the longer you read, the more you realise that Lou is, indeed, not right, and definitely has a deviant mind and a masterful way of rationalising the way he thinks, and definitely feels that he is smarter than anyone around him. It is evident throughout that Lou is off, and the more you read, the more chilling his detachment from people and regular social norms is.

The story is simply told, and you put together the puzzle pieces of Lou, his life, and the reasons he provides for the things that he does. It is also a cold look into events and people, and that makes this a right fascinating read. Lou seems like a dude that everyone likes, but it soon shows that the more things go wrong, not everyone is swept up by his Southern charms.

The Killer Inside Me also spends some time on some hardcore deaths, some sad ones, and a look see at some master manipulations. There are allusions as to Lou’s past, and they crop up consistently, but it is also evident that, because the telling of this story is from Lou, there is a lot of stuff that he doesn’t want to spend too much time examining, so we ultimately only have hte bare bones of his childhood and how his father and Michael fit in, and how that comes together. You get a lot of opportunity to fill in the blanks.

The Killer Inside Me is compelling, from the off. You are drawn into Lou’s world, the strange way he deals with people, how he has a mask on, and how that slips. There is some scheming and wheeling and dealing all the time that you are reading, and it is interesting to see how it all ties together, and what Lou’s thoughts on the matter are.

Indeed, The Killer Inside Me is a darker, more chilling insight and read. I was fascinated and thought it was excellent. It is a short book, so it tells the story quickly, but it never actually feels rushed and is a breeze to read. I could highly recommend this if you are into reading a book that is telling the story from the perspective of a killer, one you get to spend a bit of time with. I could definitely recommend this one.

Review: Zodiac (2007)

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zodiac poster

“I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.”
– Robert Graysmith

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970’s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people. – via IMDB

zodiac

GRADE 10This movie is absolutely brilliant. I loved it when it came out, I loved it in subsequent rewatches, and I still love it. Why? Because it is put together extremely well, the cast carrying this show is fantastic, and it looks amazing. There is really just too much to love about this and not anything to seriously complain about.

Jake Gyllenhaal never disappoints (seriously bestie, you must watch more of his work) and his Robert Graysmith is really interesting to watch, like a dog with a bone. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as prick crime reporter Paul Avery, and showcases how he really has more talent than just Tony Stark/Iron Man. I really miss when he used to take real other roles. The final big player here is Mark Ruffalo, and I always enjoy watching the man in anything. His detective character David Toschi is also a big draw, and I really like how these three characters each had their own obsession, they all danced around one another, were all similar but completely different. I think the movie really runs home the point of obsession, and how it interacts with everyday life, which is very interesting. Not only that, the movie is obviously shot phenomenally because, well, David Fincher.

The script it also tight, laying out all the pieces of evidence you need in the case of the terrifying Zodiac killer, who freaked people out beyond anything, even though he was never caught. I think that Robert Graysmith did a great job of investigating and seriously has the strongest case stacked against Arthur Leigh Allen. Zodiac is engrossing and mesmerising and demands your attention throughout, and barrels along at such a pace that you are not left behind, but are gripped, and does not allow your attention to wander for even a moment.

You cannot miss that immense amounts of work, interest and passions that went into the film, everything from costume design to the sets that were done, and reading up on the trivia for it, all this is confirmed. I have not read Graysmith’s book, but I will most certainly be looking into it as soon as possible. If you have not seen Zodiac, it is high time you rectify that.

Review: Darkness, Take My Hand – Dennis Lehane

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darkness, take my hand dennis lehane cover

Kenzie & Gennaro #2

Private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are back when they are called in by Eric Gault, an old teacher of Patrick’s, to help Diandra Warren. She claims that her son, Jason, is being stalked by the Irish mob after she has a girl see her about dating an abusive Kevin Hurlihy and she receives a photograph of Jason and a threat. She feels that he is in danger. It seems like a routine case, and the pair take it up immediately. Angie is still binging after her split from her abusive husband Phil, and Patrick is dealing with the guilt of not being there for Angie enough due to his newly formed relationship with a doctor named Grace. Grace has a daughter, Mae, who adores Patrick and vice versa. He seems to have the perfect relationship and is truly happy.

