Archive for October 2016

Friday Flicks: The Girl on the Train


Earlier this year, I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins as part of a book club. I loved the way Hawkins blurred the lines of her thriller by using an unreliable narrator and shifting around the chronology of the story. When I heard that Hollywood was planning a film adaptation of the novel, I was a bit apprehensive. The way that the story is presented seemed uniquely suited for the pages of a book. Still, I entered the theater with some optimism, especially as the trailers seemed to capture the dark tone of the novel.

In the film, Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a woman who has turned to alcohol as her life collapses around her. Each morning, she rides the train to and from work and passes the neighborhood where she and her ex husband used to live. As the train stops at the local station, she has a clear view into the house that her ex now shares with the woman who ended their marriage.

Rachel does her best to ignore the remnants of that former life. Instead, she focusses on the young couple who lives a few houses down the street. Her voyeuristic curiosity allows her to escape from the unfortunate reality that her life has become. But her fantasy come crashing down when she notices the wife in an embrace with another man. The next morning finds Rachel bruised and unable to remember the events of the night before. She awakens to news that a local woman has gone missing. As the picture of the woman permeates the media there is no denying the woman's identity. It is the same woman who Rachel has studied each day on the train. With no recollection of the previous evening, Rachel fears for the worst. What has she done?!

The Girl on the Train turns out to be a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Hawkins's novel. Director Tate Taylor, who is no stranger to book adaptations after his smash debut The Help, smartly maintains the shifting timeline of the novel. This helps to add intensity and suspense to an otherwise straightforward story. Like the book, the movie is much more a character study of a woman who has lost control of her life. Emily Blunt gives a career defining performance as Rachel, allowing us to connect and even sympathize with her deeply flawed protagonist. The supporting cast of seasoned Hollywood role players all perform admirably in their parts, and Allison Janney in particular shines as a detective who is skeptical of Rachel's testimony. Just like the novel, I felt the movie tipped its hat a bit too early, causing the last act to lack the intensity that the buildup promised. Still, The Girl on the Train is a solid adaptation with a star-affirming performance by Emily Blunt that should please both fans of the novel and casual moviegoers.

Without Mercy by Jefferson Bass

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"Some days I think we're making progress. Other days, I think the problem is just human nature itself, stretching all the way back to Adam and Eve."

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of reviewing The Inquisitor's Key by the fabulous Jefferson Bass duo. That novel was my first introduction to their Body Farm series featuring forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton. I really enjoyed reading that novel, and appreciated the way Bass crafted a story that was both a religious thriller and brilliant character study. When I was contacted by the publisher to read Bass's latest novel Without Mercy, I jumped at the opportunity.

Dr. Bill Brockton heads up The Body Farm, a University of Tennessee institution that he founded and maintains. Assisted by his doctoral student Miranda, Brockton has become a leading name in anthropology and one of law enforcement's go-to guys. His latest assignment finds Brockton investigating the partial remains of a person who seems to have been chained to a tree and left for dead. Without a full skeleton and with limited evidence that was tarnished by time, Dr. Brockton finds himself facing one of the most gruesome crimes of his career.

On top of the usual vigor of his job, Brockton also faces some added stress on the personal front. Miranda his student and assistant is presenting her thesis soon and is beginning to look for a place to start her career. Unable to face the implications of this impending vacancy, Brockton buries himself in the one place he always feels safe. . . his work. But even his job is beginning to abandon him. With advancements in technology and methodology exceeding Brockton's own expertise, he begins to question his relevance in the field that he's devoted his life to.

Just when everything is looking grim, things get even worse. Brockton receives word that Nick Satterfield, a sadistic murderer who he helped put behind bars, has escaped from prison. Suddenly, he is forced into facing a nemesis that he thought he was done with. With the added pressures of both his personal and professional life caving in on him, Brockton fears for both his sanity and his life.

In Without Mercy, the tenth installment in the series, Jefferson Bass presents a fast paced mystery that will have you reading into all hours of the night. Beyond the thriller, it is the intense depth of Brockton's character that will leave a lasting impression. I was riveted by the way Brockton faced the threat of becoming obsolete in a field that he pioneered. Even though I am not a faithful reader of the series, Bass's writing helped me to grasp the context and emotional implications of the characters. Even with an ending that veered a bit too far from reality, Without Mercy is a solid thriller that provides everything a fan of the genre is looking for.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.

(2016, 30)

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

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"Books are like people. Sometimes they lie."

Young Jasper's life is being turned upside down. His mother is gone. She left him at his Aunt and Uncle's farm. He loves her unconditionally, but it would be a lie to say that Jasper is not worried or confused. Why would she leave him there with no explanation? Where is she going? And why wasn't Jasper allowed to stay with his father?

Jasper soon begins to acclimate to life on the farm. He learns that everyone has to do their part to keep the estate running. Although he enjoys his time there, Jasper still longs to return home to his mother and father. But that doesn't seem likely to happen. A visit from his father confirms his worst fears, no one knows where his mother is. A remnant of his mother's past soon appears in the form of her old diary. As Jasper begins to read it, he finds out secrets that point to a dark pass and threaten to impact his future.

In The Buried Book, author D.M. Pulley weaves an edge-of-your-seat mystery with a coming of age story that thrills and incites a genuine emotional response. The novel intersperses Jasper's story with pieces of his mother's diary. With each revelation, Jasper learns more about his mother while simultaneously losing bits of his childhood innocence. The result is both riveting and heartbreaking. I raced through the pages of this book and couldn't stop thinking about if for several days after finishing. The Buried Book will leave you breathless as you burn through this fantastic story.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
This review is part of a tour by TLC Book Tours.

(2016, 29)

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