The time has come again to face an impossible task of narrowing the 117 books I have read into a top ten list. As always it was difficult to do but I have managed and I will list them in no particular order. Apart from my favourite book of the year which I will reveal at the end. You can see my review for each book by clicking on the title.
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
The trick to running a cult is to get other people involved. Not new members or followers. Not more subscribers or a greater mailing list. It doesn’t matter if there are six people who think someone is Jesus or there are a million admirers hoping for a seat on the spaceship that will fly them away as Earth implodes with greed and apathy.
It’s not the apostles that make the cult.
It’s everybody else.
What is needed are the other people. Because other people always fuck things up.
Take the small town of Antelope, Oregon. A smudge on a map. Fifty people looking for quiet. They need a post office, a general store, a school and a church to exist. Not to survive. They haven’t moved here for that. Everybody knows everybody and everybody wants to be alone. Because they’ve come here to see out their years in peace. Then die.
Drop in four thousand disciples adhering to the philosophies of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Watch as they are welcomed as a peaceful people, renouncing a world of materialism in favour of a spiritual life. Embrace their desire to establish their own community.
Now get other people involved.
See how the word ‘community’ transforms into the word ‘commune’. Now wait as tensions rise and hostility grows. Wait a little longer. Because here come the other people. And it’s easy to take other people and make them fear something. Soon, a school teacher or postal worker or bar owner or dairy farmer has used the word ‘cult’.
Sit back and bask in your success as civilians are weaponised and cafes are poisoned and phone lines are tapped.
This is other people.
Take a student pastor at the Somerset Southside Methodist Church, Indiana. Tell him that he can’t integrate black people into his congregation. Piss him off. Give him a crusade.
Watch as he moves on and gives people hope. See his drive for racial equality. You don’t call the healings fake. Not yet. You call them Baptists. You say they are a church. He calls them the Wings of Deliverance.
Now let him open a soup kitchen for the poor, then watchas other people become involved. Because other people have an innate ability to take something good and turn it straight to shit.
Migrate that church to Guyana. Call it a compound. Call it Paradise. Call it Jonestown. Say that members did not travel there of their own free will. Get other people to interfere. Intervene. Get shot at. Wait a moment while everything is ruined. While nine hundred men and women take cyanide to kill themselves. Let them poison their children.
Now you can call it a cult.
And feel safe that you’re not one of them.
Take David Koresh. Take Waco. Tell the world he has several wives and fucks his kids. Set fire to buildings. Smoke him out. Kill twenty of those kids while you’re there.
Take the Manson Family. Take Scientology. Take any passage from any holy book out of context.
Take the unknown and drop in some fear and insecurity.
What have you done?
The other people club
You. At arm’s length. Outside looking in. With your judgement and your free choice and your safety. You don’t understand.
Not one of these people thought that they were part of a cult.
And you, you’re no different. You could be part of a cult right now and you don’t even realise. You think you have a choice.
Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.
Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.
When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.
Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…
With thanks to the author for the copy received. I see many thrillers described as psychological and often I’m disappointed. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t with Violet, my new favourite novel by this author. It had it all. Violet was an unreliable, unsettling and at times creepy narrator, and Carrie her new friend and travel companion has just become her new obsession.
But Carrie also has issues, and not just the ones that involve heavy drinking and drug taking. Most of what you learn about her is through her emails home to family and the best friend who couldn’t be with her. It is these that also show what she really thinks about Violet and also what occurred back home.
Everything about this novel works. The setting in countries that are completely different to the UK. The descriptions of the customs, some of which were really eerie. And the increasingly bizarre behaviour of Violet that had me wondering what she would do next.
It is very clever with characters that scared me at times, but strangely ones I could also feel sympathy for. As the story progressed there was insight into why they behaved like they did, especially with Violet.
As I read this novel I also enjoyed seeing daily photographs on the author’s website of her trip that inspired the novel.
The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her.
As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis, María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed. Ruthless drug baron Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home. At the same time, a deadly threat to Sonya and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Cage is the third book in the Reykjavik Noir trilogy. Unlike Trap and Snare this book mainly focuses on Agla and María. Agla is serving time in prison for banking fraud, she has a fairly easy life there, has certain privileges and is happy to help a younger prisoner, Elísa who is an addict. But when she is released from prison she soon releases that she is hated by many. And she realises the true extent of how bad Elísa’s life is.
María is struggling to rebuild her life after the collapse of her marriage and career. Reluctantly she agrees to work for Agla, she blames her for everything that went wrong, but she needs the money. It was María and Elísa who I had the most liking for, Elísa especially, and as her story is revealed the reader had a clear image of how destructive addiction is.
As well as the regular characters there was also Anton. He was a character who made me more unsettled every time he appeared. I did misunderstand him to some degree but just thinking about what he was planning terrified me.
It is a fantastic finale, I appreciated getting to see more of Agla and a more sympathetic side to her. She obviously missed Sonja, who only features briefly in Cage, but knew she had to move on. These are novels that I do recommend you read in order, if only to appreciate the character development. They aren’t people you would like to meet but you start to understand what forces a decision, whether it be the correct one or not. Nobody more so than Anton, young and in love, but I struggled to comprehend his way of proving that love. He is a character who I will think about for some time.
A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy
roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in the sky and
something crashes into the car. That something turns about to be a
highly valuable meteorite. With euro signs lighting up the eyes of the
locals, the unexpected treasure is temporarily placed in a neighbourhood
museum, under the watchful eye of a priest named Joel.
has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the riches that have
apparently rained down from heaven. His wife has just revealed that she
is pregnant. Unfortunately Joel has strong reason to think the baby
isn’t his. As Joel tries to fend off repeated and bungled attempts to
steal the meteorite, he must also come to terms with his own situation,
and discover who the father of the baby really is.
Transporting the reader to the culture, landscape and mores of northern Finland Little Siberia is both a crime novel and a hilarious, blacker-than-black comedy about faith and disbelief, love and death, and what to do when bolts from the blue – both literal and figurative – turn your life upside down.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Whenever I read a novel by Antti Tuomainen I can see it as a Coen Brothers movie. This latest book is a perfect example. The weather, which I just can’t imagine having to cope with and consider it normal. The relationships, where you can see the love and adoration but also the issues and the brilliantly and bizarrely accidents that result in the bad guys being killed.
Joel, the lead character is just wonderful, struggling to cope with his wife’s pregnancy when he knows he can’t be the father he volunteers to look after the meteorite. Little realising that nearly everyone he knows is prepared to do anything to get their hands on it. The way he tried to work out who wanted it most and who had got his wife pregnant was gripping reading,
The setting was a convincing one, remote, sometimes unfriendly where everybody thinks they know about their neighbours but they don’t. How disappointment and disillusionment affected judgement in nearly every character. And like Joel I completely misunderstood at least one character.