Adult Summer Reading: Electrifying Thrillers

The category “Electrifying Thrillers” covers a whole host of scenarios from works of political intrigue to psychological thrillers to spy novels.

Let’s start with something very different namely “Slade House” by David Mitchell. It could be referred to as a horror thriller.  The author, probably best known for the novel “Cloud Atlas”, says he tries to make his writings very different from each other.  And boy, is this book different.

Slade HouseTo say things in Slade House aren’t what they appear to be would be a vast understatement. Every nine years, someone is lured down Slade Alley where they swing open the garden gate and enter the world of Slade House.  It makes no sense that this large garden and even larger house exist in this small place, but there they are.  Enter the house and rooms morph before your eyes and ghostly voices are heard in the wall.  What was there a moment ago shrinks to nothingness and people shape-shift before your eyes. Even Detective Inspector Gordon Edmonds of the Thames Valley Police is no match for the sinister siblings that haunt the house, feasting off those that dare to enter this other world.  All they require for eternal life is the occasional food source.  Edmonds has come to investigate the first disappearances, a mother and son who disappeared nine years previously.  And then nine years later, a university club dubbed the Paranormal Society can’t resist the temptation to follow up on the disappearances of the boy, his mother and the detective inspector.

The twins, possessing psychic powers, had perfected the “lacuna”, a small space immune to time and thus immune to aging. A nine-year pattern, perhaps destined to continue eternally.  Then Dr. Iris Marinus-Fenby, a horologist, a maker of clocks, shows up to challenge their repeated pattern of evil.

At times, the story can be confusing and you might struggle with some of the unfamiliar British slang, but it’s worth it.  Author David Mitchell successfully creates a mood of foreboding and dread. There will be times you want to scream “don’t go up those stairs” and other times when you know it is too late for the characters, that they have chosen a path that will lead to their inevitable doom.

Now let’s have a look at a more classic thriller. It is March,1941 and Paris is an occupied city. Mathieu and his French resistance cell rescue downed airmen and smuggle them across the border into Spain.  In “A Hero of France”, Alan Furst successful creates a mood of high tension as the resistance members use subterfuge, disguises and safe houses to move the airmen across France.  Whenever they approach security checks, you may find yourself holding your breath, hoping this one doesn’t end badly.

A Hero of France

The book provides a good look into the workings of a resistance cell, such as how they fund their operations, sometimes needing to work with shady individuals. It also shows how they communicate, employing young men and women as bicycle couriers.  Their youth provides a cover as they are less likely to be stopped by the authorities.  Yet at any time, a resistance member may hear the paralyzing phrase “show me your papers”.

There are breaks in the action whenever Mathieu returns to his lodgings, receiving a happy greeting from Mariana, the hotel’s Belgian Shepherd, and an even warmer greeting from his girlfriend Joelle. Joelle is unaware of his work for the resistance and to protect her, Mathieu would like to keep it that way.

Senior Inspector Otto Broehm of the Hamburg Police is selected to oversee the French effort to destroy the escape lines. It is his job to recruit informants to infiltrate the resistance cell.  Looking for prisoners willing to do so in exchange for a reduced sentence, Broehm finds Stephan Kusar, a liar of the first order.  It is a skill that will serve him well as he attempts to infiltrate Mathieu’s cell.

Mathieu is always faced with the question of who to trust, who might fold under pressure and who might be a spy. And now Mathieu is given his biggest assignment.  British intelligence plans to parachute in two operatives from the Free French troops based in England.  Matthieu’s cell must recover the operatives and their large cache of equipment and hide them from the Germans. It is the wrong time to have a spy in their midst.

As a good espionage story should be, the novel is infused with tension and suspense and keeps you turning the pages.


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