Sample Sunday: Too Many Thrills?

This week’s candidates for Sample Sunday are all novels that fall loosely into the category of psychological thrillers. This isn’t a genre I especially seek out but seem to have acquired.

She Who Was No More by Boileau-Narcejac

She Who Was No More is a psychological suspense novel published in French in 1952 under the title Celle qui n’était plus. It’s the first title produced by the writing duo of Boileau-Narcejac; the  nom de plume of Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud, aka Thomas Narcejac. They went on to write a further 42 novels,100 short stories and 4 plays. According to Wikipedia they were exponents of what they termed “le roman de la victime” (“the victim novel”); a form of suspense narrative which sees events through the victim’s point of view.

I’ve read only one other novel by them: Vertigo. I can’t say I enjoyed it because the topic was mental disturbance and obsession but I did think it was stylishly written. They’re worth another go I think.

The Verdict: Keep

Three Days And A Life by Pierre Lemaitre

Kirkus Reviews described this as a “feverish, wickedly entertaining work” in which a chain of events is triggered when a 12 year old boy angrily hits his younger neighbour over the head with a branch, and kills him. The boy is never brought to justice for his crime but his actions haunt him for the rest of his life.

I’m undecided about this one. I read Alex by Lemaitre a few years ago and found it very disturbing. If Three Days And A Life is in the same mode I shall definitely give it a miss. But I’ve also seen comments that it’s not your typical thriller which has me curious.

The Verdict: Undecided. If you’ve read this, help me make up my mind.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

This is a debut novel that looks explores a character in the shadows of news reports about serial killings and horrid crimes: the wife of the suspected perpetrator. Barton’s tale of a missing child is narrated by the wife of the man suspected of the crime, the detective leading the hunt, the journalist covering the case and the mother of the victim. Barton says she was motivated to write the book because as a newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, she began to wonder what the wives of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know.

It might be ok for a day when the brain can’t cope with anything too complex

The Verdict: Keep

What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

20 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Too Many Thrills?

  • December 29, 2020 at 2:44 pm
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    I haven’t read any of them, but I’m taking a break from thrillers – which I mostly listen to instead of reading, anyway! The contemporary ones are much of a muchness as Stargazer has already mentioned, and I have usually guessed the surprise ending long before it comes. (Maybe because audio tends to give equal emphasis to everything, making it harder for the author to slip the clues past you.)

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:15 pm
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      I’m getting tired of them too. They are seldom books that I remember once I’ve read them

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  • December 29, 2020 at 8:15 am
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    I enjoyed She Who Was No More, but then I loved Vertigo too. It was used as the basis for the film Les Diaboliques, a classic French film noir, which is well worth watching even though they changed the plot quite a bit from what I remember. On the other hand, I wasn’t at all impressed by The Widow…

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:18 pm
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      The Widow was a borderline keep. I’ll probably read one or two chapters and then decide

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  • December 28, 2020 at 8:31 am
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    I’d keep the Lemaitre novel. I’ve read a few of his and generally enjoyed them though personally I preferred ‘Alex’ to this one

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:19 pm
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      Thanks Col. Alex was well written though some scenes were hard to take (especially the one with the rats and the cage. Yuk)

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  • December 28, 2020 at 3:20 am
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    I too have the first one and am keen to read it. I read Irene by Lemaitre and found it too brutal yet this book seems interesting. The third one I have read and then wondered why I wasted time on it. Am eager to know your reaction to it:)

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:21 pm
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      Hm, that’s two people now who were not wowed by The Widow. Something is telling me this can be abandoned and I won’t miss it…..

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  • December 28, 2020 at 12:14 am
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    I am drawn to the first one because it probably wouldn’t be graphic as published in 1952. I’d skip no 2 as probably similar to many of this ilk that have gone before. Sounds predictable. Three would be interesting as I often wonder what families of people who murder think. You’d be torn between it being someone you loved and someone who did something awful. But what do I know! Haha. 🐧🤡🤡

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:22 pm
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      Oh that’s a good point – yes the date does indicate it would be more suitable for those of us who are squeamish.

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  • December 27, 2020 at 11:30 pm
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    I’ll await your verdict on those you decide to read – I have a poor record with thrillers (they’re never as thrilling as I expect!).

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:23 pm
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      I know I’ve read some good thrillers in the past but the problem is that I never remember them. They just float right out of my brain shortly after I’ve read them

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  • December 27, 2020 at 9:33 pm
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    The first two sound interesting, less certain about the third. I reached a point with modern thrillers, where I just found I was reading the same book over and over again, even if the setting and wrapping were different.

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:23 pm
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      I don’t read masses of thrillers (or crime) but do agree with you that they can feel very repetitive.

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  • December 27, 2020 at 8:18 pm
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    Sorry I don’t any of them. I’m intrigued though, especially since the first two are available in French. Thanks for your post.

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:24 pm
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      if I had to chose between the first two, I would go for the older novel. I have a feeling it would be more thoughtful and less prone to going after the shocks/thrills

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  • December 27, 2020 at 7:33 pm
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    I would go for the first one, mainly because I trust Pushkin Press. I’m not often a reader of modern thrillers, but as this is an older one I might be ok with it!

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    • December 29, 2020 at 5:26 pm
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      I’ve never been a big fan of thrillers but am becoming less and less interested. The modern versions are even less appealing

      Reply

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