Tag Archives: Psycho Thriller

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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The Third Gate by Lincoln Child (review by Mr. Silk, Harker teacher)

The Third GateThe Third Gate by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not quite “page turner” status, The Third Gate is a decent thriller that takes place in the Sudd (a swamp) of Egypt where a vast team of archaeologists are searching for the remains of Narmer, the Pharaoh that unified the country. To help discover this long lost tomb a doctor who specializes in “near death experiences” is enlisted. Unfortunately, when one “crosses over,” in the neighborhood of tombs with curses on them, bad things are bound to happen, and they do. While the history is interesting (although not all true), and paced pretty well, there really are not enough surprises here to make the book reach its potential to be either truly scary or truly exciting. But it is fun enough for a day on the beach, and definitely for anyone who is a fan of “The Mummy” or similar stories in this genre. – Mr. Silk, Harker teacher

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Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (review by Akshay B. ’16)

The Silence of the Lambs  (Hannibal Lecter, #2)The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling is just as surprised as anyone else when she is called upon to investigate the serial killer Buffalo Bill, who skins his female victims to create a wearable suit. After Starling finds no leads, FBI Director Jack Crawford directs her to request the incarcerated Dr. Hannibal “Hannibal the Cannibal” Lecter for aid. Dr. Lecter develops a personal bond with Starling, and offers her information in exchange for personal details about her early life. However, when a Senator’s daughter is kidnapped by Buffalo Bill, the stakes are raised, and suddenly Dr. Lecter becomes the single most important person in the case. Building upon its prequel, The Silence of the Lambs is an absolutely beautiful masterpiece that blends a relatable protagonist and a despised yet admired cannibal genius, alongside profound symbolism and a twisting plot. Silence of the Lambs is definitely a must for all mature young adults and older. – Akshay B. ’16

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Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (review by Akshay B. ’16)

Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter, #1)Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Retired FBI profiler Will Graham is sought out by Agent Jack Crawford after a serial killer referred to as “The Tooth Fairy” murders two families, each at a full moon. Unable to glean any insight from the crime scenes, Graham realizes that he must consult Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the Baltimore State Hospital for Criminally Insane. Three years ago, Graham captured Lecter, who later came to be known as “Hannibal the Cannibal,” but was nearly disemboweled by the killer and thus retired. Graham must now face his past with Dr. Lecter and remain level-headed whilst racing to catch the Tooth Fairy before the next full moon. Harris masterfully creates a sympathetic hero and villain, causing the reader to root for both sides. Full of surprises, exquisite detail, and enough gore for a week, fans of thriller and mystery will find Red Dragon an excellent choice for a pleasure-read. – Akshay B. ’16

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (review by Allison K. ’15)

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gillian Flynn strikes again with her latest mystery novel Gone Girl, a story of wife gone missing, Amy Dunne, and her husband, suspect Nick Dunne. After finding his house ransacked and Amy gone on the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick appears to be curiously dishonest to authorities and dispassionate about his wife’s absence. Throughout the investigation of Amy’s disappearance, the reader kept guessing as the present intertwines with the past. Amy and Nick’s dueling narrations draw disparate pictures of their marriage. With a touch of Alexandre Dumas a la Montecristo, Flynn takes the reader into a rabbit box of deception and secrets, where seemingly trifling details go unnoticed until they add up to the grand reveal. Even so, despite the novel’s unpredictable twists, the ending falls flat, leaving the reader wishing for further vindication on the behalf of either of the characters. Nevertheless, disturbing as it may be, Gone Girl is one work that ought not to be missed for adults in search of a mind-blowing thriller. – Allison K. ‘15

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