Tag Archives: Crime

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Review by Alysa S. ’22)

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

TW for The Secret History: references to alcohol and substance abuse, self-harm, murder

In many ways, The Secret History was one of the most baffling, difficult, and frustrating books that I’ve ever read in my entire life. I’ve never read anything quite like this.

First, I’ll start with the good: Donna Tartt is a beautiful, sophisticated prose writer with a distinct style. The vocabulary used only serves to emphasize the academic, intellectual university setting of the novel and the exclusive, Classics-educated group of students that protagonist Richard Papen so desperately wishes to assimilate into. As a fellow Californian used to the fast-paced craze of the West, I see quaint New England as a fascinating wonderland through Richard’s fresh perspective: all falling autumn leaves, dusty and antique libraries, and elite, old-money academics.

However, the rest of the novel immediately takes a dark turn, exploring bacchanal, unthinkable concepts of evil in human nature. First of all, I consider myself sufficiently patient when it comes to arduously long books, but the sheer page count of this book became increasingly difficult to get through as each page revealed yet another shocking truth about the ostensibly perfect characters that grudgingly accepted Richard into their group: twins Camilla and Charles, Francis, and Henry (Yes, he is an enigma. Yes, I find his dark and brooding, extremely intelligent, unofficial leader of the group qualities extremely appealing).

Along with the dense chapters, I also think the emotional baggage is extremely heavy. This is not a book for light reading, nor does it have a definite beginning and ending that follow your usual story arc. As much as I enjoyed the detail and the moments of surprise, the evolving relationships of the six characters that catalyze a downward spiral of events dragged on too long for me, and the psychological thriller aspect of the book left me extremely depressed and upset with our reality. For anyone considering this book, I would probably ask you to reconsider. But if you’re into dark academia and extensive analysis of the depths of evil in the human soul, well, all I can say is brace yourself. —Review by Alysa S. ’22

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Foundryside (review by Anya W. ’20)

Foundryside (Founders, #1)Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sancia Grado is quite possibly the best thief in Tevanne. Not in the least because of what exactly the metal plate in her head can do–but it’s safer not to talk about that. She’s still not quite sure how stealing a box from one merchant house turned her into the most wanted person in Tevanne, and the only one capable of communicating with the powerful artifact that has the entire city foaming at the mouth.

Gregor Dandalo is the only living son of the family controlling another one of Tevanne’s four merchant houses and trying his best to bring order and law to the commons: the only part of the city not controlled by the merchant houses. It seems like a stroke of excellent luck when he manages to find the thief who blew up half the docks stealing from a merchant-house safe. Then, he spots the assassins and well, things get complicated.

Orso Ignacio, employee of the Dandalo merchant house, might have made a mistake when he bought an artifact from an excavation site without his employer’s permission. Especially now that the key’s been stolen and he has no hope of learning from the scrivings it contains. Hopefully, the thief Gregor has ‘arrested’ can get the key back in exchange for her freedom.

Bernice is a gifted scriver, and has no idea how she got caught up in fixing her bosses stupid mistake. At least the scenery’s nice.

Bennett’s novel is a study in intricate world-building, and he crafts a diverse cast characters, from heroes to villains to antiheroes, with compelling backstories and motivations all the while seamlessly weaves in ethical quandaries that dissect the foundations of each character. Although sometimes his writing became unnecessarily wordy, this book is an excellent starting point to a very intriguing fictional universe. My main issue is with the side characters. While some are nicely fleshed out, the background villains seem flat and evil for the sake of evil. The romance is also lacking chemistry and feels shoehorned in for no good reason, which is a shame, considering the amazing characters involved in the relationship.
-Anya W. ’20

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (review by Amelia H. ’19)

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crooked Kingdom picks up the story where Six of Crows left off. The fight between the heroes and villains of Six of Crows finally culminates in an explosive finale. A fast-paced plot full of twists takes the reader on a whirlwind of a ride, moving at a breathless speed that makes every action and line of dialogue seem as if it’s happening in that moment for the first time. So much is packed in that the reader might feel daunted at the end of the first section, but everything links together into one cohesive narrative that ties up every loose thread it creates. The ending is as unforeseeable as it is thrilling, keeping the fast pace up till the last. This book was a perfect wrap-up to the Six of Crows duology. – Amelia H. ’19

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Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (review by Melissa K. ’18)

Out of the EasyOut of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out of the Easy begins with seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine’s stark opening line: “My mother’s a prostitute.” From the very first sentence, author Ruta Sepetys sucks the reader into the world of 1950s New Orleans, a place rife with scandal and mystique. Desperate to escape the stigma of her mother’s reputation, Josie dreams of leaving New Orleans by attending college far from the South.

Everyone in the novel has something to conceal—the wealthy Mr. Lockwell hides his trips to the French Quarter from his wife; Josie’s friend Patrick hides his aging father’s memory loss from the authorities; Josie hides a pistol under her skirt. The inexplicable death of a wealthy Memphis businessman in the French Quarter only adds to Josie’s list of secrets, especially when she suspects her mother’s involvement.

