Dan Brown uses the same formula for all his books, and Inferno is no exception: a search for something mysterious or dangerous based on symbolism, a setting in an Italian city, a mad chase, Robert Landgon the academic who is an expert in symbology, short chapters to guarantee a page-turner etc. Inferno features Robert Landgon, who is amnesiac and finds himself chased by dangerous individuals while trying to solve a puzzle. Langdon and a few other characters try to avoid the release of a plague, supposed to kill half of humanity – nothing else! The plot is all right, I suppose, although it’s more than unlikely. The need for certain individuals to use symbols (and complex ones) to hide simple messages is annoying – it feels too much like just a silly plot for the novel. This story is not as good as The Da Vinci Code, or Angels and Demons and the formula needs to change. It’s not new, it gets boring, and you feel like you’ve read it before. I’m not saying the story is painful to read, it’s a page turner after all and it is enjoyable, but you will forget it as soon as you’ve read it. The one thing that really didn’t work for me with this book is that Brown turned it into an Italian art lesson. There’s nothing wrong with that, except the way it’s done is just ridiculous. Picture this: Langdon is chased by a large number of people who want to kill him. They’re shooting at him, he’s seen them kill people, they involve the police, and what does Langdon do? He (constantly) stops in front of pieces of art or architecture to marvel at how beautiful they are, think of the artist who’s created them, tell their story to whoever he is with, and take his time to take it all in. Plain silly if you ask me! I believe Brown’s readers need a little more respect than that.
Tag Archives: thriller
I had never heard of Stoker when I flew to Singapore last week. When I saw they were playing it on the plane, I was curious to find out what the story was about. The film features Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode. Director is Park Chan-Wook and scriptwriter is Wentworth Miller. The movie has just come out in 2013. The story revolves around teen-ager India Stoker, who has just lost her father in a car accident. An uncle (brother of her late father) turns up, whom she has never heard of before. She is intrigued of course, and whilst grieving for her dad, is attracted by her uncle – she has to compete with her mother though (Nicole Kidman) a somewhat unstable and distant woman (one of Kidman’s classic roles). The truth behind the uncle’s story is very unsettling, to say the least. We learn quickly that he is dangerous, but his past is only revealed at the end, and it is chilling. A good story and for those of you who like slow movies, it’s perfect. It was little slow for my liking, but I realise this is how it was meant to be (It’s a psychological thriller after all). It does accelerate mid-way through. A good movie to watch on a plane, except that the way it is filmed, and some of the frames and pictures are stunning. I love the way India focusses on small things and insects, and how this is brought to life by the camera. The way the last frame of the movie links back to the first is perfect. Not the best movie I have seen, but a good one to watch (beware, there will be a number of dead bodies). Oh and Stoker is a family name, and it says it all…
Mo Hayder has mastered the art of gothic crime novels – my favourite one of hers so far is Tokyo, but Poppet comes next. I was delighted to get it early on the Kindle and I read it fast. Well paced, with a plot split into three parts which eventually all come together, the novel features one of Hayder’s favourite characters, DI Jack Caffery. Police Diver Flea Marley is not far, as usual, but don’t think you need to have read the other books, this works well as a standalone novel. The plot is unnerving and stressful (don’t read it at night when you are alone). The story centres on a high-security mental ward where a number of sinister, surreal events take place, each leading to the unexplained death of a patient. All patients are very nervous and keep talking about a non-human entity which haunts them. AJ, one of the staff, feels something deep and sinister is playing out in front of his very own eyes, and he tries to talk his boss Melanie Arrow into action. When a patient is released – Isaac Handel who killed his parents in a horrific manner at the age of fourteen – all hell breaks loose… Who is the next victim going to be? Isaac stalks the ward’s staff one after the other. Naturally – it’s Mo Hayder after all – there is more than meets the eye, and as one character puts it, “all is not always as it seems”. Fabulous ending, scary plot, even a bit of romance… all the ingredients of a great novel by Mo Hayder.
I have decided that contemporary French and Chinese movies have quite a bit in common. This includes people smoking all the time and yelling at each other every five minutes or so. There’s also a fair amount of drinking going on at times. I’ve just watched The Equation of Love and Death, a 2008 Chinese movie directed by Cao Baoping. In the film, the main character Li Mi, who is searching for her boyfriend who left her suddenly four years earlier, smokes and screams more than she breathes. Okay, this is a little exaggerated. And her life is not easy. She works as a taxi driver, showing every passenger a photo of her ex and asking them if they have seen him. A suicide will trigger a series of events, all interlinked, and leading her to her ex. Three stories are the backbone of the movie: Li Mi’s search for her boyfriend, the fate of two drug traffickers, and Li Mi’s boyfriend’s erratic behaviour. Gradually each story will run into each other, creating a web of connections and complexities. Life in Chinese cities is well pictured. This movie falls into the thriller/suspense category, and it’s quite okay. A bit grim, but Chinese movies are often like that, I think. I wish Li Mi would smoke and scream a little less, but I forgive her. Now, has anyone seen this movie and know where it was filmed? I got excited more than once because I seemed to recognise my beloved Kunming, in particular the pedestrian bridge at the crossing of Dong Feng Dong Lu (区东风东路) and Bai Ta Lu (白塔路). Can anyone confirm that?
I’m adding the trailer to this banter. Unfortunately it’s in Chinese and there are no subtitles, but you’ll see what I mean about the yelling!