Nobody seems to be stalking Jared, and after meeting with the Irish mobsters through their contact, Bubba Rogowski, they start to wonder if someone is playing a prank on Diandra Warren. A girl from the neighbourhood, Kara Rider, dies shortly after speaking with Patrick, and before they even know what is going on, there is a body count piling up. The latest death seems to point to an old case from back in the day when Patrick and Angie were kids, and Alex Hardiman was imprisoned for the brutal slayings in the area at the time. Still, Patrick starts to dig, and soon he learns that some of the latest victims’ families received photos like Diandra Warren did, and he and Angie realise too late that Jason was in danger, and he is found murdered.

Torture, dismemberment, murder, mutilation. It seems the way to go for the current serial killer. Devin Amronklin and Oscar Lee of the Boston Police Department calls Patrick and Angie in, they need all the help they can get, and Patrick and Angie keep getting tied back to what is going on. Angie and Phil, too, seem to be spending too much time together, but not so much to reconcile. Angie finally signs her divorce papers, and Phil and Patrick have their first civil conversations in years. From boyhood friends to enemies, the two have a lot to discuss. Patrick, meanwhile, goes to see Alex Hardiman in prison, and soon starts to wonder if there is more going on than he is familiar with, and again the topic is broached as to Hardiman having a partner on the outside. The more digging they do, the more it seems that whatever is going on now is linked up with their own childhoods. Threats against Patrick and Angie start surfacing, and they know that they are in danger, and Patrick starts to really worry about Grace, the first woman he has ever really let into his life, and her daughter.

Who is butchering these people and why? Who was killing the people all those years ago? Does Alex Hardiman have a partner? Is he even involved with what is going on? Can Patrick protect Grace and Mae? Will they be safe? Will Angie ever deal with her divorce from Phil? Will Patrick and Phil manage to stay at this civil place, continue to work through their differences and maybe be friends again? Will Patrick and Angie stop whoever is hunting them before they, too, are dead?

GRADE 8I liked this one. I liked it a lot. It’s no secret that I am a fan of Lehane’s work, not at all, and I thought that his debut novel, A Drink Before The War, was a damn fine first novel. I really liked Patrick and Angie, so I knew I was definitely going to be back for more. Darkness, Take My Hand is so different from its predecessor that it’s scary, and not in a bad way, either, just so we are clear on that front. Initially it took me by surprise a bit that Patrick would be in a serious relationship, though I was not surprised that Angie was on a party mission after splitting from Phil. The case that they got from Diandra Warren started simply enough, and the next thing you know, the story is racing along, mob members are involved (and I do so love reading about the Mafia), an insane serial killer is on the loose, Patrick and Angie are in trouble again, and they are still dealing with the things that came up months before with Marion Socia. Obviously nothing can be easy for them. I had a good few laughs at Angie and her threats in this novel, that woman is badass. The attitudes of her and Patrick were vastly different from the last book in that there were less jokes between them and there seemed to be some distance, too. Angie was putting up a good front but not quite pulling it off, and Patrick was in a really confusing place for him (psychologically, of course) with dating Grace and loving her and her daughter. I loved Bubba making an appearance again. I know he is a total psychopath and all that, but I find him seriously entertaining. Oscar and Devin, too, though totally less psychopathic. I liked the story and I thought the plot sped along nicely and never lost you along the way (always a winner for me), and I thought it was amusing to find a Scorsese reference in here. I can certainly recommend this series wholeheartedly.

Review: Home Sweet Home (2013)

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Home Sweet Home 2013 poster

A young married couple, Frank (Adam MacDonald) and Sara (Meghan Heffern), return home after a date night. They have left their infant son at Sara’s mother so that they have their alone time. However, while they were out, a killer has invaded their safe haven and stripped them of their sanctuary. Going through what looks like well-practiced motions of preparing the evening, the killer (Shaun Benson) has the windows screwed shut and bolted, deactivating the alarm, cutting the phone lines and goes through all their possessions and gets to know the family.

