Book Review: Fractured / The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie

fractured-the-murder-game
Title: Fractured / The Murder Game
Author: Catherine McKenzie / Julie Apple
ISBN: 9781503937826 / 9781537316604
Pages: 362 / 340
Release Date: October 4, 2016 / November 1, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union / Self-Published
Genre: Psychological Thriller / Mystery
Source: Publisher / Author

Summary

Julie Apple Prentice and her family have decided to make a fresh start after Julie was being stalked because of her bestselling book. They’ve settled into a neighborhood that appears welcoming on the surface, but after a series of mishaps and mistakes, Julie realizes these people aren’t as friendly as they first seemed. When unexplainable things start occurring, Julie isn’t sure whether her stalker has found her again or it’s her neighbors conspiring against her.

In The Murder Game, Meredith Delay is a prosecutor and is handed a huge case that is ripped from the headlines: a man has murdered a fallen sports star, accused of sexually abusing a young boy, and claims that he did it while sleepwalking. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the man who is accused of committing the murder is one of Meredith’s friends from law school and the man defending him is her ex-boyfriend.

Review

You might be wondering why I paired these two seemingly unrelated books together to be reviewed, but they are actually connected—they’re by the same author. More than that, though, The Murder Game is the book that the main character in Fractured wrote, the one that led to her being stalked. It feels a little gimmicky (and unnecessary, as both books are strong enough to stand on their own two feet), but I actually appreciated the background The Murder Game gave me before picking up Fractured.

The Murder Game and Fractured are companion books; you don’t need to read both, or read them in any sort of order, to enjoy them. Fractured is a compelling psychological thriller, while The Murder Game is an intriguing mystery novel. I personally read The Murder Game before Fractured and was glad I did; there were elements of the former book that would have been ruined for me if I had read it after Fractured.

The two main characters in Fractured and The Murder Game, Julie and Meredith, respectively, are very similar, but they aren’t identical. Meredith is incredibly passive, allowing the world to act upon her instead of trying to take charge of her own fate. Julie is much less passive, yet her influence on the world appears to be destructive. It seems as though everything she touches falls to pieces, even when she has the best intentions. Her experience with a stalker has made her brittle, liable to break, rather than bend.

If you have an afternoon to spend reading, I highly recommend both these books. Individually, they are solidly good, but together, they create an fascinating portrait of Julie, the main character in Fractured.  I didn’t love the gimmick with the authorship, but there are a lot of great themes and layers to peel away in both of these books; if you’re looking for book club reads, put Fractured at the top of your list.

Other books by Catherine McKenzie

Hidden
Forgotten

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Book Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train - Paula HawkinsTitle: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
ISBN: 9781594633669
Pages: 336
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Rachel is a pretty big mess. She doesn’t have a job anymore because of her drinking, but she still takes the train into London every morning because she doesn’t want to admit this to her roommate. On the trip, she passes by a row of homes, and she’s begun to imagine she knows the inhabitants of one particular home—a “perfect” couple she nicknames Jess and Jason. But when Rachel wakes up bruised and broken with little memory of the previous night, she begins to wonder whether what she experienced is connected to something fateful that has happened to this perfect couple.

Review:

The Girl on the Train seems to be the book everyone is talking about. They’re calling it the new Gone Girl and it’s been getting so much hype. So, the question is, does it live up to what everyone is saying about it?? It’s a thrilling, entertaining, compulsive novel, and while I don’t like the Gone Girl comparison (simply because I feel that creates unrealistic expectations), I found this book well-written and fascinating.

Rachel is not a likable character in The Girl on the Train. If you need your characters to be sympathetic and likeable, well, keep on moving. This is not a book for you. Rachel is a complete and utter mess. She’s an alcoholic, she’s dealing with the emotional situation of a failed marriage, a failed career, and perhaps a failed housing situation, and she doesn’t know what to do anymore. The one constant she has in her life is this couple, Jess and Jason.

Rachel’s obsession with this couple and the situation surrounding them in The Girl on the Train is more than a little creepy. If you take a step back and think about where she’s coming from, it’s understandable, but it’s not healthy at all. This is one of those novels where you’ll find yourself wanting to reach through the pages and physically restrain Rachel from doing what you know is coming. It’s great, because she’s infuriating and pathetic and makes horribly bad decisions, but the reader is completely and utterly invested in her story. It’s a fine line to walk and Hawkins does it very very well.

So, if you enjoy psychological thrillers, then Girl on the Train should absolutely be on your list. It’s a book people will probably be talking about for awhile, and for good reason. It’s compelling and compulsive, and even when you hate everything that’s happening, you just won’t be able to put it down.