Ruta Sepetys writes flawlessly, revealing striking historical details through Josie’s observant eye. As historical fiction, Out of the Easy is painstakingly researched and powerfully told. Do I need to say more?

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Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Not a Penny More, Not a Penny LessNot a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When a millionaire pulls off an elaborate scheme to steal money from other millionaires, it’s up to the conned millionaires to chase the criminal millionaire around to all his high-society haunts so that they can surreptitiously extract their fortunes from him and become millionaires once more. As a non-millionaire, it’s hard to sympathize with all these fabulously wealthy characters whose most important traits are their holdings in African gold and their prize-winning orchid collections. Archer is wedded to elaborate scene descriptions, from the exact years of every expensive bottle of wine the characters enjoy to the brand and tailor of each of their suits. To provide these details, Archer often draws a little too far on his narrative omniscience. By the fifth chapter, he’s revealed all but one plot twist in the entire novel, leaving the reader to tag along on the protagonists’ journeys to Wimbledon and Monte Carlo without caring too much who will succeed and who will fail. Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less is a good fit for readers who share the author’s penchant for finances, but at 300 pages, the novel isn’t prepared to offer much else. – Andrew R. ’17

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Snuff by Terry Pratchett (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Snuff (Discworld, #39)Snuff by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After starring in seven previous Discworld novels, it’s time for street urchin-turned-policeman-turned-nobleman Sam Vimes to take a vacation. But no reader will be surprised when Vimes uncovers a smuggling and trafficking business that’s thriving quietly in the countryside—after all, the policeman knows from years in the City Watch that everybody is guilty of something. Unfortunately, Snuff marks the degradation of some of the Discworld’s most complex characters. The city’s resident tyrant Vetinari, who in the past has embodied the role of the omniscient chessmaster, seems inexplicably to be losing his previously iron grip on his rule; meanwhile, Vimes’s butler Willikins, a nod to Jeeves from P. G. Wodehouse’s novels, has somehow morphed from the perfect “gentleman’s gentleman” to an unnecessary free-thinking, free-acting double of Vimes himself. And Vimes’s signature cynicism in believing that the policeman isn’t so very far removed from the criminal, while fresh six or seven novels ago, now feels stale and repetitive. So, while readers will recognize Pratchett’s style and wit in Snuff, those of us who have stuck with Vimes since Guards, Guards! so many books ago will find this novel uncomfortably familiar. – Andrew R. ’17

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Screwed by Eoin Colfer (review by Mrs. Vaughan, Harker librarian)

Screwed (Daniel McEvoy, #2)Screwed by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eoin Colfer successfully follows up his first adult crime novel Plugged with Screwed. Former member of Ireland’s UN forces in Lebanon and current New Jersey night club owner, Daniel McEvoy is back wending his way through the unintentional but thrilling labyrinth that comes with living on the seedy side. Small time Irish crime boss Mike Madden has McEvoy over a barrel and wiggling his way out forces loveable if slightly unbalanced McEvoy to suffer a host of dangerous fools and predicaments. The action is top notch and, like Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, littered with whip-smart humor. Colfer provides more back story in this second novel and weaves in information about McEvoy’s alcoholic father and doomed mother and brother as well as McEvoy’s experiences in the Middle East. Colfer further develops characters introduced in Plugged and adds a few more, all colorful and keenly crafted. Like his young adult Artemis Fowl series, Colfer proves he can sustain a character through more than one ever-twisting plotline. And like Artemis Fowl, let’s hope there’s no end in sight for McEvoy’s travails and adventures. – Mrs. Vaughan, Harker librarian

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (review by Allison K. ’15)

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sebold’s novel is a refreshing take on the emotional aspects of life after death; when fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon is raped and murdered by neighbor George Harvey, she watches as her family is forced to carry on without her, slowly crumbling apart. Her father and little sister Lindsey, the only ones to suspect Harvey of her murder, try to investigate and gain closure, while omniscient Susie is helpless to direct them towards her killer. The work possesses a tragically poignant affect that impresses the importance of second chances and absolution. Sebold delicately weaves together her austere version of the afterlife, the innate ties of a grieving family and her projection of Susie’s feelings and reactions onto the the living world. The Lovely Bones is bound to draw in any reader with its capability to both invoke mystery and compel empathy for Susie on her journey for inner peace, vindication, and completion. – Allison K. ‘15

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (review by Anushka D. ’15)

SpeakSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melinda Sordino begins her freshman year dreading to see the people she once called her best friends. She ruined any chances of being popular or even having friends when she called the cops during a summer party. But what no one knows is that Melinda is hiding something about what happened at the party, something that devastated her. Anderson uses heartbreakingly beautiful prose to deliver a story about a reality many teens have to face. By concealing the horrible truth even from the readers, she leaves them no choice but to read as Melinda falls apart. While Melinda is distant from everyone, she manages to create a strong impression on the readers, capturing their hearts with her loneliness and despair. Anderson keeps the plot focused, never straying to include petty romance or overcomplicated plotlines. Speak is wonderfully delivered and hard to put down. – Anushka D. ‘15

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