Thursday, 15 September 2011

Can a book deliver a mood?

I love a good mystery. I raced through all the Agatha Christie books from the age of 18, I am quite fond of Ian Rankin's Rebus novels and I'm working my way through the Inspector Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. I love the way they make me think about the plot, looking for signs to spot the perpetrator, waiting for the twist that makes me draw a sharp intake of breath.

Crime thrillers are also my favourite type of television programme too (apart from sport), so Waking the Dead was a favourite of ours and I discovered the Wallander books through the television adaptations of the novels - although I have to say, I prefer Swedish series to the one made for the UK.

If you've been following me on Twitter recently, you'll notice I have a new obsession. It's called The Killing (or Forbrydelsen to give its original title). It's a Danish crime thriller in 20 episodes about the investigation into the murder of a young woman. It's been showing 5 nights a week on BBC Four over the last month, in preparation for a new series showing soon. It was shown earlier in the year (which I missed) and it became a huge hit in the UK, gaining around 500,000 viewers per episode - which is a lot for BBC Four. It is brilliant - some of it is gut-wrenching, it's heartbreaking at times and it's really dark, with twist and turns aplenty. It seems like half of Copenhagen have been suspects in the previous 19 hours. I love it for the same reason I love reading mysteries - not only has it been playing with my emotions, I become an amateur detective and try to look for signs and work out before they do whodunnit.

Alongside this in the last few weeks, I've been reading a book to review for the Tesco Books blog. They contacted me with a novel idea - instead of grouping books by basic genres, they have chosen to group books by the mood it creates. The list they sent were grouped into three categories and I chose the "books to make you think and talk" as my favoured category because that is what I like to get out of a book. All I then had to do was choose a book.

Almost without thinking about it, I chose The Suspect by Michael Robotham as it seemed like it was a popular book. Instinctively, I had chosen another mystery. I probably should have guessed by the title but I swear I didn't really think about what type of book it was.

The story is narrated by Joseph O'Loughlin, a clinical psychologist with a private practice and a comfortable lifestyle. Joe gets involved in the investigation of a murder when the police ask him for help. The victim turns out to be a former colleague of his. Then, he starts to become concerned about one of his patients who suggests he may have been involved in the murder. Before he knows it, he's drawn into the centre of the investigation when the spotlight turns on him and he becomes a suspect. In order to prove himself innocent, Joe needs to discover the truth about his patient whilst keeping ahead of the police. Not easy when you've recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

I loved this book. The case was very complex; even though you were fairly sure whodunnit throughout, you were kept thinking as you are never totally sure, and there are twists and turns  aplenty to keep you reading. The pace of the book started slowly and then built up, such that the third and final part is conducted at a breathless pace. I couldn't put it down so all other plans got put on ho whilst I finished it and read over 100 pages in one afternoon. And the final twist, I didn't spot in advance and yes, it drew the sharp intake of breath from me when it was revealed. So, yes, it made me think - and talk, as I spent a while explaining it to my husband.

I noticed various similarities between The Killing and The Suspect. In both cases, the central character is wrongfully accused of a serious crime and puts themselves at serious risk of becoming the next victim of the respective killers. Both are quite dark and bleak, making for uncomfortable reading or viewing, tackling difficult subjects, not just murder. Both plots reveal themselves slowly, like scales falling away gradually to reveal the truth. In that respect, they were a good fit to be experiencing at the same time, even though neither of them are particularly cheerful. I finished the book on Tuesday night, just hours before I watched episode 18 which was especially shocking and upsetting that day. Already drained from both those events, I watched United 93 before bed to round off my perfect. I figured I was already depressed, so I may as well watch a difficult film that day, rather than depress myself again another time.

The book definitely delivered the mood. The Suspect made me do nothing but think and talk. Yes, it's uncomfortable to keep reading sometimes but it's like a rollercoaster ride - the adrenaline keeps you going going through the peaks and troughs. As I don't do real rollercoasters, this is MY adrenaline rush.

That's probably why I loved this book.

What books make you think and talk?


(I was sent a copy of this book to read and review. Tesco also sent me a bar of chocolate and a bookmark. I have not received any further compensation and all opinions and words are my own.)
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