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Book Review: One Step Too Far – Tina Seskis

one-step-too-far-tina-seskisTitle: One Step Too Far
Author: Tina Seskis
ISBN: 9780062340078
Pages: 304
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary:

Cat has buried her past, so deep that she hopes no one will ever unearth it. No one in her current life would know that, not too long ago, she was a completely different person, with a husband and child. What happened to Cat to make her this way, and how will she cope when everything she left behind comes back to haunt her?

Snapshot Review:

From the beginning of One Step Too Far, it’s clear that something is very wrong with the main character. We first know her as Emily, but then the text starts to jump between Cat, Emily’s new identity, and her past life, and these two couldn’t be more different. What exactly happened to Emily to damage her so? This is the hook that will keep readers intrigued throughout the novel. Does it deliver? Tolerably so. The ending is vague, but the explanation is certainly interesting. This book is more worth reading for the ride along the way, picking apart Emily’s character, than any end twists or turns. If your book club enjoys psychological thrillers, this is a good choice, as there will be strong opinions, and the main character is worth discussing.

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Book Review: You – Caroline Kepnes

You coverTitle: You
Author: Caroline Kepnes
ISBN: 9781476785592
Pages: 432
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Joe works in a bookstore, which he finds is the perfect place to meet women. And indeed, that’s where he meets Guinevere Beck, a gorgeous and smart woman who Joe can’t stop thinking about. There’s just one problem: Beck barely knows that Joe exists. In a methodical fashion, Joe takes it upon himself to learn all there is to know about Beck and to make her fall in love with him, no matter what it takes.

Snapshot Review:

An absolutely creepy novel of obsession, You is told from a rare point of view—that of the stalker—and is as absolutely chilling as it is absorbing. Fans of psychological thrillers shouldn’t miss this intriguing debut.

Full Review:

I’ll admit it: there were times I wasn’t quite sure I was going to get through You. It was so absolutely creepy, with such a vile main character, that it disturbed me to the core. Sometimes, I’d have to put it down, just to get some distance, to take a few deep breaths, before continuing on. But I’d always continue on; the pull of this book was just too strong for me to be able to put it aside.

Joe is the narrator of You, and he is so obsessed with Beck, at manipulating and controlling her every move, at knowing every single detail about her life, that it’s exhausting. Kepnes really gets the reader inside Joe’s head, exposing the psyche of someone who is capable of this. The most frightening part of the book is how Joe believes that what he is doing is entirely and completely normal. Kepnes writes her main character incredibly well.

It’s interesting to watch Joe develop over the course of You, to see just how far he will go. That’s part of the driving force of the novel, and what keeps the reader hooked. Not only that, though, readers will root for Beck and hope she finds her way out of Joe’s clutches. It’s interesting to think about both Joe and Beck as characters; the reader only sees the world through Joe’s eyes, and he’s not exactly a reliable narrator of reality. How does his vision and his disturbed nature skew the narrative?

If you enjoy reads that push the limits, then You is a great choice. Kepnes writes her characters well, and readers will be simultaneously intrigued and disgusted by this novel. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, Kepnes provides an excellent one, with a unique twist in that the narrator is the perpetrator, rather than the victim. It’s well done and worth the read.

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Book Review: The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

Title: The Good Girl Author: Mary Kubica ISBN: 9780778316558 Pages: 352 Release Date: July 29, 2014 Publisher: Mira Genre:  Psychological Thriller Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Mia Dennett lives a life estranged from her parents, a free-spirited teacher who values her independence. So when she goes missing, it takes her parents some time to realize something is […]

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Book Review: What Has Become of You – Jan Elizabeth Watson

what has become of you cover

Title: What Has Become of You Author: Jan Elizabeth Watson ISBN: 9780525954378 Pages: 352 Release Date: May 1, 2014 Publisher: Dutton Genre:  Psychological Thriller Source: Publisher Rating: 3 out of 5 Summary: Vera Lundy has been fascinated by criminals and crimes ever since high school, when a girl she knew was murdered. Now, as Vera is finishing up her true […]

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Book Review: That Night – Chevy Stevens

That night cover

Title: That Night Author: Chevy Stevens ISBN: 9781250034601 Pages: 384 Release Date: June 17, 2014 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Genre:  Psychological Thriller Source: Publisher Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Toni wasn’t exactly a model teenager, but she was shocked when she was accused, along with her boyfriend Ryan, of murdering her younger sister, Nicole. Toni was tried, convicted, and sentenced […]

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Book Review: The Book of You – Claire Kendal

The Book of You cover

Title: The Book of You Author: Claire Kendal ISBN: 9780062297600 Pages: 368 Release Date: May 6, 2014 Publisher: Harper Genre: Psychological Suspense Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Clarissa let Rafe into her life, it’s true. She thought he was nice, and while she doesn’t quite remember the night they spent together, she knows that she’s […]

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