Another great crime novel by S.J. Bolton, with an unusual theme: Clara is a veterinary surgeon but lives as a recluse because she was disfigured in a childhood accident. She saves the life of a baby sleeping next to a venomous snake. And it’s only the first occurrence of snake biting or attacks in this little English village. A taipan (An extremely venomous snake from Australia) even appears on the scene. Where do all these snakes come from and who uses them to kill people? This is the mystery Clara has to solve, in company of a policeman and a weird snake expert. What Clara uncovers is a sinister ancient ritual, which makes use of snakes. This is a good novel, even if the ritual in question is somewhat far-fetched (whether true or not). Tension is good and characters interesting. Bolton has once again delivered a good thriller with a gothic theme and a fast-paced plot.
It was a quiet night at home last night and we watched Sanctum, a movie I had purchased in China a while ago. Sanctum is a thriller/action movie that came out in 2011. It was directed by Alister Grierson. It’s the story of an underwater caving expedition in Papua-New Guinea, which goes wrong (of course). Because of a tropical storm, the team finds themselves trapped in the abyss, with little air and a lot of water! Who will survive, that is the question… I got one right and one wrong! I love diving but can’t stand diving in caves because of a certain level of claustrophobia – I’ve even gone as far as doing caving (not underwater) for a week with friends, but hated it and won’t be doing it again in the near future. Being claustrophobic, I should have known better. Of course, I was a bit nervous during the movie, not really my thing, but it was part of the “fun” of watching it. It’s a 3-D movie, by the way. Having said that, I was disappointed. It’s an okay movie, but it lacks real tension, it’s a little cheesy at times, and all too easy towards the end (which you can predict from the start). If you’ve seen it, let me know what you think!
Heptonclough is a small village on the moors, and this is where Bolton‘s horrifying story is taking place. What I like about Bolton is that each of her crime novel is different from the others. The theme to start with. And the characters. This one, I loved! And the ending… oh my God! Bolton is so good that I read four of her novels in a row… Postings for each one of them to follow…
A family with three young children has just moved to Heptonclough. Somehow, something tells them they are not welcome. They are driven away with pranks and threats, and their oldest, ten-year-old Tom Fletcher, soon realises someone terrifying is watching them. There are wonderful characters, such as the new vicar and Evi, the therapist. The adults soon understand that something isn’t quite right in Heptonclough, and this includes accidental (or is it, really?) deaths of children over the last ten years. Then Tom’s siblings go missing and the story turns into a nightmare for the family. The village’s secret is more than you can bear – trust me!
The other two Bolton novels I will write about next are Sacrifice, and Awakening. They are bloody good as well. S. J. Bolton is an amazing storyteller, she masters plot and character development and gives her stories a gothic feeling that works perfectly. What a writer! Bolton blogs here (and she is funny).
And here’s the video thriller for “Blood Harvest”:
The Valley of Elah is not a recent film, it is from 2007, but I only watched it last week. Tommy Lee Jones plays the role of a man who investigates the murder of his son, recently returned from Irak. Charlize Theron is a policewoman whom he befriends, and who will help him to solve the mystery surrounding his son’s death. The plot is good and the mystery remains until the end. The themes tackled by the movie are not light ones: the Irak war and what it does to soldiers; the behaviour of American soldiers in Irak; the opacity of the army and the powerlessness of individuals against it. The treatment of some of these themes is a little heavy-handied, but the film is a good one, with great acting. It was directed by Paul Haggis.
Another series of long flights, which means I’ve been able to watch a few movies which I am going to review here. I’ve also managed to read “Parrot and Olivier in America” by Peter Carey, which had been on my to-read list for a long time. I will post a review of the book here shortly.
The first film I watched was The Unknown, featuring Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger. It was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and was released earlier this year. I wasn’t expecting much but it proved to be a pleasant surprise. Neeson plays the role of Martin Harris, a man who arrives at a bio-technology conference with his wife in Berlin. He finds himself in a car accident and wakes up from four days in a coma to find someone else in his shoes: another man has stolen his identity, and even his wife does not recognise him. He has little money, no friends, and a huge mystery to solve. To help him in this stressful situation he only has the girl who was driving the taxi when he had his accident. And there are people who want him dead. The Unknown has a very clever plot and will keep you on your toes. In fact, I guessed wrong about what had happened until the very end. It’s well done, Neeson is very good, and you won’t regret watching this film. I really enjoyed it. The film is based on a novel by the same title written by Didier Van Cauwelaert.
Mo Hayder at her worst! I’ve read several of her novels now. Some are really good, others really bad. Pig Island belongs to the latter category. What a disappointment! I won’t even attempt to write a synopsis of the story, there is not enough to tell. But I will try to say why I didn’t like it. Here we go: 1) The start of the book is really promising, but then it turns into nothing. In fact, very little happens in the whole book. 2) Gratuitous gore is not good writing. In the novel, thirty people get blown up by a maniac. Hayder could have used this to show her writing skills; instead, she wastes precious space in repetitive descriptions of body parts. 3) There is a twist at the end, but I saw it coming from the beginning of the book, and trust me, I’m not good at predicting twists. 4) The main character is boring, unrealistic in his obsessions, and – that’s an understatement – impossible to like or care for. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Enough said. I’ll give Hayder’s novels a rest for a while.