home sweet home 2013 movie frank golf clubUpon their return, they go about the night regularly, chatting, laughing, showering and doing their thing. The killer takes this moment to be the prime moment to take out Frank, though I feel that it was very rapid and rushed. Sara is the next target, though she is not to be killed so suddenly. The killer binds her to with cable ties, and insists on putting lipstick on her and taking photos of them together, almost like their very own date night.

home sweet home

“I’ll calm down now, I promise.” – Sara

Desperate to escape, Sara soon starts retaliating and thinking further than just crying. It is soon established that Frank was not dead but is butchered by the killer when trying to call for help. Scalping Frank, the killer drops the scalp into Sara’s lap, and she freaks. The killer encounters unforeseen circumstances that affect his perfectly planned night when the security company sends a security guard (Marty Adams) to investigate why the silent alarm was triggered. During the killer’s distraction, Sara manages to escape and get to a phone and calls for help while the killer is hot at her heels to find her.

Will Sara be able to outsmart the killer until help arrives? Will the security company react fast enough and send out help to save a woman who has just had her life ripped apart? Who is this methodical killer and why does he do the things he does?

A 4.5/10. So many reviews said this was great and I was excited to see but I have to disagree. Look, the camera work was fantastic, and the gore/blood looked very good. The end of the movie saved the entire film a bit for me, though the ending was pretty much preposterous. This movie was one that I wanted to like, but just could not get into all the way. It entertained me in that sense of “run, dammit, run!” and “what the hell was that?!” and “shhhhh!”, which is something I have always loved about horrors and psychological thrillers, but then an inordinate amount of the logic was so broken I was stunned. Look, some random tool breaking into your home and doing such terrible things is never what anyone wants but it is like their survival instinct went right out the window. Fight back. Unlock the gun first before making stupid moves, stay on the line with your security company, and barricade yourself in a room! Also the movie took forever to start and didn’t progress at a decent pace at all. It was just over thirty two minutes in when anything finally started happening, and it was not like the preceding thirty two minutes were very much of anything except excruciating preparation and some daft talk after coming home from a date night. The movie was not the worst horror/thriller of all time, but lacked a kick to make it fresh. The concept was same old, but I sincerely felt a lot of the time that this belonged on Eric over at the IPC’s WHY list… truly!

Review: The Postcard Killers – James Patterson & Liza Marklund

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POSTCARD KILLERS COVER 2

Book nineteen in my fifty book challenge.

New York City homicide detective Jacob Kanon is tearing through Europe on the macabre trail of a murderous couple. He has lost his daughter, Kimmy, to them. Young couples are being slain across the country, and none of the police seem any closer to discovering the identity of the monsters that are in action. The killers are clever – they are patient, careful, and meticulous. They blend in, they are educated, and they are having a ball with their little adventure.

Scandinavian journalist Dessie Larsson is chosen by the killers to broadcast their latest grisly crime: she receives the postcard from the relevant country where the crimes will go down along with some writing. Later, as per usual with the murderers, she receives a photograph of the crime scene. However, this journalist is different. She is confronted and drawn in with Jacob the moment he learns from German police that she has been chosen as the new communicator.

Sweden. This is the place that Jacob is sure that the tables will change. Making a pain of himself, Interpol finally confirms his status on the case, and he gets involved. New evidence is coming to the fore, and breakthroughs are starting to crop up. Jacob’s nerves are frayed, and he is barely holding himself together. The authorities seem to think that he is a little crazy, though he is the only one that has been identifying patterns on the various crime scenes.

Could this be the end of the line? Will Jacob get his revenge, will the killers strike again? Will Jacob be able to convince the police of his knowledge of the killers and have them use it in the most useful way?

GRADE 6.5The book was wonderful to read. It flowed nicely, it wasn’t too in depth or complicated. It was slightly predictable every now and again, but overall not to the extent that it frustrates. It was an enjoyable read; with a pretty good story that kept you hooked from the point go. It was decently written, captivating enough to keep you there, yet light enough to not emotionally tax you too much. Definitely not too heavy, and there is no real draw to the characters, etc. It really is just great to read, nothing to invest in at the end of the day, and sometimes that is the type of book that one is looking for.  A fun read for a conjunction of authors, and it was rather successful.