I have been, for most of 2018 thus far, hankering for a good thriller.
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been full-on CRAVING a quick read with some twists and some turns and some spooks and some creeps.
So I’ve read a bunch of self-proclaimed “””thrillers.””” And they’ve all been disappointments rivaling the time when I was six and I was about to move on from Daisies to Brownies in Girl Scouts before finding out that the name “Brownies” was an absolute LIE and had goddamn nothing to do with the delicious treat, causing me to quit in justified disgust.
Here are two of those Brownie-level disappointments: The Chalk Man and The Wife Between Us.
The Chalk Man
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he’s put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank–until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
I am sick of a lot of things.
I am sick of studying. I am sick of eating anything other than desserts in the name of “““health.””” I am sick of pretending as a society that Jonathan is an important part of the show Stranger Things, when we all must know that the show would be 200% better without his scary-looking face and inability to act.
But I may not be as sick of anything as I am sick of books like this one.
I love thrillers. I love reading books that creep me out and confuse and shock me and keep me turning pages long into the night because I can’t put it down.
I define a thriller as a book that thrills, and by that definition, maybe one in ten “thrillers” I read actually qualify.
This one really f*cking doesn’t.
This is just The Girl on the Train with a male protagonist who reallyyyy needs to have sex with someone before it turns into a national emergency.
Yes. This is just as alcoholism-focused and monotonous and plotless and overwhelmingly British and boring as The Girl on the Train. It, too, has no plot or twists or creepiness or shock value. Like that horrible bestseller, it has an off-the-charts unlikable protagonist and not much else.
The writing style is grating. What I believe are supposed to be twists are just as boring as everything else. The reveals are mundane. The story alternates between the childhood of the main character, Eddie, in 1986 and the present day, and it’s hard to choose which is the more punishing side.
I don’t know how many times I’ll have to say this. Maybe infinitely. Maybe I’ll just have to keep saying this until I forget to say anything else and my lifelong mission will be to drill this into the minds of wannabe thriller writers everywhere:
I want thrills. I don’t want long descriptions of drinking and drunkenness. I don’t want protagonists so unprofoundly introspective that every other statement is followed by pointless wonderings on the state of the world and of humanity. I don’t want confused metaphors or reuse and reuse and reuse of maybe-creepy descriptions out of a seeming inability to think of anything new or better. (Shoutout to the chalk men drawings and Mr. Halloran’s albinism in this book.) I REALLY don’t want in-depth sensory descriptions of unclean teenage d*ck. (Sorry.)
I JUST WANT THRILLS.
That’s my bottom line.
Thanks to Penguin First to Read for the ARC.
The Wife Between Us
A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.
I believe pretty constantly that I am stuck in some purgatory-esque punishing cycle of monotony.
I believe I am sentenced to a lifetime of reading the same comment on my pre-review of Turtles All the Way Down. I believe I will never escape my apparently unbelievably high standards for books, considering I never like anything. And now, I believe that I will forever hate every thriller.
BECAUSE NOW EVERY THRILLER IS THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.
Let’s back up.
The Girl on the Train is a bad book. I talk about how it sucks harder than anything here. The characters are bad. The protagonist is drunk and also drinking all the time, so 80% of the hellscape language is vodka and/or wine related, and the 20% that isn’t usually revolves around the protagonist’s worrying about their (but almost always her) weight. This combination accomplishes the impressive feat of making the book even boring-er. There are no thrills or spooks or compelling mysteries. There are some twists, but they don’t feel twisty, either a) because they’re predictable, b) because they’re uninteresting, or c) because the writing is so sh*t that it doesn’t even inject some shock value into what’s supposed to be essentially the sole redeeming moment of the whole shebang.
Especially the thing with the twists. There were maybe 4 twists? Not exactly the nonstop thrill ride the synopsis indicates, but definitely has potential, if not for the fact that I predicted at least half of them and couldn’t tell whether I predicted the other two or was just so hopelessly bored that nothing mattered anyway, and therefore nothing held the capacity to shock.
I’ve said this a million times, and I’m still astounded I’ve ever had to say it at all: All I want from a thriller is thrills. I’m mystified as to how that seems to be so much to ask for.
The other thing I know for goddamn sure is that I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER in my life want to read about an aging alcoholic worrying about the softness around her hips while handling the world’s most boring mystery with the greatest incompetence ever beheld by the eyes of man EVEREVEREVER again.
Bottom line: (Michael Scott voice) No! God! No! God, please, no! No! No! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!